One of the best things I ever did for my running was not running…as much.
A few years ago, I decided to get stronger and leaner so that I could run faster, and I waded into the wonderful world of weights and weight lifting. This week, as I was doing one of my favorite leg workouts, I was reminded how good this type of training is for running.
The workout is a hellish combination of plyometric (jumping) exercises—like jumping lunges or switch jumps—mixed with basic weightlifting moves—like weighted, heavy squats. Squats and lunges are excellent for running because they simulate the position of a striding leg.
Over the years, I’ve observed that runners don’t focus much on strength training—and that included me. The general mindset is the more mileage the better. I, too, used to fall into that way of thinking. But that’s a mistake! Now, I’m a smarter—and stronger!—runner.
The biggest thing to remember about strength training, however, is consistency. In my experience, strength work has to be done regularly or there won’t be any benefit. I used to do a random strength routine here and there, and then I got discouraged because I didn’t notice any change. Once I started incorporating strength three times per week, I saw results.
Below I listed some great strength and plyo exercises that have helped me in my running. They can all be done at home. Mix and match and put together your own killer leg routine! Set your watch for 15 or 20 minutes, choose a few moves and do them for 60 seconds 3-5 times—depending on how many exercises you choose. Then, mix and match different ones for your 2nd and 3rd workouts during the week. There are a ton of variations of the exercises I listed below, but sometimes keeping things simple helps us be consistent.
A quick note: I follow a rest-based protocol when I do these that essentially boils down to me listening to my body’s signals. When my heart rate gets too high, I’m off-balance, I’m huffing and puffing, and I’m overheating, I stop and rest until I can pick up where I left off. I may be able to do three reps or only one until I have to rest again. Resting actually lets me push harder when I’m working out.
And I think it should go without saying that you should always check with your doctor before doing any sort of strenuous exercise, especially if it’s something new.
Kerrie Turcic is a runner from Maple Valley, Wash. Kerrie is currently a copywriter by day, and also a