Strength training, in particular, can be invaluable to a runner’s routine, and it makes nearly every other physical activity that much easier too. Whether it is yoga, walking or a daily jog, you definitely need strength training after the initial few days to get a bigger workload for your muscles. When your muscles are given more and more work to do over time, it makes them that much more stronger, ready to spring into action, and more flexible as well.
Running coaches and sports scientists concur that strength training, particularly for the lower body, is indispensable for distance runners because it translates to greater speed and increased muscle endurance where they need it the most. Even 15 to 20 minutes of running-specific strength work twice a week can dramatically cut your risk for running injuries.
Let’s start by focusing on what runners use the most – legs! Here are 4 strength training workouts for the lower body that can add speed and agility to your running form:
Single Heel Raises
Stand on the edge of a step such that the heel has room enough to sink down behind the step when you lower it. Use a wall or rod for support if needed, and keep your left knee and hip flexed, and right leg off the ground with the thigh swinging slightly forward. Now let the left heel sink down as far as possible, and then lift it up as high as you can by shifting forward on your toe. Do 10 reps of this for both legs, with a short gap between the two. Make sure you are properly balanced at all times. This super workout strengthens calve muscles and adds more power to your lower-body, making it ready for action.
Get the deep stretches in your hip flexors with regular forward lunches, and get stronger and well-activated glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. Begin by standing straight with proper upper-body posture. Now it’s time to lunge forward with your right foot, lowering your body but making sure your front knee is within the toe-line, like in a squat. Now contract your glutes to come back to an erect position without upsetting your upper body balance. Alternate your feet as you keep moving forward, till you’ve completed 8 – 10 reps on each leg.
Deep Bench Lunge
Using the bench adds extra resistance and increases your intensity level while working on your legs and butt. But this is only possible at the gym. At home find yourself a steady coffee table and clear it off for a makeshift bench.
Stand a couple of feet away from the bench and extend one leg back so the top of your foot rests on the bench. Bend the other leg, ensuring your knee does not venture beyond the toe-line. Keep your shin and foot at a 90-degree angle on the downward motion. Repeat the move on your opposite leg.
Stand up close to the wall with your back facing it, your feet hip-width apart, and your arms raised at shoulder height. Bend your knees while leaning your butt against the wall. If you feel like you’re struggling to balance, we recommend you keep your feet further away from the wall. For added difficulty, cross your right leg over your left and hold for few seconds before switching knees.