I recently asked on my Instagram about topics you guys want me to write about. The question I got asked the most about was “How about strength training for runners Sabrina – How do you do both?”. A great topic since this is what I been doing for the last 3 years: Running & Strength Training! But how to combine both with overtraining? How to practice strength training for runners at the gym? Furthermore – what are my tips for strength training for a marathon.
Why strength training for runners is important
Taking myself as an example I can only promise you that a great balance between strength training for runners and running training makes you a stronger runner long term. After completing my first marathon (TCS NYC MARATHON) in 2017 I realized in full effect how strength training plays a huge role in how well marathoners handle and recover from the challenge of running 26.2. miles.
There is a reason why more and more runners and not only the elite people are hitting the gym nowadays. Runners legs have to be prepared for the great demands of an endurance event like the marathon which is why strength training for runners is as important as your long run on the weekend. Beside that I think that an athletic body looks way nicer than just a skinny body of a long distance runner and weight training is beneficial in many ways.
Of course strength training for runners will not only make you a stronger and faster, but also aid in injury prevention. Running the NYC Marathon without any struggle or pain with negative splits for 26.2 miles and a super fast recovery of less than 7 days is a good example that strength training is also the right decision also for marathoners.
Strength training for runners: Training plan
Most of my clients are pretty surprised when they hear from me that they have to implement gym sessions to their training. Like “Wait – I’m supposed to do something else other than running?”- Yes. And you won’t regret it.
I don’t want to take myself as an example because I take both running and strength training to the extreme which isn’t really necessary when you are not into bodybuilding at all. My goal is to gain muscles even though I’m running long distances. Your goal should be more build around becoming a stronger and more efficient runner through weight training.
As a casual runner, a running beginner or even during marathon training I recommend at least 3 days of strength training added to your regular running schedule. Make sure that you run on the same that as you work on your legs. The following day will be a rest day. During marathon training it is key to lift around the long runs. Of course, when you are training for a big race, running should be your main focus.
If you become too sore from the gym and you can’t perform during your training runs, the strength training doesn’t do anything for you. It will more likely prevent you from running your personal best. During marathon training I went up to 14 miles in the morning and trained legs at night. It is very important to listen to your body: at some point I realized I have to skip the leg day on my long run day and reschedule it to the next day. See how you feel and don’t hit the gym when you are tired or sore from your run that day.
Rest days per week
The secret here is to find your own way that works best for you, take enough time off and nonetheless fuel your body with the right nutrition and supplements. Running long distances is physically draining, and adding weight training to that burden risks overstressing the body and decreasing your conditioning. Rest days are super important not only if you are doing both strength training for runners and running. Mix in a few rest days from all workouts. It’s imperative that you give your body the time recover and repair the damage done by intense training.
“Work on your legs one day, have another day where you focus on your upper body and use the other day for core and stability exercises.”
My training plan
My training plan varies from week to week but I always include 3 leg days (quads, hamstrings and glutes) plus 2 upper body days in my schedule per week. I train my abs every other day after my other workouts. On top of that I run 4 days a week with a long run on the weekends. Mondays and Saturdays are usually my days off. Don’t feel intimidated. This doesn’t mean you have to do as much as I do, to be in shape or become a faster, stronger runner. Find your own grove and keep embracing yourself.
The days when I work on my legs are also the days where I run. The reason I do it that way is because I experienced better results. There were times where I didn’t do it that way and I was just sore all week. This means though that I work out twice per day on these days. I run in the morning and then I train my legs at night.
Essential Strength Exercises for Runners
Here are a couple of great exercises you can do to build stronger legs. Also some of them is great strength training for runners at home. If you are looking for upper body exercise check the runtastic website. My ab workout routine you will find below in a short video. Please don’t forget that a strong core for runners is as important as powerful legs.
- Weighted Walking Lunges
- Box/Bench Steps
- Leg Curls
- Leg Extension
- Leg Press
- Foot-Elevated Single Leg Squats
- Wall Sits