Strength Training for Runners: Are You Wasting Your Time?

By now, most runners are aware that strength training (resistance training, lifting, “core work”) is going to make it much more likely that you will be able to stay injury free. Most runners also know that following a strength training for runners plan is going to help you run more efficiently, meaning your running technique is better.

However, there is a lot of bad information out there, and unfortunately, those “10 strength training exercises every runner needs” or strength training for runners pdf sheets are not necessarily helping you, there is a good chance they are actually putting your body in a worse place, which means you are MORE at risk for injuries! Especially if you copy the images they use, which often make me cringe with how bad the models are doing them.

Not what we want, right?

How do I know this?

Because I was one of those people who followed a plan from one of the major running websites, followed those 10 “must do” exercises, and being the goody two shoes runner I am meant I was consistent with them, religiously doing those squats, planks, sit ups, lunges 2-3 times per week.

I got to the stage where I could whip through that routine while watching tv, I could squeeze it in almost anywhere as long as I had access to 10-15lb dumbbells, and I felt smug about the fact I was strength training when so many others did not.

I still got injured often.

Nothing huge, I was fortunate enough to never have a stress fracture, have Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis or any of those major injuries that would stop you in your tracks for months on end, but I still got little injuries all the time.

Not devastating, but frustrating for sure, how was this fair?

Wasn’t this what that was meant to prevent? My training was in a cycle of a few solid weeks, then a setback of a week or so, and repeat.

What Strength Training Program for Runners Will Actually Work for Me?

It was only once I went to UVA speed clinic when we decided it was finally time to make some changes as not only was I constantly getting little niggles, but it was clear after Chicago Marathon that something needed to change as I could not run efficiently for a marathon. My body was breaking down BAD in those final 8 miles, and my running form could not handle the distance.

After the running assessment, Max (at UVA Speed Clinic), asked me about my warm ups before runs, my supplemental training I did, everything he could about what I did outside of those moments I was actually running.

After I showed him what I did for strength training, he told me to throw out 90% of what I was doing for “strength training”.

Uh what!?

It was there that I realized I HAD to find someone to help me, this was not something I could do alone, and no longer could I rely on just “runner friendly exercises” everyone follows.

Not just me either, NO ONE should really be using those exercises, not if you want to stay injury free and run with the best running form your body is capable of. No matter what level you are at. No one WANTS to be injured or running with bad form!

It was at this point I plucked up the courage to speak to a strength training coach I had been introduced to a few weeks prior. I asked him for help in exchange for documenting what I was doing on my blog and through social media.

He almost seemed relieved, having seen me doing my “strength training” over the previous weeks, it must have been frustrating to watch the train wreck that was my routine.

This of course, was Drew, and he already knew I had hamstring tendonitis from a previous conversation, but now I gave him the go ahead to actually tell me what the heck I was doing wrong and why I was making it so much worse with what I thought I was doing it make it better.

Combining Strength Training and Running

If you have known me for a while, you will know that I have Team Ice Cream, my support network who helped me with my running career. Without them, I would never have accomplished what I did. You will also likely know that there are three names that come up more than any of the others; Steve (of course!), Evie, and Drew.

To this day, Drew is  still my strength training coach, the workouts may have changed, the priorities have shifted (especially with a baby on the way!), but my faith in him has not. Initially having a strength coach sounded a bit ridiculous to me, do I really need a strength training COACH? Surely I can just find the exercises to strengthen the weak areas I have, be on my way, and check in from time to time.

I soon realized that no, this was not the case. Not myself, not Mo Farah, not Shalane Flanagan can get away with just the same exercises for the rest of their lives or even for the rest of a season. The whole point of a strength training program for runners is that it is created for YOU. To work on YOUR weak areas, which change all the time.

Think about it.

Every single one of us has different running form, that running form is your body’s way of creating the most efficient way of moving across the ground that it can with what it has been given, and what is restricting it from running faster or smoother.

As you strengthen one area, another may fall weak (especially if you are not using good form for your exercises), which again, changes the exercises you need. Unfortunately, our bodies are always going to find ways to cheat, the easiest way out…so we are constantly chasing those weaknesses around, limiting them as much as possible.

Now, you might be thinking:

Well this is all well and good for you, but I am not an elite runner nor am I in Lexington, Kentucky, and trust me Tina, I have met the personal trainers in my area, and they are NOT all about runners.

I get that, and I know I am EXTREMELY lucky to have found Drew here, and that is why I had this itch I couldn’t scratch for years while I was running well. I knew that Drew knew his stuff, but I knew that someone in Utah or Manchester, or Madrid couldn’t possibly work with Drew….well, unless they had a private jet and could fly in for sessions.

It bothered me that I had access to this guy who was just so good at what he did, so good at picking out weaknesses and designing exercises to fix those weaknesses, and the difference was HUGE.

