This week’s Flex and Flow Bootcamp workout really got me thinking about running and weight lifting.
We switched up our usual weighted running warm-up from carrying one weight to two weights to encourage more bicep, tricep and core engagement. And then we dropped the weights for a sprint interval before jumping into a tough set of push-ups. We did the whole circuit 3 times, each time ending with a different variation of push-ups (wide arm push-ups, tricep push-ups on top of a weight to add balance work, and then handlebar push-ups). At the end of our warm-up, a few of my bootcampers commented how different it felt to run with two weights – how much they noticed their legs and core working together, how they had to change their posture and how challenging it was not to have full use of their arms. And I thought, yes, perfect, exactly.
The truth is, despite what many runners think, weight lifting and running go hand in hand. Strength training is an essential component in boosting running performance. Adding in strength training will not only help you gain speed but will also help you maintain proper running form even when fatigued. And if you’re a distance runner, you need to practice good form while running if you want to avoid injury.
Here are some of my favorite moves that will help improve your running and keep you injury free.
Work dem’ legs.
I hear all the time from runners that they are putting in the miles, therefore doing all the leg work they will ever need by…surprise, running. I call a big fat false on this. And here’s why. Our running gait often strengthens and tightens the hamstrings and quads, without paying any mind to the glutes. And the glutes need to be addressed and worked to help keep the muscles balanced and joints properly aligned, while also improving your running efficiency and helping to prevent injury. And yes, strengthening your glutes will also make that booty pop. 😉
Try these leg strengthening exercises:
- BOSU squats: BOSU squats are a total body workout that strengthen the legs (quads, hamstrings, calves),the glutes, and the core while also working to develop stabilization muscles. I love doing squats on the BOSU as it challenges my balance, forces my core to engage and ultimately makes me stronger, faster and more agile while I’m out on the trails.
- Reverse split lunges: Reverse split lunges are a great lower body exercise for runners because they help to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and also to stretch the hip flexors. If you are a trail runner (or otherwise planning to run on uneven surfaces), try doing these on a BOSU to help strengthen the muscles of the foot and lower leg to increase your ankle stability. To start, stand about 2 feet in front of your BOSU. Step your right foot behind you and center it on the BOSU so that your legs are in a split position. Keep the left heel lifted so your weight is on the ball of your foot. Keeping your torso tall and straight, bend your knees and lower your body so that both legs create a 90-degree angle, but do not touch your back knee to the BOSU. Slowly press your body back to the upright position. After you complete a set, repeat with your left leg on the Bosu.
Strengthen dat’ core:
A strong core can improve your running posture and speed; your arms and legs all stem from the core, meaning the strength in your limbs is tied to the strength in your torso. You need a strong core to have strength in the rest of the body. For runners, the main benefit of core strength is increased stabilization in the torso. Your core – the chest, back, abs, and obliques – keeps your torso upright when you run. When running, core strength allows the pelvis, hips, and lower back to work together more smoothly and efficiently. Core strength also significantly improves balance.
And while core strength is important for all runners, its especially important for us distance runners. Towards the end of long runs or races, when you are extremely fatigued, your form will start to suffer. And poor form not only slows you down, it also opens you up to potential injury. If you’re a distance runner and you have experienced back or shoulder ache, building up core strength will help to maintain good posture, and reduce the pains that result from poor posture. Of course another added bonus is that you’ll look good in your sports bra (or with your shirt off!).
Try these core strengthening moves:
- Plank tuck jumps: This is one of my very favorite moves – it’ll get your heart rate up, work your core, legs and upper body all at the same time. Plus, it helps you work the mobility in your hip flexors (ie helps improve your stride!). You don’t need any equipment (unless of course you want to add a BOSU or a weighted ball for a little extra stability work) and you can do it virtually anywhere. You start in plank position with feet together. Bend you knees and bring them towards your chest and back to plank. And repeat. Check out Tasha rockin’ some plank tuck jumps on a weighted ball (not easy to do!).
- Mountain climbers: If you want to work your core and get your cardio on, while also getting an upper body workout, mountain climbers are your new best friend. Starting in plank position, bring your right knee towards your right tricep and then back again to plank (keeping your plank form throughout the movement). Repeat on the other side increasing speed as long as you can maintain proper plank form. If you want a little extra challenge, try them on a BOSU!
- Opposite arm leg raise on the BOSU: While great for the core, this workout will also help strengthen the legs and increase mobility in the hips. To begin, sit low on the BOSU to avoid engaging your back. Take your left hand back, keeping your right hand at your side. With your left foot flat and your left knee bent, extend your right leg straight. Crunch up, bringing your left hand across your body, towards your right leg. Keep your abs engaged throughout the entire exercise. Repeat 20 times on each side.
Sculpt dem’ arms:
Remember how I said my bootcampers inspired this article? They ran with two weights vs. one and said they felt like they didn’t have “full use” of their arms and that made their running significantly more difficult. When you run, your arms counterbalance the motion of your legs, resulting in saved energy. The swing of the arms helps propel the body forward so the lower body isn’t doing all the work. Not to mention, a strong upper body bolsters a runner’s form when fatigue sets in. Plus, your arms will look good…helllloooo Michelle Obama arms.
Try these upper body moves:
- BOSU tricep dips: Sit on your BOSU with your hands on either side of your hips.Walk your feet forward. Lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Then push back up. Do two sets of 12 to 15 reps.
- BOSU push-ups: This is one of my go to moves. I think everyone should do push-ups (at least one set) every single day. It’s an efficient total body workout that targets the upper body, back, core, and lower body. Start in plank position with your hands on the outer edges of your BOSU (or on the floor) and then bend both elbows, slowly lowering your body towards the BOSU. Use the muscles in your chest and arms to push yourself back up to the starting position. And repeat 10-20 times.
So whether you’re a casual 5K’er or an ultra runner, do yourself a favor and incorporate some strength training into your weekly routine. It will not only help you improve your running form but help you increase your speed, mobility and most importantly keep you injury free.
Stay sweaty friends!