Exercises for runners
There are many variables for running success, exercises for runners is devoted for runners trying to enhance their running outside of just running.
Dr. Joe Vigil told us while I was competing for Malone University that it isn’t just the workout you do, but the other things your doing the other 24 hours of the day that will make or break your success.
Strength and conditioning and discussing some exercises for runners is one of the most important and unfortunately, most neglected parts of many runners training. I suppose I have the same mindset as most runners.
We don’t want to be bulky or get into the gym to prove we can lift heavy weight. I cannot even bench my own body weight once, but the exercises I am going to list will dramatically help you become a far better, stronger and balanced runner.
That being said, if you incorporate strength and conditioning into your training routine I firmly believe this will not only make a dramatic impact on your running performance but also help you lose weight.
It will assist you in recruiting more muscle fibers to make you run more economical and fatigue less.
You burn more calories lifting weights then nearly any other activity.
It doesn’t have to be heavy weight.
Our jobs are not to boast about how much we can bench or how many reps we can put up. In fact, the majority of the time we are at the heart of jokes being made by those who are big into weight lifting.
I spent three days a week at the National Strength and Conditioning Association working with Army W.C.A.P. teammate 3.39 1500m man, CPT John Mickowski, 1.46 800m specialist, SGT Golden Coachman and 2.19.49 marathoner, CPT Kenny Foster.
Below are a few vital exercises for runners that I learned while working with the Army World Class Athlete Program strength and conditioning coach, that I hope you can take something away from to heighten your future running performances.
I have covered a few key areas that I certainly never payed attention to over the years that I am certain has helped me in my running ever since.
Top Five Essential Exercises For Runners
#1 Bozu Ball
I am ashamed to say it but with over 18 years experience in our sport I didn’t even know what a Bozu Ball was at the time. I certainly do now. This is a great tool to add to your training arsenal because balance and core strength is extremely important to maintain form while running.
This is one of the best exercises for runners because it forces you to not only learn to balance but, like running, you are using all muscles and tendons of the foot, ankle and knee while trying to stay balanced on it.
Plus you have weights in your hands fatiguing you even more.
It will feel extremely foreign to you when you first try it, but after a few weeks you will gain a great deal of control and your lower body will be strengthened by using it.
Take two 5 to 10 pound barbells and hold one in each hand and focus on running form swinging your arms back and forth while balancing on one foot on the Bozu Ball.
You will be utilizing your core muscles and nearly all of the muscles and tendons of your leg, feet and ankles, all essential running muscles groups by incorporating this exercise into your routine.
Try 10×45 seconds on the ball to start off with. 5 sets on your left leg, 5 sets on your right leg. Remember, you are balancing on one leg while swinging your arms with the weights. Your balance will be tested and expect to fall off several times. It will take patience but in a few weeks it will be much easier.
This is one of the best exercises for runners, especially because when you are fatigued it is much harder to maintain form. This teaches you, over time, to improve balance while fatigued and improve overall core and leg strength
#2 Medicine Ball Drills
A strong core is important because it supports all other muscles and helps support form while running and can keep you strong when you are fatigued in a long run or race.
The best way to increase core strength and another essential exercise for runners is by using a medicine ball and throwing it against a wall.
The great thing about these exercises is you can use variations to use different muscles of the abdomen
Stand with your legs spread shoulder width apart standing sideways with the wall to your right and throw the ball twisting your body to the right as you throw it.
2 sets of 20 throws
Now change the direction you are standing and throw the ball with your opposite side
2 sets of 20 throws
Stand with your legs spread should width apart with your back slightly bend throw the ball directly in front of you toward the wall and slightly upward. Focus on tightening your abs as you throw the ball.
2 sets of 20 throws.
Your can use this exercise to greatly enhance the strength of your core which is going to make you stronger on the track and roads.
#3 Weighted Sled Pulls
My absolute least favorite exercise for runners, but one that has probably the biggest payout. Mid to long distance runners are not sprinters and this exercise is usually suited better for sprinters but here is the catch, this exercise will force your body to recruit more muscle fiber firing. The more muscle fibers that can fire and act on your behalf will make movement under maximal efforts that much easier.
