Workout Wednesday: 6 essential exercises for runners
This month, I am going to change up our Workout Wednesday routine a bit. Each week I want to provide you with 6 ways (get it, cause it’s the 6th month…;) ) to improve your running. You will gain insight into how to build a lean mean running machine and stay injury free (which is KEY to any training program).
This week, I will share 6 essential exercises that will keep you strong and healthy as you go out and run this summer.
Running is such a great way to exercise in so many ways, but it is a very one dimensional workout. Yes you can do speed, and hills, and long runs, but when you break it down to it’s smallest components your body is doing the same thing over and over. This can build some very strong muscles, and leave others rather weak. If you are not working to balance your workout you can become injured due to muscle compensations. For example, you could have very strong calves and quads but very weak glutes and hips. This can lead to sagging in your spine as you get tired. This causes your hips, knees, and ankles to all go out of alignment. And when our body is not in proper alignment, that’s when we start getting running into issues;, twisted ankles, shin splints, and more.
These 6 exercises will work to not only strengthen the muscles that often times get left out when running, but also improve your stability, through balance and core work, which will aid your running form when you start to increase mileage or speed. Perform these exercises either after an easy run or on your cross training day (s), up to 3 times a week.
This exercise works your entire backside. It will help propel you up hills and increase your speed. Start with a relatively low weight until you are comfortable with the movement, then find a weight that is challenging, but not so hard that you strain your back. Try for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
2) Knee Raise
This exercise does not seem that challenging, but it is essential to build proper hip strength for efficient running form. Start with 3 sets of 8-12 reps on each leg, while standing on stable ground. Once that is too easy, challenge your balance by performing on a bosu ball, balance board, half foam roller, or any other surface that causes you to be unsteady. Not only does this continue to build hip strength, but it increases strength of the ankles- and essential but often overlooked muscle for runners.
Planks are my all time favorite core workout. No, you aren’t doing 100 crunches and it doesn’t feel like you are doing much, but you are stabilizing your entire core musculature. A strong core is necessary for optimum running form. It will keep you upright so you don’t slouch over your hips and round your back. It can either be done on your forearms (below) or on your hands (as shown on side plank). Start with 3- 30 sec holds, and work up to 1- 5 min hold.
4) Side Plank
Just like the plank, side planks are necessary to hold your body in it’s optimum running form. Your obliques connect your upper body to your hips so they are vital to keeping you running long and healthy. It can be done on hands (below) or forearm (as with plank, above). Start with 5- 30 sec holds and work up to 1- 5 min hold on each side.
Lunges are one of the those exercises that works to build all of the muscles in your lower body that you use during running. It works glutes, quads, calves, and even some ankle stability. Start with 3 sets of 8-12 each leg with no weight. To challenge yourself, alternate with building strength and stability. For strength, slowly increase the weight you are carrying while performing the lunges. For stability, use a bosu ball or similar balance enhancer to “destabalize” either the front or back leg. If lunges hurt your knees, use squats to build your leg strength. (below)
Swimmers, similar to planks build strength and stability around the spine. Swimmers focus mostly on the backside of your core, but also work your hips, glutes, and shoulders. Counting only one side of your body, perform 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
Questions? Comments? How do you stay strong as a runner? Tips? Tricks?
Love and joy,
*Thanks hubby for the great pictures!! 🙂