The perfect pair: Running and lifting

by Aaron Sidenberg | May 1, 2013
One-legged Romanian deadlift

Exercise #1: One-legged Romanian deadlift

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these athletes from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, but injury might.

If you are a runner, you already understand the high you get from stepping outside. You understand the time you are out there helps keep you in shape, controls your stress and gives you a sense of fulfillment when you arrive at the finish line. But what are you doing to ensure your ability to continue this pursuit? Do you lift?

Many athletes have realized the necessity for weight training to stay on top of their game, however, when it comes to runners, many are still in the dark.

Time being limited, most runners would rather log another 20 kilometres than hit the gym. There is a preconceived notion that time is better spent dedicated to the actual sport, rather than utilizing the principles of cross-training.

Strength training for runners helps on many levels. Consider these three factors before dismissing the idea of weight training:

  • Running is typically an endurance sport. To be at the top of your game, you must be able to maximize your muscle efficiency by reducing the demand for oxygen in your muscles. The stronger muscles allow for greater force to be produced in every stride. With a more powerful stride, running time will decrease, whether running short or long distances. As your muscles become stronger, they also become more efficient, requiring less energy to produce the same effort. This translates to less fatigue, which ultimately improves run times.
  • One of the biggest reasons runners retire or take breaks from the sport is due to injury. Prolonged training that does not create muscular balance promotes the likeliness of muscle and ligament strains. Through effective weight training, you have the ability to not only strengthen your muscles, but you will also strengthen the ligaments and increase your joint stability, in turn decreasing the chance of repetitive strain injuries (RSI). Moreover, strengthening the core will diminish the chance of back and hip pain — both common problems for runners.
  • If the first two reasons aren’t enough to convince you, how about this? Properly trained individuals are able to withstand longer bouts of training with less chance of injury, and are also able to recover faster. If you’ve ever had to skip a day of training due to fatigue, you understand the importance of proper recovery. Giving your muscles a break from one form of exercise and forcing them to adapt to another makes them more resilient and keeps them functioning at a high level.
Forward lunge with rotation

Exercise #2: Forward lunge with rotation

So what should you focus on when hitting the gym? Keep it simple. Try incorporating full body workouts, two to three times a week ,in order to develop better overall strength. Hit it hard and hit it quick — you don’t need to spend two hours in the gym if you use your time wisely, 30 to 45 minutes should do the trick.

Create a circuit program to minimize your rest time, as it will be more geared toward your primary love.

Don’t avoid heavy weights with the fear of getting too big — you’re a runner not a bodybuilder. Your metabolism will stay high, burning the calories and, unless you overload like crazy, you will find almost all your gains will be made in strength and not mass.

Don’t feel like hitting the gym? Try doing the following exercises at home: the forward lunge with rotation and the one-legged Romanian deadlift. Attempt three sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise for a great post-run workout.


Aaron Sidenberg has a bachelor of science in sport and physical education and is the owner/operator of The Basement on King.


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