Supplementing a running program with strength training can greatly improve your overall form. Being stronger will make you a more efficient runner, and also reduces the likelihood of sustaining injuries often associated with prolonged running.
Samuel Tay, a Personal Trainer from Pure Fitness, has mapped out a recommended series of exercises that you can do to increase your core strength for running.
The strengthening exercises suggested here will involve similar muscle contraction and recruitment of muscle fibres as that used in a running stride. They are compound and multi-joint movements, targeting the core muscles as well.
A weak and easily-fatigued core will hinder posture and running stride, losing the strength to push your thighs forward in a running motion as the distance extends. That is one of the reasons many inexperienced runners start to hunch as the distance gets longer.
You can perform these movements in sets of 10-30 repetitions, or as many as you can while maintaining good form in 30-40 seconds.
Start in a plank position, making sure your shoulders are above your elbows and feet together.
Jump with your feet apart, as far as you can, and back together. Keep your tummy tight and your hips steady, avoid dropping them or raising them too high.
Beginners: Start in a push-up position and instead of jumping, you can step your feet apart, one at a time.
Two-Legged Donkey Kickbacks
Start with all four of your limbs on the floor, with your knees slightly raised off the ground. Shoulders are above your wrist and back is straight.
Push off with your toes and kick your legs back and upwards.
Land as soft as you can.
Beginners: Rest your knees on the ground and kick back one leg at a time.
Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift
Placed kettlebell between your feet. Stand wider than shoulder width, with toes and knees pointing slightly outwards. Knees and toes to face in the same direction.
Push back your hips as you squat down with your arms extended and grab the kettlebell firmly with an overhand grip.
Position shoulders above kettlebell. With a braced (tight and taut) back, pull the kettlebell up and off the ground by extending hips and knees.
Stand upright with chest out.
You can substitute the kettlebell with a dumbbell.
Beginners: Start with a lighter weight and a closer stance if need be.
Loaded Walking Lunges
With kettlebells or dumbbells
Hold kettlebells/dumbbells at your sides.
Step forward with one leg, forming a 90 degree at the knee, and make sure toes in the lead leg and back leg are pointing straight in the same direction. Stand up by bringing back leg to the front, in line with the forward leg.
Keep body (torso) upright as you walk (lunge).
Repeat with alternating legs.
Beginners: Start with step ups, with or without any kettlebells or dumbbells. Have a platform in front of you and step up with alternating legs. Keep knees at 90 degrees and push upwards with the leg on the platform and with heels pressed downwards.
Have a stable platform in front of you. Choose a height that is at waist level.
Jump up with both feet together, legs slightly apart, pushing from the heels to the toes and with your arms swung in a forward motion. Think of it as you are diving upwards.
Land as softly as you can on your feet, with knees slightly bent.
Beginners: Choose a shorter height and jump up with feet further apart.
Get Your Mind Game On
Now that you’ve got a hang of strength training, how about some ideas about meditation for runners? Exercise and body wellness isn’t just about moving all the time, some moments of calm can help you perform even better.
Pure Yoga teacher Arun Rana explains how meditation can help running enthusiasts in this interview:
Q. What is meditation?
Arun: “As you think you become” is the basis of meditation. It is a practice that allows you to see how your thoughts are affecting your reality. Through meditation, you’ll be given the tools and techniques that allow you to make a conscious choice of how you respond to life instead of just reacting to it.
During meditation, the mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused. This means that while you are fully awake and alert, your mind is focused on a single point and is free from the external world or events taking place around you. When the mind is silent and no longer distracts you, meditation deepens.
Q. What types of meditation should runners practice?
Arun: Similar to the feeling of "being in the zone", meditation gives practitioners the same sense of bliss and joy that runners experience when they run distraction free. When runners become aware of their breath and learn to be in the present moment through mediation, they will expect to experience a remarkable shift in their run.
The run becomes less about physical movement but one that harnesses vital force. Other techniques such as Pranayama or breath practice, Yoga Nidra or deep relaxation, are powerful tools for runners to integrate into their training.
Q. How does meditation benefit the runners?
Arun: Runners may see improvement in terms of strength, endurance and stamina through the practice of Pranayama.
Meditation also helps centre a runner’s focus and improves concentration and stability. They may experience a heightened sense of clarity, balance and awareness.
You will also become more emotionally resilient, and are able to cope with difficult runs with relative ease.
Runners may also learn to tap into hidden reserves of inner power and derive the extra oomph to complete long distance runs. They develop an awareness in every movement, reducing the incidence of injury, and in turn, creates safer and more balanced trainings and runs.
Q. How should runners start integrating these meditation practices into their running lifestyle?
Arun: As with running, consistency is key with meditation. This training helps tremendously in areas other than running, such as their approach and attitude in their day to day, quality of relationships, efficiency and productivity at work.
If you’re feeling inspired, get some help with the meditation experience at Pure Yoga, which holds meditation classes weekly.
Find out more at www.pure-yoga.com/singapore