Strength Training for Runners

why strength training is vital for a healthy runner

What is Strength Training?

Strength training utilizes resistance exercises to improve muscle strength and endurance. Although commonly associated with weights, resistance can also come from your own body weight or resistance bands. Strength training encourages using a higher weight for lower repetitions, done with control. Your strength training routine should include functional and sport specific movements (see below for my quick tips for runners!).


Why Should Runners Strength Train?

Distance runners often neglect strength training out of fear of “bulking up” or being too sore for their next run, however the benefits are essential for being a healthy runner. Strength training helps runners with injury prevention by strengthening muscles and connective tissues and will also help correct any muscle imbalances. With the right program and movements, strength training can improve your stride efficiency, encourage neuromuscular coordination, and improve your running economy. In other words, strength training can help you run faster, use less energy, and increase coordination.


By increasing your ability to generate maximum muscle power, strength training can decrease the effort required to sustain maximal efforts (like running for a prolonged time), which helps you become a faster and stronger runner.


Alternative exercises, like hill repeats, sprint intervals, and long runs, are great workouts to increase strength in a runner, but often these workouts can cause some muscles to overpower other, lesser-worked muscles, leaving you with imbalance strength. Muscle imbalances can put unnecessary stress on other muscles, ligaments, and joints.


How Often Should a Runner Strength Train?

The frequency and intensity of your strength training routine should be dependent on where you are in your training cycle. I start my athletes with 3-4 weeks of strength training during their “off season.” As mileage increases, we reduce to 2-3 days, and ultimately 1 day of low intensity at peak mileage.


What Kind of Strength Training Should a Runner Do?

Sport specific strength training is key. As a distance runner, there’s no need to attempt to do a one-rep max power clean (although you might see me doing this in my off season because I love Olympic lifting!)


For runners who are new to strength training, I recommend starting with body weight movements at a low to moderate intensity, focusing on proper technique, being sure to move through the full range of motion.

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Hi, I’m Bethany!

I’m a mom of four who thrives on coffee and exercise. I am saved by Grace and happily married to my best friend, Jon. Here I hope you find community and inspiration for fitness and…life. I am happy you are here!