My strength and conditioning coach had us (yes even the marathoners, myself and 2.19.49 man, Kenny Foster) doing 60 yard sprints with two 25lb plates sitting on the back of the sleds. The key is to get your knees lifting despite being fatigued.
You can make this exercise even more taxing by doing 100 flutter kicks upon completion of every 60 yard sprint, then jog back 60 yards to do it all over again or add another exercise variation every sprint.
You will get no rest in a race so this is a great tool to become fatigued quickly, then mentally working your way through being tired and gaining strength.
Again, as I have mentioned in previous posts, the gains do not come in the workout, but in the rest.
Your body actually becomes much weaker after a hard workout, then it supercompensates, rebuilds, and you come back even stronger a few days after the hard session.
I would advise doing this workout as a substitute for one of your track workouts because it is very taxing and stressful. Plan an easy run the day after.
Head to your local high school track and if you don’t have access to a weighted sled another good alternative is to buy a resistance band and have a friend hold on to it as you do your sprints.
If you have the weighted sled do 10×60 yard sprints with 50lbs on the back…TRUST ME, 10 sprints will fill like a 20 mile run by the time you are done.
Jog 60 yards back for recovery then repeat. If you have the resistance band have your partner hold on the back end of it and do 10×100 yard sprints.
You will have less resistance but you have to run farther and the difficulty can be gauged by how much force your partner holds on to the band.
#4 Box Jumps
This is a great workout to increase explosive ability. Mid distance all the way up to marathon specialists do not work enough on explosive drills.
I didn’t for years and I am certain there are other runners out there who could benefit from placing this exercise into their routine.
This is a great tool for when you have to react in a race when someone makes a move to pull away or surge ahead of you to try to break your spirit.
You do these running exercises and you are bound to learn to counteract any tactic your opposition uses against you (I know I will be for next years London Marathon!).
I learned the importance of these drills watching my army teammate, CPT John Micowski, who just recently made it to the 2012 Olympic Track and Field Trials 1500m final (placing 11th in 3.44). He had to run a semi-final prior to his race which he won in 3.51 (John’s PR is 3.39).
John’s focus and attention to the importance of explosive drills was clearly evident working out with him. He isn’t fast because he wants to be good.
He is fast because he works hard and believes in what he is doing. You can use these same techniques to improve leaps and bounds over your previous fitness level.
Again, this type of running exercise goes back to sections of the muscle fibers which aren’t being recruited.
Recruit more muscle fibers and the less you will slow down and minimize lactic acid from causing you to shut down in the latter stages of your races.
#5 Knee Drive Box Jump
This is a variation of the box jump but you are using different form. The two key ideas behind this exercise is to learn to balance and focus on driving your knee up while holding a 5-10 pound barbell in each arm.
This is hard to describe and if I wasn’t deployed would make a video to show you all (will do when I return home) but what you want to do is grab a wooden box (hoping your gym has one) stand next to it with your feet slightly apart.
You want to put your right foot on top of the box with your left leg still on the ground. The next step is to focus on keeping your back straight and use the leg that is on the box to pull your other leg and body off the ground and up on the box.
The idea here is not to use your ground leg as the driving force but the leg that is on the box. Utilizing your box leg’s strength, push upward and as you come up drive your ground leg up and practice (and this will take practice) driving your knee upward into your chest without losing balance, then bring your leg back down to the ground (with your right leg supporting you still on the box).
Do 2×15 sets of this exercise on each leg
I am certain these 5 essential exercises for runners will dramatically help your running over time. It takes 21 days for your body to adapt to any stress you place on it.
These running exercises will be extremely awkward and difficult at first but you will gain a lot of confidence over the weeks and months, as well as greatly improve your balance and strength by implementing them into your weekly workout schedule.
Again, our jobs as runners is not to bulk up and doing these types of workouts will strengthen sections of larger muscle groups you probably don’t use that often as well as teach your body to recruit more muscle fibers.
The sled and resistance band exercise will bring this to light very quickly and you will find that out fast when you try this running exercise for the first time.
I have additional exercises that I will be discussing in the future on rundreamachieve.com that I know can benefit you and your future performances.