Strength training – the muscles behind our running

I am writing this post after a long hiatus and hope to post more frequently in the future.  I have been nursing a running an hamstring injury, a bane of runners. I was lucky to get back to running after a quick recovery and run the Columbus, Capital City half Marathon in April 2022. In the road to recovery, I realised that strength training is an important part of running, especially for aged runners whose muscle regeneration is not at the pace, you want it to be. This is where strength training can help you in avoiding injuries and sustain and even boost you through your marathons.

There are many strength training routines and combinations of them. I recommend to keep a strength training, simple and short. More complicated your strength training is, you will find it difficult to be consistent.  You don’t need an expensive Gym membership. Body weight exercises can be an easy strength training routine. You just need some open space in your home and a rug. Most of us fail to continue strength training due to our busy schedule and unable to make time for it. The trick  is to keep it short and simple. A 12 to 14 set routine can be done within 20 mins.

Start with a warm up if you are just beginning your morning exercise. If you are attempting the strength training after a run, you don’t need to warm up, as you would have completed it prior to the run and you would be warmed up any way.

Planks look very simple as an exercise and though is stationary, it is a very powerful exercise for your core that keeps your back endure long runs. Do the planks, starting with Fore arm planks, Side planks and finish it with Elbow planks. Try to do this one cycle for 60 sec each. You may increase cycles or the plank duration as per your comfort and time availability. Take a minute break between planks.

Sit ups and Crunches are good to keep your abdomen toned and strengthen your abs. Though there are many variations in crunches, I prefer the sit ups and the bicycle crunches. Take rest for a minute between crunches. Start with 30 and slowly increase them to 50 to 75 as you become more used to it.

Push-ups have been one of the favorite exercise routine for athletes. It works on many of your muscles including your Arms and chest muscles. Beginners can start with 10 and go on to 30. You may do two or three cycles as you get used to this effective exercise.

Squats have been a simple exercise but powerful exercise for improving runners’ quads, glutes, hamstrings and core. You can do a 30 count and repeat this cycle depending on the time available. Rest for a minute in between cycles.

Forward lunges and Reverse lunges are yet another great way to work on your quads. glutes, hamstrings and core. Holding a dumbbell in each arm during the routine can make the work out more challenging.  A 30 count on each will be a good way to finish your strength training work out. You can add couple of dumbbell work outs for your arms and shoulders.

There you go! A simple body weight routine of above exercise is good to build muscle cells and strengthen your body as a whole.

How many times do we need to do strength training? I recommend at least twice a week of strength training. Few experts recommend strength training at the end of running work out and others recommend as a dedicated day set aside for  it. I would recommend do it as your body tells you. Of course you also need to practice your easy runs, intervals and long runs in a week. Give time for a day for recovery too. We will talk about this running practices in detail on another episode. Whatever you do be consistent with your approach. It is the most difficult part but most important part of your training.

Long term consistency trumps short term intensity. – Bruce Lee

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