Ask TS : Strength Training Exercises

Ask the Trail Sisters Panel of Experts is made up of inspirational and knowledgeable women who share a love for trail running, hiking, and the outdoors. These women volunteer their time and expertise to help others enjoy a better experience on the trails.

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I know we are all supposed to do it, but how important is strength training for overall running fitness?  And if you could only do one exercise, what would it be and why? 


Ah yes, the older I get, the more I understand this on another level!  As Estrogen decreases, so does our muscle mass.  It’s a classic example of ” use it or lose it”.  The current stats reveal that after age 30, women lose 3-8% of their muscle mass per decade without the influence and stimulation of strength training. So, it is a very big deal.  If we lose the stability that our muscles provide for our joints, we become more injury-prone.  If we don’t supply our musculoskeletal system with weight bearing exercise, we also become more at-risk for osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease as estrogen and progesterone decline. Even before I reached an older age, I noticed that being stronger actually heightened my endurance in ways that just doing long runs could never achieve. The exercise I choose for strength is a good old kettle bell swing session. 


I’ve been running long for 10+ years and have always done strength. *knock on wood*- I have never been injured and I attribute that to 1-2x/week of strength training with a certified Personal Trainer who is also an endurance runner (hello, Coach Tera Pruett!). If I only had to do one exercise, I’d say probably correct burpees- you get two squats, some cardio and core (plank) in one move- it’s a runner’s dream 😉 . 


I’m a parent and I also have a full-time job so I don’t have extra time to go to the gym in addition to going for a run so I try to multi-task while I’m watching my kiddo play outside with the neighborhood kids – I’ll do some core work on my yoga mat in the yard or a quick 20-minutes on the rower on the driveway.  I also do a lot of real-life functional fitness work by aggressively landscaping my yard. Don’t discount the value of chopping wood, shoveling snow, or hauling wheelbarrows full of dirt and rocks around! Strength work is important but the thing that will make you a better runner is running. So if you only have time for 1 fitness activity in a day then I would suggest spending that time running!


Strength training doesn’t need to be heavy all year round. Periodize strength training as you do run training. I think glute specific strength training is the best and most specific for runners, also deadlifting if I had to chose one. 


I will say this – after over a decade in this sport, my most successful and injury-free seasons were all when I was dedicated to weekly core and strength work. I was only doing it a few times per week, but I felt much stronger at the ends of races and I wasn’t having as much overuse pain during high mileage weeks and events. As for one exercise, I think that’s highly personal – as the most important thing is targeting your own area of weakness or imbalance. As a general statement, I’d say deep core exercises targeting the transverse abdominus are key for runners, as are those focused glute activation/strengthening (that’s two, sorry). Getting those simple planks and lunges/squats in is a great place to start. 


I feel strength training is overall very important to our running fitness especially for womxn & to stay healthy long-term. There isn’t particularly one exercise I would select, but I enjoy doing core workout 2- 3 times a week. I have always found having a strong core allows you to have more power while you run.


I think strength training absolutely can help our running! I do a short routine that focuses on my trunk area: core, glutes & hips. As the runs get longer, having a strong trunk can help us keep our running form when the rest of our body becomes tired. There are so many types of planks that can be done, I’d probably choose that one if I had to pick only one exercise to do.


Yes! Strength training is essential for preventing injury, getting stronger and faster, and just feeling like a badass! My favorite go-to exercise is a one-legged Romanian deadlift on the Mobo board (an unstable Bosu ball will also work) with a shoulder press. I use a 15 pound weight and it covers it all — balance, hip hinge strength, hamstring strength and upper body.


Strength training is important and there is not one hit wonder. Creating strength through variety of movements, intensities and weights all contribute to building a strong supportive core (core is everything neck to knees). Moving from a strong core helps reduce time-sucking injuries, so it is worth it to put in some time a couple times a week. That said the best strength training routine is the one you will do. So finding a way to habit stack or an accountabil-a-buddy to make it happen is key!


Strength training is a very important element of training for runners.  When you put lots of intensity, impact, or miles on your body, you have lots of potential to get injured.  To avoid that, your muscles and joints need to be strong to deal with this stress.  It is very important to train core, hips, gluteus, and all leg muscles with upper body as well.  Also, strength training helps balance, coordination, power, and running economy.  There are many great strength exercises for runners that make your body strong but won’t add bulkiness.  You add strength training to your routine, you can improve your performance – faster, longer, stronger, and injury free!

If I have choose one exercise ….. walking Lunges.


SO IMPORTANT!  Many of my injuries have stemmed from the fact that my glutes/hips/posterior chain are weak and other parts “turn on” when I don’t strengthen in other areas.  I have strained my TFL and hip flexor so many times because I just want to run all the time and don’t “have” the time to set aside for strength. But in reality I try to flip that to: MAKE the time so I CAN run all the time.  I typically do 3 days of strength training along with running in order to keep my correct muscles activating.  My fave exercises of ALL TIME are single rear deadlifts (RDL).  I do these in the mirror to make sure my hips are staying level. I focus on form rather than how many repeats I can do.  That way I’m really tuning into my glute activating, ankle stabilizing, and knee not turning inward.  Having strong glutes, translates to stronger running and better running form, and recruiting from a muscle powerhouse to propel me forward.  (PS I know you said one exercise, but can we talk about the benefits of resistance bands and lateral banded side steps, glute bridges or clams??? So easy to do and incorporate into a pre run mobility plan!)


I actually don’t do much strength training, but I faithfully do some PT exercises to keep my hips in balance.  I believe in strength work but also believe that everyone should find or develop a program that works best for their body.  My fellow TSers in this forum who do more strength training may have more specific recommendations to share.

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Ask the Trail Sisters Panel of Experts is made up of inspirational and knowledgeable women who share a love for trail running, hiking, and the outdoors. These women volunteer their time and expertise to help others enjoy a better experience on the trails.

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