As a beginner runner, the best exercise you can do right now is, of course, running. And as you already know, the more you run, the better you’ll get at it.
You Just have to be consistent and do your best to stay within your fitness level the entire time.
With that said, running’s high impact nature can lead to all sorts of aches, pains, discomfort and injury—especially when you start upping the ante and running a little bit faster and/or farther than before.
And as a beginner runner, this can be a real bummer.
But fret no more.
Doing this, as a beginner runner, will not only bullet-proof your body against common running trouble, but will also help you increase your running performance and improve your overall fitness and health levels.
So are you excited? Then here we go…
The Best Exercises for Beginner Runners
In my experience, these are some of the of the best exercises you can do as a beginner runner, to guarantee a smooth, and pain-free running experience.
Add these 11 running specific exercises to your training program and you will become a stronger, faster, and more injury-proof runner. You can choose to add these exercises to your gym arsenal, or you can also do them back to back as a workout.
The best part? These exercises are very convenient and require almost no equipment (unless you were looking for more challenge), so you can literally do them anywhere.
For the workout, do as many reps as you can on each side with good form. Start off with one set of 12 to 16 reps, and build it up to three or more sets of 20 reps, taking at least one minute to 90 seconds of complete rest between each set. Aim to perform this routine at least twice per week on nonconsecutive days.
Proper Form Please
Please make sure to follow the form tips and go through the video tutorials at least three times before you attempt any move. Good form is king, and if you do these exercises with bad form, you will be putting yourself at risk of injury. You don’t want that.
It’s also, and it goes without saying, a waste of time and sweat.
When your form starts to suffer, that’s a clear sign that you have just done your final rep, and you shouldn’t do more.
1. Calf Raises
The calves are vital running muscles that can help you run faster, further with less fatigue. Therefore, it’s crucial that you work on adding strength and power to these muscles on a regular basis if you are serious about improving running speed and reducing the risks of injuries.
Here is a simple exercise for that.
Start by standing in a shoulder-width stance with legs parallel and toes flat on the edge of a step or a sturdy box.
To perform the exercise, slowly rise onto the balls of both feet, pause, then lower down to the ground with control, feeling your calves engage the entire time.
For more bodyweight strength exercises, check my post at: http://www.runnersblueprint.com/bodyweight-glute-exercises-runners/
For other runners strength gym routines, click here: http://www.runnersblueprint.com/best-strength-training-exercises-for-runners/
2. Seated Calf Stretch
This awesome sitting stretch increases flexibility and mobility in your calf muscles and Achilles tendon, which is key to preventing shin splints, Achilles tendonitis and a plethora of other running injuries.
Not only that, but flexible calves will also allow you to push off more forcefully, boosting running speed in the process.
Sit on the ground with your legs in front of you, straight and loose. Be sure to slightly bend your knees and flex your feet.
Wrap a strap (a towel can do) around the ball of your right foot, then while using the strap, pull your toes toward your head. Make sure also to engage your shin muscles to pull your toes toward your shin.
Breathe deeply and hold the pose for 30 seconds before releasing and changing sides.
3. Wall Calf Stretch
This is the standing version of the calf stretch and will help you reach similar results. My advice is to do both stretches since you will get to stretch your calves from different angles, which is always a good thing.
Plus, you can also do this stretch if you are hit with leg muscle cramps—especially in the calves.
Begin by standing a little less than arm’s length from the wall.
Next, while leaning forward and placing both hands on the wall about shoulder width apart, step your right leg forward, and you left leg back—the side to be stretched—keeping your feet parallel the entire time.
To perform the stretch, lean into the wall with your hips until you feel a stretch in the calf of the left leg. For more stretch, press through your heel and keep it on the ground the entire time.
Hold the pose for 30-seconds then switch sides.
Squats are some of my favorite exercises, and they are the ideal strength-building move for runners.
This amazing bodyweight exercise increases strength and mobility in the glutes and hips—key muscle for running and preventing a plethora of running-related injuries such as Runners knee and IT band syndrome.
Strong hips have been scientifically linked to reducing the risks of running injurie , such as runners knee.
Plus, squats are convenient and require no fancy equipment, and can easily be inserted to your post-run routine.
Stand with your feet hips distance apart, feet pointing forward, and hands behind your head.
Next, to perform the squat with good form, sit back as if you were about to sit in a chair behind you while keeping your chest up and knees positioned over the feet. Please don’t allow your knees to drift beyond your toes; that’s a classic squat form mistake that should be avoided at all times.
Make sure to sit back as far as you can while keeping good form, or until you feel hamstring, quadriceps and glutes engage, then, while pressing through the heels, come back up to standing. Be sure to keep your back straight but relaxed the entire time.
Do16 to 20 reps to complete one set—shooting for at least three sets.
For more challenge, add weights—whether dumbbells, Kettlebells or a loaded bar.
This is a no-impact move that strengthens most of the muscles in the core—think abs, obliques, lower back, and glutes—helping you add stability and power to your torso, which is key to preventing injuries and increasing performance.
As fatigue starts to set in, especially if you are a beginner runner or when running long and hard, proper running form starts to suffer as you begin to bend forward at the waist. This can only lead to injury down the road along with a host of pains and problems.
