One of the biggest components of a well-rounded running practice that’s missing from many routines is strength training, especially during race season. Ultimately, strength training during the season is less about modifying your body in a significant way – we aren’t going to make you a bodybuilder or a cross-fitter – and more about strengthening weakened muscles and relaxing overactive ones. Since running is a repeated pattern of movements, certain muscles tend to become more overactive and tight. These muscles include:
- Shoulders or trapezius muscles
Once this tightening within the muscles occurs, other muscles can become weaker. These muscles include:
- Lats and the back in general
The goal of these strength-focused workouts is to increase the muscle activation and reduce the chances of injury because of chronic overuse. This will make you faster and stronger so you can enjoy your runs!
Strength training during the season is less about modifying your body in a significant way… and more about strengthening weakened muscles and relaxing overactive ones.
What you will need:
- Foam roller
- Tennis or lacrosse ball
- Exercise band
Rolling is an essential part of this workout. Think of rolling as being like a deep-tissue massage used strategically to relax tight muscles. When rolling, the main objective is to use the motion to roll over knots and tender spots throughout the entire muscle, ultimately allowing it to relax and begin recovering.
A few tips before beginning rolling:
- Rolling will be uncomfortable but should not be excruciating. You can adjust the pressure by putting more or less of your body weight on the roller or ball
- When you find a knot, roll on top of it for a few seconds, roll off of it, then roll back on it. This allows blood to flow back into the area and prevents bruising and damage to the muscle
- Never roll over joints
Rolling is…essential. Think of rolling as being like a deep-tissue massage used strategically to relax tight muscles.
Hip Flexor Roll:
- Place the roller on the ground and lay at an angle against the roller so that it is just below your hip bones
- Rock back and forth towards your groin and then to your side
- Pause where you feel discomfort or tightness
- Place the roller on the ground and lay face down so the roller is at the top of your lap
- You can roll on one leg or on both depending on your level of comfort and how tight your quads are
- Slowly roll down your lap until you reach a knot or any tender spots and pause before you roll again
- Repeat the roll if necessary
- Place the roller on the floor and sit on the roller so it is right below your hip bone on one side of your body
- Cross that leg over the opposite leg
- Roll up and down and side to side in this area until you find an uncomfortable or tender spot and pause there
- You can use a lacrosse ball or tennis ball for this roll if you’re looking for extra intensity
- Place the roller on the floor and sit on it so the roller is right below your bum
- Roll one leg, or both – depending on your desired intensity and the tightness of your muscles
- Slowly roll down the hamstrings until you reach a knot or a tender spot and pause on this area
- Place the roller on the floor and lay on your side so the roller is right on your rib cage
- Slowly roll up towards your armpit and pause where you feel any tenderness or a knot
- When you are right near your armpit, turn slightly so your torso is facing the roof
NOTE: this is probably one of the most uncomfortable rolls so adjust the pressure of the roll by bracing yourself on the ground with your opposite hand
Shoulder or Trap Roll:
- Place a lacrosse or tennis ball against the wall
- Lean against the ball so your trapezius muscle or shoulder muscle is right on the ball.
- Roll back and forth towards your neck until you reach a knot or tender spot.
These exercises should be done after rolling to ensure that there is proper muscle activation.
One Legged Dumbbell Deadlift:
- Hold on to two dumbbells on the side of your body
- Bend at the hip while keeping both legs as straight as possible
- Keep your core tight and a natural arch in your back when performing this exercise
- Bring one leg in the air while keeping your hips as in line as possible
- Pause when your torso is parallel with the floor or when you are restricted from moving any lower
- When standing, activate your glute
- Repeat on the same side for 12-15 times then switch sides
Leg Abduction with Exercise Band:
- Place an exercise band above the knees
- Sit into a half-squat position
- Bring one leg sideways away from your body while ensuring that your glute is performing the exercise
- Pause and slowly bring the leg back to the original position
- Repeat on the same side for 12-15 times and then switch sides
Row with Exercise Band
- Have the midpoint of the band anchored against something solid
- Grasp both ends of the band
- Pull backwards ensuring that your shoulder blades initiate the movement first
- Pause momentarily and then slowly return to the original position
Lat Pulldown with Exercise Band:
- Hold the band above your head
- Slowly pull the band down and pause behind the ears
- Slowly return the band to the original position
Tip: if you find it difficult to bring the band behind your head, roll your lats and shoulders out, as shown in one of the training exercises above, in between sets.