Getting stronger as a runner will limit your risk of becoming injured
Strength and conditioning is often overlooked by runners below elite level. Working on this area can you help you to both avoid injuries and become more efficient and thus faster.
While gyms can offer many advantages, there are plenty of options to avoid the often high fees by doing exercises at home.
Fell running guide and coach Dave Taylor says: “Because running involves pushing off the ground and landing one leg at a time it is useful to choose single-leg exercises for your strength training. You don’t need a huge variety, just a few simple exercises such as:
■ Calf raises (standing and seated)
■ Lunges (forwards, backwards and sideways)
■ Rear-leg elevated squat (back toe resting on a chair, bench, wall, etc, about knee high)
■ Glute bridges (foot on ground or elevated on a chair, etc)
■ Step-ups (simply stepping up and down on a chair, bench, wall, etc)
He adds: “Start by just using your bodyweight until you get used to the movement patterns, then add resistance by holding weights. If you don’t have access to dumbells, you can improvise by holding bags or a rucksack full of heavy items (rice or bottles of water work well).
“The aim should be to get close to fatigue. For example, 10 repetitions where 25 is the most you can do isn’t as effective as 10 where 12 is your maximum. As you get stronger, add more resistance or do more repetitions.
“You could also add some core strength exercises. One simple exercise that doesn’t require any equipment is the plank. But because running requires dynamic strength, ie, strength whilst we are moving, the plank exercises should be dynamic too. So rather than simply holding a static position, try a variety of leg movements – knee to elbow, toe taps out to each side, etc.
“Finally consider developing eccentric strength. That means strength that resists force rather than generates it, for example absorbing the impact of running downhill. Here our muscles lengthen under load so we need to replicate that in training. A simple exercise is jumping off a chair, wall or bench. Start from a low height with a double-footed landing and progress to a single leg-landing. Practice landing on both legs even if one feels less natural.
“A good trail runner needs more than cardiovascular fitness so add some strength work to your training routine, too!”