What kinds of cross-training activities can we add to our mid-week training that
improve our running ability? Certainly, strength training can be one important
addition. Strength training can help reduce injury. It also improves our coordination
and stability while improving our running efficiency.

What is strength training? In strength training, we perform weight-bearing exercises
that increase our muscle strength and muscle endurance, while also strengthening
ligaments and tendons, even increasing our bone density. And, as always, when
starting any type of exercise program, especially strength training, you should
consult with your doctor first.

On what days should we add strength training? I encourage you to include strength
training in one mid-week workout. I recommend you do a strength workout on an
easy-day, or in other words, on a recovery day between your harder mid-week runs,
as a cross-training workout. If you run on the same day, I recommend that you
strength train after you run.

I do not recommend that you do a strength workout the day before a long or intense
run. Ideally, you might schedule your strength training the day before a rest day
when you do not run. This schedule allows you to recover, and rest is necessary for
your body to strengthen in reaction to your workout. You may experience delayed
muscle soreness.

What equipment do we need for a strength workout? Strength workouts can be done
anywhere, at home, at a park, or in a gym. Strength training often is associated with
exercise equipment: for example, resistance bands, dumbbells, yoga mats, and
chairs; however, these are optional and not required.

How much exercise is involved? In your first workouts, begin with bodyweight
exercises. As you progress, I advise you to stick with exercises that use only body
weight, or light resistance, and begin with one set, building up to three, comprised of
12 to 15 repetitions per set. Be patient and repeat your workouts before you increase
the weight, the number of repetitions, or the number of sets. Relative to a lower
number of repetitions, this higher number of repetitions builds more of the type of
muscle fiber that we use for marathon running. And, if you feel any pain or
discomfort during a strength exercise, stop immediately.

Now, specifically, what exercises do I recommend? I believe that endurance runners
should focus on building their lower body and core strength. My personal favorites

  1. Squats
  2. Calf Raises
  3. Reverse Lunges
  4. Glute Bridge or Hip Thrusts
  5. Quadrupled Kick Backs
  6. Bird Dog Exercises
  7. Standing Ab Marches

I understand that, for some of the exercises I have named above, the movements
involved do not immediately spring to mind. Nevertheless, for instruction on how to
do these exercises and any modifications, you can find these online by keying these
names into your browser.

And if you are having difficulty knowing which exercises are best for your specific
goals, I recommend that you talk with your coach, personal trainer, or physical
therapist. It’s what they do best.