For the majority of time I’ve been a runner, strength training has not even been on my radar. I’d run 3-4 times a week, do a little stretching here and there and maybe pick up some weights once in a while, but never consistently or as part of a routine. During my time off from running earlier this year, my Coach had me doing strength training about 3 times a week and now that I am back to running, I don’t want to let it go! The physical changes have been awesome, bigger muscles, a flatter stomach, and a stronger core. Just ask my boyfriend or my sisters how many times I send them pictures of my arms or my calves or my back when I see new muscles peeking through! I also notice that my everyday movements from lifting things, walking up stairs, or running are so much more powerful than they were before. After a workout, even something as simple as walking feels more efficient as I notice the muscles in my core, legs and back helping me stand taller and walk faster.
The most fun part of my strength training routine is a workout my Coach has created specifically for me called “Madonna Arms.” Even since I was little, Madonna has been one of my idols and at 55 years old, I think she still has the most rocking arms in the music industry. I’ve always wanted arms like her and when I told my Coach, he said he’d design a tough arm workout so that I can have “Madonna Arms” as I cross the finish line this year! His exact words were: “No reason you can’t have awesome arms when you are crossing the finish line.” Now I just have to figure out how to hold my arms up and flex them as I am running for the best possible finish line photo…
In addition to using weights, I am also loving body weight only exercises. My top 5, in order, are: squats, planks, single-leg deadlifts, lunges, and push-ups. Squats are my favourite because you can do so many variations of them, with or without weights, fast or slow, arms up or down, feet planted or jumping, and they do wonders for your glutes, thighs and core. You can just feel the power of a squat go through your entire body with each repetition! Need more reasons to love the squat? Here’s a short article about Squat Vs Leg Press – Which Is Better? I bet you can guess which one comes out on top. My least favourite body-weight exercise right now is the push-up, but I am learning to love it. I can only do modified, or “lady push-ups” right now, but I am slowly making my way up to the real thing. When I started doing push-ups earlier this year, they were looking more like awkward downward dogs, but I am getting better, I swear!
I don’t know if it’s just because I am more aware, but I have seen TONS of articles come out lately about strength training for runners. Here are a few worth reading:
1) Why All Runners Should Strength Train from Greatist. “While most forms of strength training can help improve overall performance, adding heavy resistance exercises, in particular, can make you faster during the final sprint of a race.”
2) Why Runners Need To Strength Train from Huffington Post. “Strength training improves performance. Think about it: If runners are never hurt, then they have more time to train and log miles at a higher intensity.”
3) 10 Essential Strength Exercises For Runners from Runners World. “Supplementing running with strengthening exercises will not only aid in injury prevention but will make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner.”
4) Hip To The Core from Canadian Running. “Proper core stability can help maximize running performance, maintain the centre of gravity over the base of support, control leg motion while running, and help prevent running injuries.”
5) The Four Best Strength Training Exercises For Runners from Competitor. “Strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you become a better runner.”
6) Strength Training Is The Best Way To Lose Weight from Business Insider. “Watch your diet to reveal your shape, and strength train to improve that shape.”
If I have one piece of advice for runners, new or experienced, it’s learn to LOVE strength training! Running, and only running, is a sure recipe for injuries and burnout and an unbalanced body. Give your body a break from pounding the pavement once or twice a week and embrace the weights. Benefits include a stronger core, calves of steel, a rocking butt, and if you’re lucky, MADONNA ARMS!