As runners, we love to be on the road. Many of us are loathe to hit the gym for strength training. After all, it's hard enough to find the time to cram in the miles. But strength training on a regular basis can play a critical role in boosting your fitness and keeping you injury free.
"Strength training is included for overall health and longevity," says Jim White, a Virginia Beach-based nutrition expert and certified personal trainer.b"A consistent strength training routine improves energy, sleep, metabolism, mood, overall health and immunity, and can help in preventing injuries with fitness and through daily living."
Here are three key strength-training moves White recommends. No need to hit the gym; you can do these moves any time, anywhere. Do this routine two to three times per week.
Perform three sets of 12 repetitions of each exercise.
This dynamic lunge adds mobility to your strength training routine, says White. It's perfect for warming up, he says.
Perform a lunge forward as you normally would with your knee straight ahead, making sure the knee does not pass beyond the toes of your feet. With the opposite side, bring your hand to the floor (next to the arch of your foot), then, if you can, let your forearm (down to the elbow) drop flat on the floor as well. Keeping your hips in alignment throughout this movement your front hip will be flexed, and your opposite hip will be extended. Next, bring both hands out to the side of your legs and extend the forward leg (leg should be straightened) and drive through the heels as you continue into the motion onto your next leg.
Body-weight squats will target muscles you need for strong running, and many other muscles you'll need to continually progress as an athlete, says White.
Breathe in, bracing your abdominals. Engaging your abdominals will protect your lower back. Your feet should be pointed slightly out, and at a comfortable stance that's a little narrower than shoulder width. For most of the squat, keep your body weight distributed throughout the middle of your foot. As you stand back up, you'll push through the heels.
Keep your knees in line with where your feet are pointed; don't let your knees point inward in as you squat down or push forward beyond the toes. Drive your hips back and pretend to sit between your legs. Make sure to keep your back straight or neutral; do not arch your back. Aim to get your thighs parallel with the floor. Squeeze your glutes, drive your hips forward, and breathe out as you come up.
Once you perfect form for traditional squats, you can move on to jump squats and walking lunges for more full-leg conditioning.
It's easy to lose focus in engaging the glutes while running, says White. "Incorporating single leg bridges into your strength training routine can drastically strengthen the muscles through the glutes and hamstrings," he says. You can do this exercise on the floor.
Lie on the floor. Your upper back should be in contact with the floor at all times. Keep your hands to your side for balance. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Start by lifting one leg straight ahead keeping your pelvis straight and level, not allowing your hips to sag. If this exercise is too challenging, begin with the basic glue bridge with both feet planted on the floor.