The plank also helps the ability to keep a tall, stress-free posture when running.
Assume a push-up position with the back straight, aiming to form a straight line from your head to your ankles, then while engaging the core, go down and rest on your forearms with the elbows aligned below the shoulders
Hold the position for at least one minute and make sure to engage your core muscles as well as keeping your heels, butt, back and shoulder in a straight line the entire time.
6. IT Band Stretch
IT band pains and injuries are some of the most common complaints among beginner runners. Good news is that you can reduce your risks of IT band trouble—especially the IT band syndrome, which is an injury usually characterized by pain on the lateral side of the knee or hip after a mile or two into a run— by doing the following stretch.
Start by lying on your side with the foam roller under the side of your right thigh. Next, start rolling up and down between your knee and the hip bone.
Be sure to roll back and forth gently across any hot spots or stiff areas and slowly release the discomfort. And please do not roll over the joints or any bony areas.
7. One-Leg Stand
Balance work, which is key for distributing weight properly on both sides of your body, is another key factor in preventing overuse injuries and helping you become a well-rounded runner.
Balance work improves your proprioception, develops focus and help you ward off ankle sprains. According to study, runners with a bad history of ankle sprains—regardless whether they got their ankle sprained while running or otherwise—score badly on balance exercises, and were able to reduce the risks of the reoccurrence of the injury by doing balance training.
Begin by simply standing on one foot for the desired time. If your balance is really off, then you can hold onto a wall or a sturdy chair for assistance. However, make sure to keep your ankles supple and allow no locking in your knees.
For more challenge, try closing your eyes and standing on one leg—this may sound simple but just try it right now and see how good (or bad) you are at it.
This powerful asymmetrical standing move is key for challenging your balance, improving proprioception and promoting functional fitness in the lower body.
This exercise also improves dynamic stability in the lower body and torso, thereby performing lunges on a regular basis can help you improve your running gait and efficiency.
Plus, lunges also strengthen key running muscles, such as the glutes, quads, and calves.
Stand with legs parallel, feet hip-distance apart, with arms at your sides.
Next, while keeping your upper body as straight as possible, lunge forward by taking a big step with your right leg and lowering your left knee toward the floor until you reach a 90-degree angle in both of your legs. Be sure not to extend your right knee over the foot.
Last up, rise upward to the initial position as you set your legs straight.
As a beginner, you should never ignore proper upper body strength even if it seemed, at first glance, an unnecessary thing.
Upper body strength can help you build proper form and maintain good posture, which, as noted earlier, can help build an injury-proof body.
For building a dynamic and functional upper body strength, do the good ol’ push-ups.
Push-ups target the pectoral muscles of the chest, and they can also help you build strength and endurance in the shoulders and the muscles of the back—key for building good posture and maintaining good from.
Assume a plank position with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and back straight, aiming to form a straight line from head to ankles.
Next, lower slowly by bending your elbows to a 90-degree angle, keeping them fairly close to your torso. Then, push back up by extending your elbows back to the plank position to complete one repetition.
Make sure to engage your core muscles throughout the exercise, allow no sagging in the hips.
In addition, make sure to lead with your chest, not your head.
If you can’t do a push-up with good form, then drop your knees to the floor to support you.
For more strength training routine for runners, check the following link: http://www.runnersblueprint.com/best-strength-training-exercises-for-runners/
The feet do take quite a toll when running or when performing another high impact exercise. That’s why strengthening your feet can help you prevent a plethora of injuries—especially if you are starting out to run or upping the ante with your training program.
Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common running injuries and occurs when the thick band of connective tissue on the base of the feet starts to get worn out and irritated. It’s really a nasty injury and can stop you in your tracks.
Good news is, according to study, doing foot strength exercises can help you ward off this infamous injury.
The best part of feet exercises is that you can do them while sitting at your desk, taking the bus, or while watching television in the comfort of your home.
Sit in a chair and put a small towel on the floor. For more challenge, you can put weight on the end of the towel.
Next, to perform the move, scrunch the towel toward you, using only your toes. Then, push it away from you with the bulk of the action coming from your toes.
Relax for a moment, then repeat the exercise 8 to 12 times. Switch sides to complete one set. Do at least three sets.
11. Hamstring Stretch
The hamstrings—the large, strong muscles along the backs of your thighs that connect the glutes (or butt) to the knees—are a source of many troubles for many a runner—beginners and advanced. Tight hamstrings have been linked to a plethora of running problems such as chronic knee pain, Runners Knee and other serious running injury.
These muscles are also key in propelling you forward with each step you take. So adding flexibility to them can also help you boost performance.
Begin by laying on your back with your legs extended and your back straight. Get yourself a towel or a rope and wrap it around the ball of your right foot while keeping it as straight as you can. Please keep your left leg extended firmly on the floor.
Raise your right leg as high as you can or until you start feeling a mildly comfortable stretch in your hamstrings, hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, then slowly lower the leg down and switch sides.
Here you have it. My best exercises for beginners runners. Do them regularly and you will be staving off injury and running pain-free for life.
I hope you are satisfied.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below. I will do my best to reply as soon as I can.
Featured Imaged Credit – Matt Moore through Flickr.