Strength Training for Runners: Everything You Need to Know
Just a few sessions a week can have long-lasting benefits when it comes to improving your stride.
By Colleen Travers•
October 20, 2020
If you’re a runner who craves a fast and sweaty workout, you may be skipping some strength training sessions in favor of logging more miles on the Tread instead. But slowing down to strength train is crucial for runners, as it’ll increase your endurance, prevent injury and encourage recovery. Peloton Tread instructor Becs Gentry explains what kind of strength training you should be doing, plus exactly how much time you should be spending on it.
Don’t Just Focus on Your Legs
Of course you should make time for lower body strength exercises. “Stronger leg muscles can deliver more power when running,” Becs says, “and strengthening connective tissues like tendons and ligaments can make you less prone to overuse strain by minimizing stress of the bones, ligaments, tendons or cartilage.” Just don’t make the mistake of working only on your legs, as you’ll notice huge benefits when you pay attention to the rest of your muscles as well. “Improving your upper body will boost your efficiency by injecting more power into your stride, while strengthening your core will help minimize side-to-side movement when you run, helping you keep proper form as you start to get tired,” Becs says.
Pro tip: Make sure you’re hitting all the muscles that matter by taking a 10- or 20-minute Strength For Runners class.
Get Better Results By Switching It Up
Variety isn’t just the spice of life—it’s also how you can keep your muscles from flatlining due to a stale strength training routine (i.e. doing the same set of exercises over and over). “Runners should roll through one upper body, one lower body and one total body training session per week,” Becs says.
This will also lead you to do more unilateral strength training, where you focus on single arm or leg movements, as opposed to using both sides of the body at the same time. Unilateral training is particularly effective for runners because running is a unilateral sport (only one leg hits the ground at a time). Becs says exercises like one-legged squats, lunges, step-ups and single-arm rows isolate certain areas of the body, which can help make muscles stronger and more balanced.
Unilateral exercises can be tricky to master at first, so you may need to build a base by starting with a 5-minute Strength Skills class or a beginner Full Body Strength routine to make sure you’re practicing proper technique before working one side at a time.
Train Right to See a Difference in Your Runs
“Research has shown that runners should incorporate strength training into their routine two to three times a week, focusing on those specific moves like single leg work that support the motion of running,” Becs says. It’s also important to make sure your strength training includes injury prevention exercises, she adds, which is why a running-specific program is often more beneficial. “You have to strengthen muscles that directly affect cartilage and ligaments, and these are often smaller muscles that are overlooked in traditional strength training routines.”
In addition to strength training, Becs recommends active isolated stretching after a run (as opposed to dynamic stretching you’d do pre-run). That will work the muscle-tendon zones of the body and help you avoid muscle strains. You can find these types of exercises in a Peloton 5- or 10-minute post-run stretch class.
If you stick to this routine, Becs says, you should notice considerate improvement after about six weeks.
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