8 Essential Strength Moves for Beginning Runners

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By lacing up those sneakers on a regular basis, you’ve stretched yourself beyond your comfort zone. You’re beginning to enjoy the immense health benefits fitness has to offer. Running is your chosen lifestyle, a habit you hope never to lose. It’s a challenge to pack the miles into an already busy schedule, but you make it happen! You can almost taste upcoming accomplishments—faster times, longer distances and a slimmer you. Here is an invitation to bring your running to exciting new heights with minimal investment: start strength training.

Why strength train; isn’t running enough? Yes and no. Strength training is both a little and a big deal. It takes a very small amount of time and creates substantial results. The minutes you take to load your muscles will not only reduce the possibility of running-related injuries, but will also increase muscular efficiency. Talk about an advantage!

More: 3 Reasons Strength Training Will Benefit Your Run

Who doesn’t want to become a better overall runner? Efficient muscles take longer to fatigue, so your muscles will have more endurance as you build running mileage. Working the muscles that support important joints such as your knees and hips will mean fewer injuries; this will enable you to enjoy a long-lived running experience. Your form will improve due to greater core and arm strength, helping you soar past competition. And perhaps most appealing: more muscle means less fat. Muscle burns calories even at rest, resulting in a svelte, athletic figure.

The best advice for any runner is to take your training one small step at a time. Do what you can, and keep adding as you go. Muscles do not grow by themselves; they need your effort and it’s worth it. Join me!

More: Strength Train to Improve Running Economy

When: Plan on strength training two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days. Each muscle group requires 48 hours rest between sessions.

Where: Your home or a gym. Fancy fitness club membership not required.

What: You’ll need a chair, two lightweight dumbbells (3 to 5 lbs.) and your fit self. If you do not have dumbbells, canned food is a quick alternative (you read that correctly, but preferably not the whipped cream). As you get buff, you will eventually want weights in the range of 8 to 12 lbs., or better yet an adjustable set in which plates can be added or removed.

How: These eight easy exercises will strengthen your most important large muscle groups to augment your running. Complete as many repetitions (reps) as you can, ideally between 8 to15. If you are able to do more than 15 reps, you will want to increase your weight slightly. Move slowly and breathe steadily throughout, exhaling as you work the muscle and inhaling as you return to the starting position. You may do one exercise after the other for a circuit, aiming for two to three sets total, or work the same muscles with a one- to two-minute rest in between. For the leg exercises (lunges, squats and calf raises), begin by using only your body weight. Once you feel ready, add more weight by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight down at your sides.

More: How Runners Can Begin a Strength-Training Program 

Lunges
Stand with legs parallel, feet hip-distance apart. Step your right leg back so you are on the ball of that foot. Lower your right knee toward the floor until you reach a 90-degree angle in both of your legs. Make sure your front knee does not extend over the foot. Lower from your center without leaning forward or backward. Rise upward to the starting position as you straighten your legs.

More: How Lunges Target Your Running Muscles

Squats
Stand with legs parallel, feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Sit back as if you’re sitting in a chair, making sure your knees don’t go beyond a 90-degree bend. Knees are stationary, pointing forward and do not extend over the feet. Bring your arms in front of you for balance. Be careful not to lean forward as you lower. Push through your heels as you return to standing.

Calf Raises
Stand with legs parallel, feet hip-distance apart. Slowly rise onto the balls of both feet and then lower down to the floor.

Bicep Curls
Sit in a chair and hold a weight in one hand. Keeping your back straight, lean forward from the waist and rest your elbow on the same leg, just above your knee. Flex your right elbow and slowly lift the weight toward your shoulder. Maintain a fist-distance to your body at the top of the movement and then lower your arm down. Complete the reps on one side, then switch.

Seated Rows
Sit in a chair and hold a weight in each hand with arms down at your sides. Keeping your back straight, lean forward from the waist. Slowly flex both elbows and raise them behind you, toward your back, as you pull the weights straight upward. Hold for a moment and feel the squeeze in your back. Lower your arms, keeping the weights in a straight line back to the start.

Triceps Press
Sit in a chair and hold one weight in both hands. Flex your elbows and bring your arms overhead so that your elbows are pointing up, toward the ceiling, and the weight is behind your head. Holding the dumbbell parallel to your arms, lift it up as you straighten your arms. Your upper arms should remain still, with your elbows in the same position throughout. Lower your hands behind your head to the starting position.

Planks
There are three levels. Time yourself to see how long you can hold the position and always try to outdo your last session. For all versions it’s important to keep your hips in a straight line with your torso. a) Begin in a push-up position with arms under your shoulders. Lower to your elbows and lower your knees directly to the floor while keeping your back flat. b) Elbows rest on the floor, but this time raise your knees off of the ground, balancing on your toes as if doing a push-up. c) Straighten your elbows and hold yourself up with straight arms and legs.

More: Build Core Strength and Endurance Without Crunches

Push-ups
There are two levels. Remember to keep your back flat, not arched, and lead with your chest instead of your head. a) Knees on the floor, arms are straight and slightly wider than shoulder distance. Lower slowly and push back up to starting position. b) Up on your toes instead of your knees.

There you have it! Eight easy moves that will transform your body and your running. Don’t forget to RSVP: no regrets.

More: 4 Strength Exercises for Time-Strapped Runners

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