Ben Lucas, rebel ambassador

Ben Lucas, rebel ambassador

Once upon a time most runners would have considered running to be enough when it came to fun run preparation (if they bothered to prepare at all). Nowadays we know preparation is the key, whether you are experienced or a beginner.

Smart preparation will make the run easier, more fun and will assist with injury prevention. It’s also a great way to keep your fitness on track through winter!

An average weekly training program should include a mix of long runs, fartlek training, hill sprints, recovery sessions and strength training.

So why is strength training so important?

If you are running long distance, you will want to strengthen the specifics and phase out any imbalances that may affect your performance. For example, if one hamstring feels tighter than the other – strengthen the weaker side.

Running with poor posture becomes very uncomfortable very quickly, strengthening core muscles prior to participating in an endurance event with is worth your while.

I am a big fan of strength training for runners, but it’s important to do exercises that are specific for runners.

Here are some of the best exercises to include:

Romanian deadlift

How to do this exercise:

  • Begin in a standing position holding a DB, weight, bar, broomstick etc. in front of you
  • Ensure your back is straight, suck in your stomach to engage your core, and stand with your feet hip width apart
  • Bend forward at the hips, slowly pushing your butt back towards the opposite wall. Your knees should only partially bend, which should generate tension in your hamstrings
  • When your hips cannot go any further backwards, pause, and then slowly return to standing by extending the hips

When starting out, use a bar or broomstick to ensure you maintain a neutral spine throughout the motion. Keep it in contact with your head, back, and tailbone throughout the movement.

After you’ve practiced the movement correctly until it feels natural, (and you can tell when you are cheating), then you are finally ready to add weight. In time, you can work toward single-leg deadlifts.

Kettle bell single leg deadlifts

This is a great exercise because by working one leg at a time you are essentially stopping the stronger leg from doing more of the work and strengthening your weaker side. It engages your posterior chain through both the up and down phases, while focusing your core to help you balance.

Remember it is more important to do this exercise in a controlled manner, so go slowly and do your reps with integrity

How to do this exercise:

  • Stand straight with a kettlebell in your right hand. Keep your stomach sucked in tight and your shoulders back
  • Plant your left leg into the ground, this leg is going to be your support on this side
  • Send your right leg straight back behind you, while at the same time bring the front of you body forward until it is almost parallel to the ground. Without breaking the hips, slowly start leaning forward, allowing the weight to carry you down, while pushing the right leg back towards the wall behind you
  • Slowly bring yourself back up to standing. You should be feeling this in your core, your left hamstring and your right glute

When you run, you only ever have one leg on the ground at a time, so this is a great exercise to help work on your core and leg strength while improving balance.

Step ups

When doing a step up, ensure you focus on only using your rear leg to balance. Press through the heel on your rear leg and engage your glute to drive you upwards. Note: Your hips and knees remain straight throughout both eccentric and concentric phases. Don’t let your knee roll in and hip push out.

How to do this exercise:

  • Find a step that is around 30-50cm high
  • Step your right foot onto the step and ensure that you are balanced while you drive your left knee up to around hip height
  • Put your left foot back on the ground and then go again

This is a great exercise to condition your quads, while strengthening your core and improve your posture. With this exercise, move in a controlled manner and focus on keeping your back straight and core engaged.

How to do this exercise:

  • Hold a towel above your head
  • Stand straight with your feet at shoulder width apart and slightly angled at around 45 degrees
  • Slow squat down, keeping your chest and arms up and your core engaged
  • When you get to your lowest point, engage your core and push yourself back up to standing keeping the towel above your head at all times

Overhead squat

This is a great exercise to condition your quads, while strengthening your core and improve your posture. With this exercise, move in a controlled manner and focus on keeping your back straight and core engaged.

How to do this exercise:

  • Hold a towel above your head
  • Stand straight with your feet at shoulder width apart and slightly angled at around 45 degrees
  • Slow squat down, keeping your chest and arms up and your core engaged
  • When you get to your lowest point, engage your core and push yourself back up to standing keeping the towel above your head at all times

Single leg squat with TRX

How to do this exercise:

  • Set up your TRX with handles about chest height. Hold onto the straps and take a step back away from the tether point
  • Stand with your feet hip width apart, suck in your stomach to engage your core and keep your shoulders back
  • Lift your right leg off the ground, maintain balance and the above posture
  • Slowly start bending your left knee, pushing your butt back as if you are about to sit in a chair
  • Get as low as you can, then slowly engage the muscles and start standing up straight again
  • That is one rep, do at least eight per side

Lateral lunge

This is a great exercise to activate the abductors and hip-stabilizing muscles.

How to do this exercise:

  • Step out to your right side, keeping both feet pointing ahead of you
  • Lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the ground, keeping your left leg straight
  • Step back to the centre and repeat on the other side