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How Strength Improves Your Running!

Annmarie Licatese, DVRT Master (Fit Foodie Mama)

Runners run (obviously) but hitting the weights is a different story.  Part of the reason being that it takes up time and when you’re spending hours logging miles, extra time is precious.  The other part (and what’s probably the bigger reason) is figuring out HOW to incorporate strength training into your routine can be a bit confusing. 

How often? What types of workouts? Before or after you run?

Good questions.  But first, let’s talk about why strength training NEEDS to be part of your running regimen. 


Well, running occurs in a one dimensional plane which puts you at risk for injury.  If you’re strength training the proper way, you will include exercises in all planes of motion which help to address muscle imbalances that might exist. 

Problem is that most runners are already short on time since they spend most of their training dedicated to pounding the pavement.  Good news is, you don’t need a ton of extra time to strength train.  Just a plan and a system, like the DVRT (Dynamic Variable Resistance Training) System which uses the Ultimate Sandbag to get you there. 

The DVRT System is designed to “implement variable resistance tools to achieve specific outcomes”.  Yes, specific outcomes, which is exactly why I not only use this system as an integral part of my own training but recommend it to every runner I know and also leads to me my first tip…

Be goal oriented.

Sorry to burst your bubble but making your way from machine to machine at the gym isn’t the answer. Not only is it boring (in my opinion) but it is also not productive. If you really want to make strength training work for you and your running goals then there are more specific exercises you should be doing instead.

In fact, what you should really be doing is training MOVEMENT not muscles which is exactly what the DVRT System does.   It’s a progressive system that teaches you how to connect your entire body to work together so you can build the power you need to propel yourself off the ground, run faster and strengthen muscle imbalances to avoid those pesky injuries. 

Since improving movement should be your goal, you can say goodbye to bicep curls and instead you should…

Save time with compound exercises.


Say what? Compound exercises are those that require multiple joint movements AKA, are more functional than targeted muscles lifts.  Plus they’re a total time saver which aside from being WAY more effective is also one of the biggest benefits.  

Examples of compound exercises that are a MUST DO for runners include : 

…just to name a few.  If you notice, not all of these are in the same plane of motion.  Focusing on multi-planar strength training helps to improve functional strength, train stability muscles and become more resilient.  

Make it unilateral.

Speaking of becoming more resilient, another important aspect of your training should also focus on unilateral exercises or training one side at a time.  Unlike bilateral training (think the squat), unilateral training (think the pistol squat) focuses on training the muscles to work together,  It also helps to reduce muscle imbalances, improve muscle recruitment and forces you to active your core.

The key to incorporating unilateral training is progression.  Trying to immediately bust out a pistol squat would not only most likely lead to failure and frustration but also could lead to injury.  In order to be successful, you literally need to take it one step back at a time.


For tips on how to properly introduce unilateral training into your routine, check out my beginner unilateral workout for runners, how to take it a step further and tips on how to progress to a pistol squat

Include the core.

If you’re incorporating unilateral training into your workouts then whether you realize it or not, you’re already working your core but of course, you should also be doing specific core workouts as well.  

When you are including core exercises, be sure that you are making the most of your time.  Runners should be focusing on ones that work both the glutes and the hips, both of which are important for injury prevention.

For examples on these specific core exercises and core workouts you can do, checkout my DVRT Core Workout for Runners, 10 Minute Ultimate Sandbag Core workout for runners, and if you love to combine running and strength; DVRT Track & Core Workout

Recovery is part of the program.

The biggest mistake that runners make in general is that they don’t know how to actually rest.  Seriously, keep your easy days easy, allow 48 hours in between strength workouts and use the recovery time and rest days to build muscle.  

Just like you need sleep, your muscles need rest so they can rebuild and become better and stronger.

Scheduling is key.

Okay, now we have gone over WHAT you should be doing, let’s talk about when.  

If possible, always schedule running before strength especially when including lower body exercises, if you try to work it in the other way around, your muscles will be too fatigued to run at max effort and your running performance will suffer.  

Try to incorporate strength workouts 2 days a week for optimal benefits, keeping your running days focused on running and your strength training days focused on strength training.  

Remember that your strength workouts don’t have to be long and time consuming.  Spending a half hour is usually more than plenty which allows you to conserve the energy you need to push the pace and pound the pavement for hours on end