Most runners focus heavily on intense cardio workouts as part of their training, but incorporating a solid weight lifting routine will add speed and strength to your runs. Strengthening your leg muscles better supports key joints that take the heaviest beating during running workouts and helps prevent injuries. Long workouts can break down muscle tissue, so make a concentrated effort to build up your muscles on the days you aren’t running. Strengthening the muscle groups you use most while running, such as thighs, calves and buttocks, will carry you faster and longer.
Strengthen the Legs
Focus on lunges, squats and side steps to give your lower body the workout it needs. For lunges, stand with one leg in front of you and one leg behind, both extended as far as they can go to maintain your balance. Bend the knee in front of you while dropping the knee of the leg that’s behind you straight to ground. Hold barbells in each hand to make this a weight lifting workout. Do squats with your feet spread slightly wider than your shoulders, and count three seconds while squatting down and three seconds on the way up.
Slowing down this routine with both make you less likely to injure yourself while doing it and add additional resistance to make your muscles work even harder. For the side steps, stand straight, extend your left leg to your side as far as it can go while retaining your balance and squat down. Hold a bar behind your neck, but above the shoulders for lunges and side steps to give yourself the weight training you need.
Add Flexibility and Balance
The lunge exercise mentioned in step one will give your legs a stretch that you can really feel. Stretching lightly before but especially after running helps relieve the tightness and the stress from the workout and prevents cramping that can really hinder you from running long and fast in future workouts. Integrating stretch into your strength workouts further protects muscles. Strong balance adds an agility that can boost any sort of aerobic activity. To work balance building in your weight lifting, stand on your toes for for the lunges, squats and sidesteps.
Turn to the Supporting Muscles
Runners clearly focus on their legs, but all muscle groups can have an important part in boosting speed and endurance. Runners fear bulk will slow them down, but strong arms can help your body do the pumping it needs for sprinting. Integrate bicep curls, chest presses and tricep lifts into your weight lifting routine to strengthen your upper body. A strong back and obliques will also bring you the balance and posture you need to sustain long runs even as your body grows tired.
To strengthen both, do waist twists. Sit up with your fit flat on the ground, knees at about a 45 degree angle. Bend back slightly, hold a weight with both hands in front of you, arms extended. Turn to one side slowly, holding the weight in front of you and return to face forward. Do the same on the other side.