Strength Training Workouts For Runners

Strength Training Workouts For Runners

MARATHON TRAINING

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Strength training for runners is absolutely necessary to optimize performance. To back up this position, a recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research project surveyed 600+ runners of varying abilities.  Outsideonline.com summarized the findings. In this article I tell you why strength training is important for runners.  All of my training plans (regardless of the race distance), include structured resistance-training programs. Also included in this article, I provide images and video detailing an 8 exercise routine of different exercises that will strengthen legs, core, glutes and upper body.

For runners concerned that heavy lifting will build too much muscle mass, it’s important to realize that the ratio of time spent endurance running to time spent completing strength training makes it really hard to build any considerable mass. The Outsideonline article discusses and other research confirms that the physiological adaptations from running actually interfere with the physiological changes from strength training. 

From the scientific survey, the best runners reported that they regularly complete strength training and plyometric exercises. It was noted that the less accomplished runners interviewed reported less frequent time performing various strength exercises.  I was surprised that the survey noted no relationship between strength and conditioning training and injury history in the runners. According to the survey, the key predictor of injury was training volume. Essentially, the more you run, the more likely you are to get injured.  This makes sense, but I’ll still place my money on stronger runners of all abilities being less susceptible to injury. 

Outsideonline.com summarizes these latest research studies detailing how strength training improves running economy, maximal sprint speed, and race performance.  I think this is great news, especially because it reinforces my position that strength training for runners is very important and should be incorporated in every training plan.  Even better is the finding that the strength training for runners doesn’t need to be of the type that would transform runners into big, muscular athletes. Think of someone like Mo Farah (4 time Olympic medalist in 5/10k) or Galen Rupp. They’re both strong, but not bulky.

In summary, strength training for runners results in faster run speed due to improvements in anaerobic power, neuromuscular efficiency, running economy, and power development capabilities.

The authors of these studies recommend incorporating various types of strength training at different times of the year.  I refer to the details of this kind of periodized program of completing different blocks of training in another post. Essentially the goal is to introduce a new stimulus for your muscles once in a while, which will allow for the best development.  Just like you won’t get better by simply running 6 miles at the same pace, day after day, you need to vary your strength training routine.

Strength Training for Runners 101

 

If you’re new to strength training, I strongly recommend starting slow with mobility and bodyweight exercises.  In the offseason, it’s recommended to complete strength training workouts 2-3 times per week. During your race build up, you can reduce strength training to 1-2 times per week.

These days, it may not be possible to lift heavy weights, so your best bet is to conduct some challenging bodyweight exercises, such as those depicted in the following video.  These exercises are typically included as Level 2 or 3 in my marathon training plans.  This means that they’re more challenging than relatively easier (but important) exercises like bodyweight squats and lateral lunges.

Lastly, it’s best to concentrate on exercises that are functionally more important to running.  Without going into a technical breakdown of various exercises, I recommend a lot of core and single-leg variations, like single-leg split squats, jumping and lunge variations. These exercises are essential for the development of dynamic stability, which is important for increasing running economy.

Use the following video and images to incorporate bodyweight exercises into your training plan. If you use weights (especially heavier weights), reach out a certified strength and conditioning coach to advise you on proper and safe lifting techniques.

Here’s the exercises included in the following runner’s conditioning workout (modifications to make some of the exercises are provided when appropriate).

 

  • Jump Squat
  • Triangle Push-Ups
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Forward Lunge
  • Leg Raises
  • Side planks with Twist
  • Single Leg Squat
  • Bear Crawls and Bear Crawls with twist

Remember to keep your hard days hard and easy days easy, so it’s best to perform the following conditioning work within 3 hours of your harder (long run, intervals, hills, etc) workouts.

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[Product Review] Recover App – Injury Prevention For Middle Age Athletes

[Product Review] Recover App – Injury Prevention For Middle Age Athletes

CUSTOMIZED PRE-HAB & RECOVERY PROGRAMS

An app that actually helps runners live healthier lives

I recently stumbled upon a new and unique tool designed to address one of the biggest challenges faced by many runners. Injuries are problematic for runner’s of all ages, especially middle age athletes. The founders of Recover Athletics have just launched an app that provides customized recovery and pre-hab plans for runners of all abilities. I reached out to the team, including CEO, Nick Stewart and asked if I could take the app for a “test spin.”  

In this article, I provide a thorough review of the Recover App. 

