How to build strength for long distance running
Maximise your strength and smash your personal best with these tips.
by Runner's World x New Balance
This content has been created in collaboration with New Balance.
We know what you’re thinking. “Why do I need strength to improve my long distance running?” After all, it’s not as if Mo Farah’s regularly to be found flipping monster truck tyres on World’s Strongest Man. But dismissing strength training in favour of pure mileage is extremely foolish. The pure power your body can generate is crucial when tackling any distance over 5K.
“You can always rely on strength training to support a strong start to a run and establish a rhythm for your feet,” says Richie Norton (@thestrengthtemple), PT and New Balance ambassador. “Plus, every runner needs a reserve of strength to get them through the race without injury.” Here’s how to build the power you need to surpass your expectations on race day.
The moves you need
The weights room might be the last place a long-distance runner would think can improve their time, but a weekly visit and just three moves will ensure you build all the lower-body muscle you need to stabilise your joints and improve your endurance.
The barbell squat
“This all-round strength staple is particularly great at stabilising your core muscles but, more importantly, it also creates a foundation of explosive power you can use when it really matters,” says Richie.
1. Stand with your feet more than shoulder-width apart – this wide stance will allow a deeper squat, getting your glutes and hamstrings involved.
2. Hold a barbell across your upper back with an overhand grip – avoid resting it on your neck. Hug the bar into your traps to engage your upper back muscles.
3. Take the weight of the bar and slowly squat down – head up, back straight, buns out. Lower yourself until your hips are aligned with your knees, with legs at 90 degrees – a deeper squat will be more beneficial, but build up your strength and flexibility first.
4. Drive your heels into the floor to push yourself explosively back up.
Although this move calls to mind Arnie rather than Farah or Radcliffe, deadlifts are essential for building a stable core during your run. Why’s that important? A solid mid-section ensures your run power comes from your hips rather than loading injury-causing stress on your knees.
1. Stand with your feet slightly wider that shoulder-width apart, with the barbell on the floor in front of you. Bend at your knees and your hips to take hold of the bar with an overhand grip; your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
2. Head up, back straight: squeeze your glutes, tighten your shoulder blades and pull in your lower abs. After that, it’s simple. Stand up.
3 The bar should remain close to your body the whole time, almost in contact with your thighs when you’re fully standing. Keep tension in your core as you lower the bar to the ground – this doesn’t have to follow the same pattern of movement, just get it down safely.
The split squat
“Muscle imbalances can be a major problem for runners, slowing down your running economy (the amount of energy you put into every stride),” says Richie. By targeting your weaker leg with this unilateral exercise, you can share the power between both your pins, which should allow you to pull out a spurt of speed when you need it most.
1. Stand facing away from the bench, holding a barbell across your upper back. Have one leg resting on the bench behind you, laces down.
2. Squat with your standing leg until the knee of your trailing leg almost touches the floor.
3. Push up through your front foot to return to the start position.
The mindset you need
The most common long distance running mistake? “Failing to build up mental strength,” warns Richie. “This leads people to start a long distance run with focus, but they often drift off and lose motivation and speed.” The solution? “Keep on asking yourself the basics. What motivates you? What are you trying to achieve? The more you focus on what it feels like to nail your PB, the more you’ll be motivated to focus on your breathing and running technique.”
New Balance Toughest Opponent is a story about the battles we have within ourselves. The niggling mind games that play out between our ears that make us question whether to run that extra mile, to lift that heavier weight, or to go forward and push harder, faster and stronger than we did the day before. Find out more at: http://www.newbalance.co.uk/TougestOpponent.
You are your toughest opponent.
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