There is no denying that strength training is essential for runners. We all know that. We know that strength work improves our running, and yet, we still do not do it nearly enough. If given the time to do strength work or run, we often choose running. I’m guilty, too. I focus on my miles per week and my stats and instead I really should be focusing on my healthy miles run because a healthy runner is a happy runner.
When it comes to doing strength training, we get into these good habits while building our mileage, and then once things are going well, we push the strength work to the back burner and focus on our running. We become too tired to run all the miles and do strength. It becomes a matter of choosing miles or reps and we inevitably choose the mileage.
Recently, instead of doing major strength training sessions, I’ve done mini-sessions of strength work. I’ve found that small bouts of strength training – 10-20 minutes total – leaves me feeling like I can do more (which is obvious), but also does not leave me sore, AND does not take a considerable amount of time to complete.
These are three huge wins for me: keeps me interested and wanting more, doesn’t leave me sore, and doesn’t take a lot of time.
Why Strength Training is Important
Strength training is essential for runners because it is the foundation that holds us upright when we are running. Without having strong muscles and joints, we’d flop around like a fish. Strength training helps keep us injury resistant and improves our flexibility and our mobility.
When we strength train, we are keeping our bodies strong and minimizing the damage done from miles and miles of pounding.
Strength training helps improve your running form – when you have good posture, you are able to run more efficiently.
Strength training helps strengthen your tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Stronger muscles can do more work at a harder effort level for longer.
Because I’m not able to do 1 or 2 long sessions of strength work a week, I’ve found that multiple shorter sessions have allowed me to keep up a consistent routine. I’m able to do prehab exercises before morning runs as a way to wake up my muscles. And I am able to do core work in the afternoon, even though I’ve run in the morning. Any day I run, I try and do something that makes me a stronger, better runner.
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How Often Should You Do Strength?
For most people, doing 1-2 sessions a week is what they are accustomed to. However, as I stated earlier, long strength training sessions leave me sore for days, so I’ve found that small mini-sessions have kept me engaged in the session and allow me to do 4-6 sessions a week. Instead of one 40-minute strength session where I’m blasting every muscle I have to smithereens, I can tone down the intensity and spread out the workload and I’ve seen a great deal of success from this approach.
Four short sessions allow time to do full-body workouts where no one muscles group is totally blasted. And with these short sessions, I’m able to focus on rehab and prehab exercises as well. For example, I might do a full-body session on Monday and Thursday, core work our Tuesday, and mobility and flexibility on Friday. These 10-15 minute sessions don’t take a lot out of me and end up being more work than I would have done in 1 session per week.
What To Do When You Do Strength
Since I now do short sessions that are less intense, I try and focus on whole-body moves. So instead of 3 sets of 10 reps of curls, I’ll do 12 squat curls – a squat followed immediately by a curl. Instead of doing stationary planks, I add twists and weights to move so that I’m working my core and my stability muscles. Instead of heavy-weighted exercises, I try and incorporate multiplanar maneuvers that require additional balance or mobility to perform. They are less intense but work my muscles just the same.
Here are some other examples of what some of my 10-minute strength sessions look like:
Rehab: If I’m doing work here, it’s probably because I’m sore or run down. I usually do lower leg rehab work and I’ll use a band to help.
Cardio-based: In this category, I’d be doing exercises with low weights and a lot of reps and I’d go from exercise to exercise with very little or no rest. So I might do a leg exercise, followed by abs, followed by arms, and continue to cycle through until I’ve hit every major group. This might also include things like high knees, jumping rope, box jumps, burpees, or anything else that keeps my heart rate high.
Strength-based: Here, I’d be doing traditional strength work. There is a very useful place for traditional work and I’m not the exception. Some of these exercises include pushups, squats, dips, lunges, curls, etc. I rarely do a full session of just strength-based work. I am much more inclined to do exercises within this category and mix them into a wider array of exercises including rehab & cardio-based sessions.
Here is an example of a 10-minute strength session that I do. In most of these, I only use a set of 8-pound weights. As you can see, it’s a combination of strength exercises with cardio. Most of the sessions I do are similar to this: simple, yet effective.
Gear I Use:
Below, you’ll see a list of gear that I use when I’m strength training. I don’t use every piece every day, but I definitely benefit from using a variety of gear. Keep in mind that the products I’m tagging below are part of an affiliate program. As an Amazon Associate, TrainwithMarc earns from qualifying purchases.
How and when you do your strength training is totally up to you. I found that as I got older, it was better that I break up my big strength session days into smaller sessions. For starters, it doesn’t leave me as sore as it would if I did only 1 or 2 big sessions. And two, now I can focus more on the actual body parts that need addressing, like my calves, core, and glute.
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