Recover Athletics is the first performance recovery platform for endurance runners. Their goal is to help runners manage and proactively prevent overuse injuries. 

Their website consists of the gateway to primary product, the Recovery App, which I review below. They also have a blog with detailed articles focused on running and injury prevention. They host the Run Healthy Podcast.  The latest episode is an interview with 2020 Olympic Marathoner Qualifier, Molly Seidel (a Notre Dame Alum like myself). 

Once your profile is created, the app walks you through a series of questions to gather data on the extent of any current injuries or nagging pains. The app actually asks “What’s Sore Today.

 

The app also integrates with Strava or allows for manual input of weekly mileage, pace and duration of workouts. One of the goals of the app is to use AI to provide users with custom pre-hab or recovery plans. These routines are professionally developed by medical professionals from Massachusetts General Hospital.

  1. Next you can create a “Recovery” for your specific injury or weakness.
  2. Recoveries consist of set of 6-7 specific exercises that address your issue.
  3. The app contains 100+ exercises for runners
  4. The goal is to use your “Recovery” routines to recover and stay injury free
  5. You can set up a daily recovery reminder for a specific time and days of the week.

In my case, Plantar Fasciitis has been a problem for the last 10 months.  I’m at the back end of the injury, so I followed the prompts to create a Plantar Fascia Recovery.  The app generated a 6 exercise x 10 minute recovery that’s comprised of various stretches and strength exercises.

Below is a screenshot of my Plantar Fascia Recovery

The recovery begins when the user clicks on the start button. Next you simply complete the exercises as directed by the app.  Easy to follow directions are provided for each exercise. The videos are clear and the underlying benefits for runners of each exercise are discussed. 

Each time you sign on the app, it will connect with Strava to gather your latest workouts or if you don’t use Strava, you will be asked about your weekly mileage.  The app will ask you to rate the pain from your current injury. 

Based on the input provided, the app generates an “Insights” graph that monitors your training, recovery and soreness over time.  You can then break down trends of your recovery over a set period of time, as well as supplement your routines with stretches and other useful post-recovery tips. As you can see in the screenshot below, my mileage has been limited, but the soreness of my injury has declined over the last month.

Another app feature, if you allow, is occasional “push notifications” that appear on your phone. I’ve only seen a few, so you don’t think you will feel harassed (like some social media notifications).  One was notification of the Molly Seidel podcast.

The paid version of the app allows users to create additional recoveries.  This is useful if you had some weaknesses, such as hip or glutes that often contribute to injuries.  


If you need a proven periodized marathon training plan or affordable coaching where I use these principles of periodization training to prepare you for your next race? Train with me where I provide a CUSTOM EXPERIENCE based on your specific situation.


I also created a glute recovery that consists of a combination of 6 stretch & strength exercises.  Since glute weakness and hip instability are often root causes of many lower body injuries, this recovery is particularly beneficial.

Recovery App Studio

In my opinion, the best feature of the Recover app is with the Studio.  This is a collection of your personalized recovery routines, as well as specific strengthening & mobility routines. Similar to the recovery routines, the strengthening & mobility routines are very targeted and include detailed video instruction for a set of 6-7 stretches and strength exercises.  The mobility sequence includes:

  1. Marathoner’s recovery bible
  2. Cool down essentials
  3. Roll out and & get loose

The Strengthening sequence is very comprehensive, comprised of 14 different routines, including :

  1. Hardcore core
  2. It’s all in the hips
  3. We love resistance bands
  4. The marathon prepper
  5. Going couch to 5k
  6. Run for Health
  7. Runner’s daily strengthening

I completed a couple of the routines, including the “It’s all in the hips” and “Runner’s daily strengthening” routine.  I found the instructions are excellent and easy to follow. I really like the explanations of the benefits gained by completing each exercise.  Another nice feature is that each routine includes a modify option where you can see how to make the exercise easier or harder.  I’ve placed a few photos below of me working out using app.

As a coach, I think the app has a lot of value.  I coach people of varying abilities with different goals and challenges. If they are injured or feel some pain coming on, I can now use the app to suggest a specific recovery.  My plans include numerous conditioning/strength training routines which I can now modify and assign directly from the app. 

Overall Assessment: 5/5

Overall, I’m a big fan of the recover app and plan and recommend it. It’s informative and easy to use. It’s great for runners of all abilities and ages. Consistency in training and remaining injury free is essential if you want to reach your goals. This app allows runners to recover the wear and tear of long distance training.  Being able to customize your routines based on specific input allows you to minimize your risk of injury. 