I didn’t have any real injuries from the time I started working with Drew to the time I went on my running hiatus. I did have peroneal tendonitis, but that never really stopped me, and it was only once I had dry needling that it went away. But I was amazed at how much stronger I felt. My races showed it as I made huge jumps in performance, I completed a marathon FEELING good, not feeling like at 18 miles my body was already shutting down. Best of all, the injury steak seemed to be fading away.

I hadn’t changed my coach, in fact, Steve and I were slowly but surely ramping up on the mileage over the years.

It wasn’t even just me, I had friends who I sent to Drew, and saw them make huge improvements too, saw them reduce their injuries, and say how much stronger they felt running.

It had to be Drew, and there had to be a way we could offer it to other people without him physically being there?

Strength Training for Runners at Home

That is how one day, we came up with our strength training for runners program, and friends, we are SO proud of it!

Here is what we came up with:

Drew and I spent HOURS upon HOURS filming exercises which would address and correct your weaknesses without putting you at risk of using bad form (120 videos total!), we then made videos about all the questions a runner could have while going through a program:

  • What if I am exhausted with my training and can barely finish my runs, let alone get my strength workout in?
  • When should I start it when I have a race coming up?
  • Will I bulk up if I lift heavy weights?

And many, many more.

Drew thought up a series of 5 exercises for you to do, that would show him where you weaknesses are. By recording yourself from two angles, he could see the likely pathway you would be taking. Instead of having a physical assessment, we could use technology to show us that without him physically being there.

Once you send in your videos, Drew creates a personalized 6 week program specifically designed for you to strengthen the areas you need to assist, and give some slack to the overworked areas. We create a page specifically for you with a video from Drew reminding you of what to watch out for and what to pay attention to. It has a printable workout sheet to fill out each time you complete the workout, and has all the 2-3 minute exercise videos for your program all on one page.

During that time, you are given a set of exercises we call Week 0. These are exercises to do every day (or close to it) to prep your body for the strength training and to make sure you have the movement to be able to complete strength training correctly.

We have a Facebook group for any questions that come up in the duration of the 6 week program and also to build community, for the runners to talk amongst one another, share successes and struggles, to keep up with the training, and just be that extra level of support, as for many this would be something completely new in every way.

At the end of the program, the clients would unlock every single video we had recorded, and could from there create their own program with their two-year membership to strength training for runners. We created a video showing runners exactly how to progress your strength training, how to create a brand new program if you liked while hitting all the major categories, and still having access to the Facebook group, runners could still ask questions if needed during the two years they were in the program.

It all seemed like a great idea, seemed like it could work, but if we put this into practice, would it actually be something runners were interested in?

You never really know, so we decided a beta group would be the best way to go. Half the price, but a requirement to give us feedback and suggestions of what worked and what didn’t.

The beta went so much better than expected. It was incredible to see the improvement the runners made immediately, even week 0 made an impact on how they felt on their runs, I realized just how much runners are actually missing out of. Things I kind of took for granted, others had no clue about, and it had an even bigger domino effect on their running. The beta was a HUGE success, and after making a few tweaks, we were ready for round 2.

We had great sign ups for the second round, and once again, we started to see how the runners were improving so fast, and absolutely loving it.

Sure, life got in the way for some, as it always will. Even I have had times where I have barely managed to get my strength training in…or times where I haven’t at all, but overall, the runners lives had changed, they saw what I saw. This is a game changer for your running, and no it does not mean you are sore all the time, in fact, for many of our runners, this is something so new, that a lot of the exercises are just building groundwork for you in the future, and they are perfect for runners who ARE training for a big race.

Many of the runners wanted to continue their personalized programs, receiving programs from Drew every six weeks instead of just the one. They saw the POWER in this program and having program tailored to you. The monthly subscription was a very reasonable price, and clearly the runners got the value they needed from it.

All that was really needed was either a gym to use or if you want to do it from home, you just need a few kettlebells (click this link for great kettlebell options) and some inexpensive resistance loop bands and a resistance band set from amazon.

So here we are.

We want to keep numbers small to make sure we are able to give the runners all the attention they need. Once those spots sell the doors will close for a few months. This keeps a sense of community within the groups, and allows us to fully focus on the runners we have, rather than constantly trying to bring in new runners.

So I hope you will consider joining us and becoming one of the next classes of runners in our program. Now is the time to hop on over to this page to find out more, which will OPEN on Friday. For now it says out of stock, as it is! This is only offered in small windows, but you can find all the information you need there.

If you have a race coming up in November or December, don’t think this is too late for you, in fact, it might be the best thing for you to actually realize that big goal you have…although I hope you aren’t setting any real goals till a few weeks before 😉

Drew and I are so proud of this program, and the runners say it was worth every penny, which makes us feel like we did the right thing, and for the first time, we are actually making a difference in people’s lives, allowing them to run HUGE PRS or run without pain for the first time in a long time.

And that, my friends is what is worth it for us.

Hope you think so too.

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