Squat Your Way to a Faster Mile

In the short amount of time that I’ve been a certified group trainer I’ve heard many moms (and women in general) say that they “just run” when discussing their exercise routine. And on that same note I’ve heard tons of moms say emphatically that they are NOT runners as they try out their first Stroller Strength class. Many of those moms surprisingly find themselves hooked after their first few miles and quickly sign up for their first 5k, then 10k and sometimes even a half marathon or marathon.

What happened? They discovered the thrill of running. But what they may not have realized was that the accompanying strength training routine they were doing helped strengthen running muscles, boosted endurance, and overall made their transition into running a smoother one.

Stroller Strength runners aren’t the only ones benefiting from strength training routines. Elite runners have been incorporating cross training and strength training into their workouts for years. Why? Because they know they aren’t running at their most efficient until they incorporate some strength exercises.

Here’s why:

By adding strength training to your running routine you will strengthen the muscles and joints used during your runs, which in turn can and will improve race times (if you care about that) and prevent injury. If you want to take advantage of your full running potential you need to focus on strength-training.

A few of the best strength exercises for runners include:

Bodyweight Squats – Here you will stand with your feet hip width apart with toes facing forward. You’ll sit back as if sitting in a chair, about 90 degrees without allowing your knees to bend over your toes. Keep your chest up and weight in your heels. Complete 8 to 12 reps, adding weight when it becomes too easy.

Why Bodyweight Squats? Squats hit a lot of running-specific muscles period. Plus, they are easy to do in the comfort of your own home.

Squats

Core Work – Plank, crunches, bicycles, reverse crunch, pilates exercises – all of these will effectively work your core and should be done weekly in addition to your training runs.

Why core work? Running seems like its mostly a leg exercise but it is your transverses abdominis (deep abs) and internal obliques that help propel you forward. A strong core will make you more efficient and faster.

Core Work

Single-Leg Deadlifts – Holding dumbbells or a barbell in front of your body slightly bend one knee, hinge forward at the waist and lift the opposite leg of the ground behind you. Lower the weight until just below your knee than stand back up. Complete 8 to 12 reps before switching legs.

Why Single-Leg Deadlifts? It’s easy to think you’re working your glutes and hamstrings on a run but sometimes you aren’t using those muscles as efficiently as you could. By adding single-leg deadlifts you’ll build on those two very important running muscles and become more efficient.

Deadlifts

Single-Leg Squats – Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Pick up one leg and put it out in front of you. Squat down, bending at the knee and pushing your hips behind you as if sitting in a chair. Once you hit the 90-degree angle stand back up. You can also let the toes of your hovering foot lightly rest on the ground until you master this move.

Why Single-Leg Squats? This exercise focuses on balance. Running is basically one balancing act as you hop from foot to foot. When your pelvis is stabilized your gait and stride become more stable in turn making you, you guessed it, more efficient!

Single Leg Squats

But don’t take my word for it. I recently reached out to our friends at Jacksonville Running Company to see how they felt about strength training and running. Here’s what owner Owen Shott had to say:

Jena: Why do recommend strength training for runners?
Owen: At the end of the day it’s all about power and how efficiently you can move your body from one spot to the next. If you’re too weak you won’t able to drive your legs forward and take that next step efficiently.

Jena: What are your favorite strength training exercises?
Owen: I’m a big fan of lunges pretty much in every direction – forward, side and back. Implementing one legged strength is very key.

Jena: Do you strength train?
Owen: I try to strength train at least twice a week and do core at least three times a week. Really depends on the time of season and what my goals are.

Owen also added, “When the race is over you’re normally complaining about how tired your legs are. Strength training will help!!!”

If you’re looking for more strength exercises to help round out your running, JRC can hook you up with one of their recommended personal trainers, specifically Jeff Sutton at the Cross Training Company. Sutton’s current cross training schedule is M-F 6 a.m., 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. on Saturday.

What strength-training exercises do you incorporate into your running routine?

Thanks to Jacksonville Running Company for sponsoring this post! Be sure to check out their Facebook page!

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One Response to Squat Your Way to a Faster Mile

  1. Kellie Sep 14, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Great post – I’m a runner and strength training is critical to keeping yourself from getting injured. I’m also a fan of yoga for increasing flexibility.

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