I think that having access to a suite of professionally developed strengthening exercises and stretches that are targeted to specific parts of your body is a huge win.  The exercises included in each routine only take minutes to complete.

At this time, the Recover app is available for iOS in the Apple app store. There’s a free version which provides a single recovery.  The paid version ($2.99/month or $24.99/year) allows access to the entire suite of studio routines and multiple personalized routines.  With plans to add routines to the Studio throughout the year, the annual subscription is a good value.

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Why Weak Glutes Are a Runner’s Biggest Enemy and How You Can Fix

Why Weak Glutes Are a Runner’s Biggest Enemy and How You Can Fix

INJURY PREVENTION / HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

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Glutes are arguably the most important muscle group for runners. Unfortunately, they are also the most neglected in terms of maintenance and strength. Studies link glute weakness to achilles tendinitis, runner’s knee, iliotibial (IT) band syndrome and other common injuries.

If your glutes are so important and their weakness contributes to many injuries, why are they neglected.  Simply put, most athletes of all ages are unaware of the role their glutes play in their running performance. The goal of this article is to create a better awareness of the function of glutes for runners, what causes glute weakness or imbalance, how to identify if you have a problem and how to stretch & strengthen your glutes.

GLUTES 101

Your gluteus maximus is your butt, the two smaller, glute muscles (called glutes) are located on the side of your butt, near and slightly above your hip joint. When we run, the glutes’ job is to hold our pelvis level and steady. The gluteus maximus is responsible for hip extension, or raising your leg behind your thigh and knee behind you after pushing off with your foot. Good hip extension creates the energy of that leg swing into forward motion.

The problem is, without good hip extension you won’t have a powerful stride, which means your speed will be limited. The other key role of glutes for runners is providing stability for the pelvis and knees and keep our legs, pelvis and torso aligned. If you have strong glutes, side-to-side motion will be limited and you will be a more efficient runner because your energy is directed forward. Basically you can faster at the same effort level.

Also, when the glutes aren’t working properly, some of the impact forces are transmitted elsewhere down the legs. It’s common for many runners to have strong abs and back muscles but weak glutes.

How does this Glute dysfunction occur?

It’s common for the gluteal muscles to become inhibited which will prevent them from properly engaging and being able to perform their role.

Part of the problem is that glutes aren’t as active as other running muscles during routine activities. This leads to your hamstrings, quads, and calves becoming disproportionately stronger (also called an imbalance).


This imbalance limits the effectiveness of the glutes. The end result is that if we aren’t aware of this imbalance and subsequently correct it, typical movement and habits will place increased emphasis on the stronger muscle groups such as the Quads, rather than allowing the glutes to contribute properly within the running motion.

This kind of strength imbalance can cause injury problems over time as the body learns not to use the glutes as it tries to favor the stronger quads. If not properly identified, a glute weakness/imbalance typically doesn’t get corrected on it’s own because most runners don’t perform strength training exercises that isolate and strengthen the glutes. Exercises you can complete to fix this problem are listed below.

Additionally, excessive sitting can cause tight muscles, in particular the hip flexors, which will then inhibit the glutes, making them weak and ultimately pulling your pelvis out of alignment.

Bottomline, you need to work the smaller glutes to stay injury-free. The following video helps to explain the issue.

Glute Strength Tests

To see if you have weak glutes, you’ll need to perform the following glute strength tests. 

Stand with your hands over your head, palms together. Lift your right foot off the ground and balance. Watch the left side of your hips to see if it dips down. If it does, it’s a sign of glute weakness.

In these photos, I’ve inserted a YELLOW HORIZONTAL LINE, to help identify whether or not my hips are dipping.  You can have a friend take a photo while performing this test or you can complete the test while in front of a mirror to observe results yourself.

Glute strengthening and stretching exercises

For each exercise start with 10 reps the first week and then progress to 15 reps (switch legs), rest for 30 seconds and complete 3 total sets.

Tight hip flexors can inhibit the firing of your glutes. Complete this stretch after every workout (crossfit / conditioning or run)

Step forward and lower your back knee. Keep your knee over your ankle. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.

Kick Backs:

This exercise engages the middle-butt and low back.

Start on all “4s” by placing your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.

Extend your right knee and hip to even your right leg with your torso. Be sure your foot is flexed and your neck is neutral by looking down towards the ground. Hold momentarily. Return to starting position.

