The importance of cross-training in the gym seems to be growing in the running world. This is a great trend, as it has the potential to help runners stay healthy and perform better.
Notice, however, that I said it has the potential to benefit runners. When done well, training for strength, power, and mobility in the gym can be great. But, when done improperly, there is also the potential to cause greater harm.
If you’re skeptical of training in the gym – or you’ve heard a story of a runner getting injured when they began strength training – you must be aware that the quality of training is just as important as whether or not you’re doing it.
When approaching cross-training, the exercises you choose to perform must be the right fit for you. Then, you have to do those exercises properly. Only then can cross-training in the gym offer you the great benefits that it is touted to provide.
While I can’t tell you exactly which exercises are right for you today, I can point you in the right direction. I’ve worked with numerous runners of different ages and abilities. Among these runners, I see common movement needs, and common exercise needs.
Those common needs that many runners have are what I’d like to help you solve today. That’s why I’m going to show you some of my favorite exercises for runners!
First, what are some of the benefits of cross-training? Why should you consider adding strength, mobility, and power exercises to your running routine?
One reason is that running is not a light activity. Your joints encounter significant load with each foot strike. After all, it is basically jumping from one foot to the next!
I see too many people who start running to get in shape and end up injuring themselves.
So, the first reason to train in the gym is to prepare your body to handle the stresses of running.
I also encourage almost every runner to add mobility work to their routine. The very nature of running results in significant tightness in certain muscles for most people.
Often, the muscles of the posterior chain (the calves, hamstrings, glutes & other hip muscles, and spinal erectors) become very tight in a runner’s body. This is an adaptation to running, as it requires a lot of elasticity and rebound in those muscles with each stride.
However, too much tension can lead to movement compensations. When we maintain mobility, we maintain the ability to move well and stay pain free.
There are many other potential reasons to cross-train, but those stand out as two of the most important reasons for runners to maintain a mobility and strength routine.
The how of cross-training may look a little different for each person. In general, I recommend that most runners cross-train in the gym twice a week. The goal is to do the minimum amount to make progress in strength and mobility, while simultaneously not overdoing the volume of training.
Most runners run nearly every day. So, it’s not a great idea to also strength train every day! Twice a week usually works best.
I also recommend that each session be as efficient as possible. That means that we’re going to focus on only the mobility and stability work that you need – not just do a bunch of exercises that look cool. Keep it simple and focused.
Efficiency in strength training means that you will be working on functional strength training exercises that incorporate as much of the major muscles groups as possible. The bodybuilding style of training – doing one exercise for each muscle in the body (and maybe three or four exercises for the biceps:p) – is not the most efficient way to gain strength.
Instead, we’re going to do things like squats, deadlifts, rowing exercises, and pressing exercises. All very efficient and effective ways to get the body stronger.
With that being said, here are some of my favorite exercises for runners. Give them a shot and see if they work for you. If you have any doubts or questions, you can feel free to contact me and I will point you in the right direction.
Below you’ll find a series of mobility drills that I often use when I start working with runners. Big areas of focus are the calves, hamstrings, and hips:
Reaching 1-leg Romanian Deadlift
The following strength exercises are primarily focused on the big muscle groups of the lower body. The quads, hamstrings, and glutes. I also threw in a couple of upper body and core exercises that hit major muscle groups of the upper body and torso.
Again, it is best to keep it simple. Are there more exercises that you could do? Of course! But, keeping to a few basic exercises that hit all of the necessary muscle groups is a great place to begin:
Self-Myofascial Release Series
Below is a link to a series of foam rolling and self-myofascial that I like to have most clients perform prior to their workouts. In addition to mobility drills, working on soft tissue quality with these myofascial release drills is a great way to keep your muscles and joints mobile and happy:
Doing some or all of these exercises twice a week is a great way to improve your running and help you move well while staying healthy!
If you know you need help in the area of functional mobility and strength, then you won’t want to miss this opportunity.
The Med Gym will be hosting a 6-week “Fall Back to Fitness” program beginning the week of 9/19. This program will include:
- Functional Movement Screening and individualized program design to ensure the exercise program is the perfect fit for you.
- 2x/week semi-private training at The Med Gym (remote training also available if you don’t live close enough to the gym)
- 1x/week nutrition coaching class held at The Med Gym by our certified nutrition coach.
- Support and accountability from The Med Gym coaches to build the exercise and eating habits you need!
All of this is available for just $199…but if you register before Wednesday, 9/14, you can get in for just $99!
To register, just contact us here and put “Fall Back to Fitness” in your message. We’ll get in touch with you with all of the details from there.