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Strength Training for Runners

We get it. The weather is calling you and your sneakers. Maybe you are an avid runner or you are brand-new to the running world. Regardless, it’s time to hit the pavement, right? Wrong. Before you take off and go, there are a few things you need to know first about the importance of strength training.

In addition to your running routine, you must also include: a healthy diet, staying hydrated, rest and weights. Strength training is a vital piece to the running puzzle. In addition, adding tempo runs, long runs and speed work to your routine will help build speed and efficiency, but strength training is often the element to take you to the next level.

Strength Training

So why strength training when all you want to do is run? The number one reason to incorporate it into your running routine is injury prevention. We can’t stress this more. Upper and low-body strength will not only strengthen your muscles, it will alleviate pressure on your joints (aka preventing injury to the knees, hips and ankle joints); add variety to your routine; help with your balance, coordination and speed. Yes, more muscle equals more speed. So if you are training for your first or 10th 5K or half marathon, get ready to sore after consistently working those quad, core, hamstring and calf muscles.

Here is an example core/strength routine to add in your exercise regimen:

  1. Plank (targets abs, back, shoulders)

  2. Glute Bridges (targets hips, glutes and lower back)

  3. Russian Twists (targets abs and obliques)

  4. Squats (targets quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves)

  5. Single-Leg Deadlifts (targets back, core and hamstrings)

  6. Reverse Lunges (targets hamstrings and gluteus maximus)

As a runner, incorporating more compound movements to your routine will give you more bang for your buck compared to single, isolated movements. Get with a personal trainer for guidance on form, technique, time, reps and rest!

Why Some Runners Don’t Strength Train

Some runners think that if they strength train they may “bulk up” or even gain muscle weight which will weigh or slow them down. This in entirety is false. In fact, strength training has the opposite effect. And unless you’re lifting very frequently and eating tons of extra calories, you’re unlikely to put on weight that would impair your running. Focus on lifting, not raising your heart rate. What you don’t want to do is too many metabolic workouts by including too much cardio because well, running is cardio. So if you are running often, you can keep your other cardio sessions minimal - swimming, cycling or other continuous exercises can get your heart rate up and improve your cardiovascular fitness; another bonus is that it stimulates activity without stress on the legs and body from the impact of running. If you keep the right balance between strength training sessions and endurance, you will be a well-rounded, better (and safer!) runner.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating healthy throughout your running and training program will give you the fuel and energy you need to take on any terrain. Find out what fuels you and stick to it. It’s important to fuel up on electrolytes and carbohydrates before longer runs to avoid fatigue, so do your research and discover what energy gels, sport drinks and other energy sources are out there. Healthy foods to add to your diet include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk (or dairy-free milk products such as almond milk); a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas); soy products, nuts, and seeds.

Stay Hydrated

Don’t skimp out on the fluids. Staying hydrated is essential. Drink water one to two hours before your run, periodically during your run and after. Mileage plus sweat loss equals how much you should be drinking.

Aim for:

  • 16 ounces (2 cups) of water at about two hours before you run.

  • About 15 minutes before a run, drink 6 - 8 eight ounces of water.

  • During a run longer than 1 hour, drink water at regular intervals.

  • After a run, aim for at least 16 ounces of water with healthy foods.


Allow your body to rest to give your muscles time to recoup after pounding the pavement. Embrace this time and pat yourself on the back.

Start your strength training routine at Trainers Spot! We will get you set up with a personal trainer who will get you going with the perfect strength routine that is right for your schedule, fitness level and goals.

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