3 simple strength exercises for runners
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from Jeff McCloud, coach of the Elizabethtown Area Middle School cross country team. He coached participants in the Frozen Foot 5K Race Series’ first ever Couch to 5K program this year.)
Not everyone has access to a gym or can afford a membership to a gym. Or, if you’re like me, you’re intimidated to go into a gym because you don’t have any experience with weights, and you don’t know where to begin. With that in mind, I started doing strength exercises a few years ago to condition my lower body (read: glutes and quads) beyond what it was getting during running. These three exercises are the first ones that I started doing, and I have found them to be an effective way to keep injuries at bay and to help develop power that runners need. This is not to mention balance and coordination.
In addition to my own training, I have incorporated these exercises into the regimen for the Elizabethtown Middle School cross country team. As you might imagine, young teenagers might be a little lackadaisical in doing the exercises, and I do my best to motivate them: Yes, these are tough, but if you do them properly they are going to make you a better, stronger, faster runner.
Anyone who has gone through a gym class knows how to do a squat. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and bend your knees. Keep your back straight and stick your butt out as if you are going to sit in a chair, making sure your backside is at or just below your knees. For a regular squat, you would simply straighten your legs and stand up. In this exercise, though, you explode straight up into a jump with your hands over your head. When you land, you are back into the squat and exploding into another jump. Do 10 repetitions. For maximum fitness, take a short breather after the first set and do another set of 10 reps.
In this exercise, start in a lunge position with one foot forward. Balance yourself and then in a powerful move jump straight up and switch your feet, landing with the opposite foot in front. When you land, let your hips and core balance you and do your best not stumble. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.
As much as people dislike burpees, they are an excellent exercise for runners because they combine a core workout and strengthening your lower body and build explosive power. To perform, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Drop to the ground with your hands in front of you and kick your legs out behind you. Bring your legs back under your body and immediately jump straight up. Land and go straight into another burpee with no rest. Do two sets of 10 repetitions, with a short rest between sets.