8 Essential Strength Moves for Beginning Runners

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By lacing up those sneakers on a regular basis, you've stretched yourself beyond your comfort zone. You're beginning to enjoy the immense health benefits fitness has to offer. Running is your chosen lifestyle, a habit you hope never to lose. It's a challenge to pack the miles into an already busy schedule, but you make it happen! You can almost taste upcoming accomplishments—faster times, longer distances and a slimmer you. Here is an invitation to bring your running to exciting new heights with minimal investment: start strength training.

Why strength train; isn't running enough? Yes and no. Strength training is both a little and a big deal. It takes a very small amount of time and creates substantial results. The minutes you take to load your muscles will not only reduce the possibility of running-related injuries, but will also increase muscular efficiency. Talk about an advantage!

More: 3 Reasons Strength Training Will Benefit Your Run

Who doesn't want to become a better overall runner? Efficient muscles take longer to fatigue, so your muscles will have more endurance as you build running mileage. Working the muscles that support important joints such as your knees and hips will mean fewer injuries; this will enable you to enjoy a long-lived running experience. Your form will improve due to greater core and arm strength, helping you soar past competition. And perhaps most appealing: more muscle means less fat. Muscle burns calories even at rest, resulting in a svelte, athletic figure.

The best advice for any runner is to take your training one small step at a time. Do what you can, and keep adding as you go. Muscles do not grow by themselves; they need your effort and it's worth it. Join me! 

More: Strength Train to Improve Running Economy

When: Plan on strength training two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days. Each muscle group requires 48 hours rest between sessions.

Where: Your home or a gym. Fancy fitness club membership not required.

What: You'll need a chair, two lightweight dumbbells (3 to 5 lbs.) and your fit self. If you do not have dumbbells, canned food is a quick alternative (you read that correctly, but preferably not the whipped cream). As you get buff, you will eventually want weights in the range of 8 to 12 lbs., or better yet an adjustable set in which plates can be added or removed.

How: These eight easy exercises will strengthen your most important large muscle groups to augment your running. Complete as many repetitions (reps) as you can, ideally between 8 to15. If you are able to do more than 15 reps, you will want to increase your weight slightly. Move slowly and breathe steadily throughout, exhaling as you work the muscle and inhaling as you return to the starting position. You may do one exercise after the other for a circuit, aiming for two to three sets total, or work the same muscles with a one- to two-minute rest in between. For the leg exercises (lunges, squats and calf raises), begin by using only your body weight. Once you feel ready, add more weight by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight down at your sides.

More: How Runners Can Begin a Strength-Training Program