Strength work for runners can be the difference between making your running a chore, and making it feel strong, powerful, and best of all: injury-free!
As a busy mom, you want to get the most fitness for whatever your time window allows, right? So when it comes to being a runner, knowing exactly how to add strength to your running fitness is going to cut down on wasted time and help you achieve your goals!
These tips are going to help you not only add the right type of strength, but I’ll share all my favorite resources, including the ones that won’t cost you a penny!
First, why is strength work important for a runner?
You know we love all things running around here, but there still remains an essential truth about running: it is a repetitive movement.
What’s that mean? It means that if all you do is run, your body is performing a pretty limited set of movements as you land, lift, swing through, repeat on other side, repeat for however many miles, however many days.
And while you can gain so much cardiovascular fitness, and see all those muscles become stronger, and gain all the mental health benefits, you’ll still eventually discover: some muscles are working harder than others.
Not only are some muscles doing a lot less work (core, upper body, back), but those running muscles get tired, right?
Enter strength work!
As a runner, your goals for strength work should be:
- First: strengthen the muscles that you need to be a strong runner.
- Second: strengthen the muscles that aren’t being worked as intensely when you are running.
- Finally: maintain a body that overall can withstand the miles you want to put on it, making you able to run without injury!
What muscles do you want to be sure you make (and keep) strong?
So glad you asked, lol! I love this topic!
As a runner, you are using your legs, yes.
But ideally, you’re also doing the following:
Maintaining a strong and engaged core.
And remember: your core isn’t only your six pack! Your core includes all the muscles surrounding your waist, including your six pack but also your obliques (side abs) and your low back! One could argue that hips are part of core as well, or put them with legs and glutes, but they need lots of love too for runners!
Using your upper body to maintain a smooth form, and using your upper body to help drive you forward when you need it.
A strong upper body can help you maintain a strong running posture, which keeps you upright and helps keep your core engaged.
Additionally, there are times when running gets tough and you need an extra boost. These include going uphill or downhill, trying to run faster, or even just trying to hang in there when you get tired. At times like this, your upper body can be a big difference maker in your running strength and form!
Using all the muscles in your legs and hips and glutes. All of them. Even the little teeny ones you may not think about until they cause an injury.
In running, one wrong move can cause major problems. That can be a misstep while hopping off a curb, or it can be one small imbalance, repeated over and over.
I personally have done both. Multiple times. ??♀️
Your goal then: take the time to strengthen all the muscles below the belt, so that when you are running, those muscles are ready to stand up to the challenges you throw at them!
How you can get started with strength training:
We are living in a great time for at-home fitness! There are so many wonderful online resources, both for small monthly fees and totally and completely free!
While I can put together a video for you, or try to walk you through these moves, I think that the best use of your time, and mine, is to simply point you towards the resources that I personally use, and love!
Option 1: Beachbody On Demand
Cost: $99 for a year (with other options available)
(You can sign up with a coach like me, or online)
You already know that in addition to being an RRCA certified running coach, I am also a Beachbody coach. The reason I love Beachbody so much is that for the money, you absolutely can’t beat the value. The variety and depth of the workouts and programs are all you could ever need to be a strong and healthy runner.
When it comes to choosing a Beachbody On Demand workout as an addition to your running routine, you want to look for the programs that are quick and effective. You’re busy!
I also do recommend, as a beginner, that you focus on lighter weights over heavy weights. I love Body Beast and Hammer & Chisel, but not for beginners!
For the running mom getting into strength training, these are a few of my favorites:
- 30 Day Breakaway. This program is brand new as of fall 2020 and actually specific to runners! You can either do the program exactly as it is prescribed, with the included runs, or you can use the strength workouts to support your own running training plan. Equipment required: loop bands and weights.
- P90X3. This is my next favorite recommendation, because I love that the workouts are just 30 minutes. I also love that it includes a wide variety of strength workouts in different formats. Equipment required: weights or bands, with an option for a pull up bar.
- PiYo. PiYo is a pilates-yoga mat-based workout that requires no equipment but will get you strong! It’s wonderful for a no-impact workout that will not only strengthen, but also lengthen, those muscles you need for running. Equipment required: yoga mat optional.
There are certainly SO many more great options for runners via Beachbody, but for the mom just starting to add a strength routine to her running, these are my favorites!
Option 2: Les Mills On Demand
Cost: $14.99 a month.
(It’s an app, so the charge comes via a subscription plan.)
I absolutely must include Les Mills, because they have created one of my absolute favorite workouts for runners, bar none.
My number one streaming workout pick for runners: CXWorx.
I can’t say it better, so I’ll just be lazy and use their description:
Exercising muscles around the core, CXWORX™ provides the vital ingredient for a stronger body. A stronger core makes you better at all things you do, from everyday life to your favorite sports – it’s the glue that holds everything together.
All the moves in CXWORX have options, so it’s challenging but achievable for your own level of fitness. During the 30-minute workout trained instructors guide you through correct technique as you work with resistance tubes and weight plates, as well as body weight exercises like crunches, and hovers. You will also get into some hip, butt and lower back exercises.~from Les Mills website
Seriously, if you have only 30 minutes to do strength in a week, this would be my #1 recommendation. If you have two 30-minute blocks, I’d recommend that you do this twice. And that will go a long way to supporting your running strength!
Equipment required: light weights, resistance bands helpful but optional, and especially optional for beginners.
My second favorite strength option for runners: Les Mills Pump
Les Mills Pump is a barbell based workout, so it does require a bit of equipment, but it’s so worth it! In addition, you can modify with no weight, or hand weights.
Most runners don’t need or want to lift heavy and slow, and Les Mills Pump delivers on that need! It is high repetitions, done in a variety of moves, set to fun cover music.
Among the many things I love about Pump: each workout is broken down into a squat track, chest track, back track, bicep track, tricep track, lunges track, shoulders track, and core track.
If you don’t have time to do them all in the same workout, you can pick and choose two or three, and do the others on another day, or skip them entirely!
Option 3: YouTube
Again, I have to say it, because it is so awesome: we are living in really good times for fitness.
With YouTube, you can truly never spend a penny on your workouts, and never be without a new workout, and never get bored!
Because my list of workouts I love from YouTube is literally endless, I am going to keep these descriptions short and sweet. Here we go!
If you haven’t heard of PopSugar, you are in for a treat! I have included their entire channel here because they have so many amazing workouts!
In addition, here are a few of my other favorites on YouTube:
5 Minute Glute Strength Solution for the Worn-Out Runner Strong glutes are a major component of strong running, and you can’t beat a five minute solution!
Avoid Back Pain with this Quick Core Routine This is a 15 minute core workout that hits all the important muscles (six pack, obliques, low back)!
And just for fun, I love the Baby Shark Ab Workout.
Those should get you started!
I also encourage you to search “runner’s workout,” “core workout,” “runner’s strength,” and similar terms, and you’ll find more workouts than you could ever do! A good problem to have, right?
So, there you have a great starter kit for at-home strength options to supplement your running! With these resources, and of course continuing to dig into the never-ending amazing black hole that is YouTube, you not only have no excuses, you have endless opportunities!
If you still aren’t sure where to start, I would love to connect with you! You can email me here and we can chat– I absolutely love connecting with moms who have the desire and drive to get stronger and feel more confident!
Until next time- keep making YOU a priority!