Leg lifts:

This exercise is a variation of kick backs. While your elbows and right knee are on the ground, lift your left leg until it is parallel with the ground. This is your starting position. Lift your left leg up about 6-12 inches while keeping it straight and then return to your starting position.

Fire Hydrants:

This exercise strengthens the gluteus medius and minimus (smaller muscles in the butt).

Start on all “4s.” Next, make a 90 degree angle with your right leg and then lift your right leg up 6-12 inches while keeping your knee bent. Hold momentarily, then return to starting position.

Bridge:

Lie flat on the ground with your hands by your sides and your knees bent. Pushing up mainly with your heels, keep your back straight and raise your hips up off of the floor. Hold there at the top for a few seconds and then go back to where you started and repeat. For an added bonus, try this exercise with only one foot on the ground at a time!

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Single Leg Squat:

Stand on your left leg. Lift your right out in front of you. Stand tall (don’t round your shoulders), and keep your left knee over your ankle as you lower down into a squat. Your hands can extend out for balance.

Modified Single Leg Squat:

Stand on edge of curb as shown in image. Raise right leg slightly and squat slightly with left leg (note how right foot is higher in 1st photo, side view). Start with 8-10 squats/leg and after completing this exercise 3 times/week for 2 weeks, increase to 15 squats/leg.

Glute & Hip Strengthening Exercises 

This video shows some exercises that are completed with a Resistance Bands. Bands may be available at your gym or you can purchase a variety of resistances in a pack through retailers like Resistance Bands.  If you don’t have access to a resistance bands, you can complete the exercises below (see photos and descriptions).

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Learning From the World’s Healthiest People

Learning From the World’s Healthiest People

INJURY PREVENTION / HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Learning From the World’s Healthiest People

 

I don’t typically feature content from other websites, but I have to admit that I’m a “health nut” and I’m fascinated by the theory of “Blue Zones” and how to live a healthy lifestyle. Secrets of people who live long, healthy lives are discussed in the article I link to below.  Blue Zones are certain towns or regions throughout the world where residents are happier and healthier. In order to qualify, there must be an unusually high number of centenarians—people living to over 100 in the area. 

The following article not only identifies where these Blue Zones exist, but also details how the people in the most recognized Blue Zones live their lives. 

​The #1 lesson revealed is all of these healthy people regularly exercise. This is great news for us middle age runners.  Other benefits of regular exercise, not just running, include:

  • It can Make You Feel Happier
  • It can Help Your Brain Health and Memory. 
  • It can Help With Sleep Quality.
  • It reduces your risk of heart diseases.
  • Helps you manage blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • It can Help With Weight Loss.
  • It Can Increase Your Energy Levels. 

I think two other keys to longevity are healthy eating (the article discusses the benefits of swaying towards a Plant Based Diet) & sleep. 

A plant based diet has been proven to reduce your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes and even slow cognitive decline.

The article doesn’t specifically reveal sleep as a lesson learned from those in the Blue Regions, but I have to believe that they have a history of getting 8+ hours per night.  Research shows that consistently getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night is beneficial for adults. Poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain, which is consistent with findings showing sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more.

Click here to get more lessons learned from people in these Blue Zones.

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How To Correctly Stretch & Ultimately Fix Plantar Fasciitis

How To Correctly Stretch & Ultimately Fix Plantar Fasciitis

Two months ago I posted a detailed article to help athletes prevent & fix Plantar Fasciitis.  I was motivated to complete the research & report my findings because I’ve been suffering from this nagging and common runner’s injury since early in the Summer.

Now as the Summer ends, the pain from my plantar fasciitis is not as sharp, but it still persists.  So, I visited my Physical Therapist and found the following video which backs up his strategies for relief.

My PT always seems to find the root causes of my injuries.  99% of the time, they exist above the injury.  As you can see in the following video, it’s not simply enough to roll with a lacrosse ball & ice under your foot.  This may relieve the pain, but it’s not addressing the root cause.

In my case, I have stiff calf muscles.  I have been rolling and stretching, but in the same manner as recommended in this video. It’s a slightly different stretch, but it addresses the root cause of my problem (stiff calf muscles and muscles that connect to the foot).

Watch the video & put this stretching strategy (for calf and gluteus medius).

 

Related Articles

Why Weak Glutes Are a Runner’s Biggest Enemy and How You Can Fix
Risk Factors For Achilles Tendonitis & How To Prevent
Risk Factors, Treatment & Prevention Strategies for Plantar Fasciitis