Strength Training for Long-Distance Runners

I have never been one to hang out on a certain side of the gym. Ya know, the side with all the free weights and machines where the juice heads congregate? This puny little runner always feels inadequate next to someone about 3 x my own weight. But “strength training” has recently become a priority in terms of my running life. I am certainly not becoming buddies and forging gym relationships with the juice heads, but I think it is really important to strengthen certain muscles that are easily fatigued or weakened by running 30+ miles a week.

So, I’m focusing on a lot of calisthenic routines that are meant specifically for runners and anyone that wants to prevent common running injuries.

First, I do the lunge matrix as a warm-up.

Coach Jay Johnson has some awesome videos of the routine. The first time I did this simple routine I did 10 repetitions of each lunge and I was walking funny for the next 4 days–no kidding! It seems so simple and easy while you are doing it but you don’t really realize the amount of power you can lose from repetitively running the same kinds of workouts without using even your quadriceps. I try to do this routine a few times a week, but average twice a week and can now comfortably perform 10 reps of all 4 lunges: forward, side, diagonal (this one’s important!), and backward.

Second, I do the Myrtl routine as a cool-down.

Again, Coach Jay Johnson has a great video of this routine. And just as with the lunge matrix, this looks easier than it actually is. One focus area for me since I had a minor achilles issue last year has been hip strength. Lots of research in the past few years has demonstrated that hip strength is the cause of the majority of lower leg injuries in runners. So while this routine has a strength element, it’s mainly meant to be preventative. If you’re like me, my hips are always tight after a hard race but I feel like my stride is more powerful since adding this to my routine.

Myrtl Routine <—You can also print this PDF and stuff it in your gym bag if you need a reminder!

Third, a core routine! Gotta get that 12-pack, ya know?

I always knew that core strength is really important for runners because of the stability and form factors, but I never consciously added them to my weekly routine until about a month ago. Before, I would do my own random mixture of ab exercises that I grew up doing as part of a sports team. Last month I asked around and decided to commit to Predawn Runner’s 30-Minute Core Routine for Runners. It’s made up of 8 different exercises that you perform for at least one minute. Ideally, a long distance runner should do 3 cycles of the routine at 1 min (or more) per exercise about 3-4 times a week for 6-8 weeks to see results. I haven’t been quite that fastidious–I’ve only completed the routine 1 time per week for the last 4 weeks but I’ve already seen a difference in the strength of my core. Now that I have a ‘base’ of sorts, I plan on increasing the frequency and the duration of each exercise. I really recommend trying it out!

This PDF is also a good resource if you want some more ideas (it’s a combination of the lunge matrix ancillary work + Myrtl routine): CoachJay’s_AncillaryWork_15min

What kind of ‘strength training’ do you do? Which routines do you find the most helpful specifically for runners?


12 thoughts on “Strength Training for Long-Distance Runners

  1. Jessica says:

    Hey girl, fun to see what you’re up to in the gym. It is a different world in there for us! I try to do strength 3-4 times a week but don’t have a good routine yet….hoping to nail one soon (I do the lunge routine though, but know it as “clockwork lunges”) and put it up on the blog. One of my favorite moves for the legs is a step up/step back combo. Stand in front of a bench, step up with one (R) leg and raise the other (L) knee. Step back down with the L leg and step the R leg back into a reverse lunge. It’s great for balance too!

  2. Jay Johnson (@coachjayjohnson) says:

    Thanks Jenny for the kind words and for spreading the word about general strength.

    A couple of things that your readers might be interested in.

    The Lunge Warm Up to do before a run – (and here is a bit more detail about the routine – )

    For Jessica, I would recommend this eight week general strength program. It progresses nicely from very doable work to some challenging work by the seventh and eighth week.

    Feel free to ask questions and thanks again Jenny sharing this work with your readers.

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