Running and Strength Training Schedule for Beginners

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Are you on the lookout for a way to add some muscle to your miles? If that’s a yes, then you’ve sprinted into the right corner of the internet!

You see, when it comes to exercise and fitness, I’ve always believed in finding that perfect balance. It’s like cooking – you need the right mix of ingredients to create a masterpiece. Running, my favorite cardiovascular exercise, is like the main course. But to make it a truly delightful meal, you need some side dishes, and that’s where strength training comes in.

Now, let me share a little secret with you. I used to be just a runner, logging mile after mile without a second thought about lifting anything heavier than my morning cereal bowl. But then, one day, I realized something. I realized that if I wanted to take my running to the next level, I needed to strengthen my body, not just my legs.

So, I mustered up the courage, walked into that weight room, and let me tell you, it was intimidating. All those heavy things, grunting people, it felt like a different world. But I didn’t give up. I embraced it.

And you know what? It was one of the best decisions of my life. Strength training not only made me a better runner but also reduced the risk of those pesky injuries that used to plague me.

But enough about me, let’s talk about you. If you’re new to this, if the idea of lifting weights sounds as foreign as a Martian language, don’t worry. I’ve got your back.

In today’s article, I’m going to walk you through the magical relationship between running and strength training, especially if you’re a beginner like I once was. I’ll show you how this combination can take your fitness journey to new heights, and I’ll even throw in a beginner-friendly strength training schedule to get you started.

Sounds like a plan, right? Well, lace up those running shoes and let’s dive in.

The Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

Ever wondered why adding some weightlifting to your running routine can be a game-changer? Let me break it down for you in a nutshell.

  • Building Muscle Balance: Think of strength training as fine-tuning your body’s engine. It helps maintain muscle balance, drastically cutting down the risk of those pesky overuse injuries that we runners know all too well.
  • Joint Support: Here’s a big win – stronger muscles are like a robust support system for your joints. This is crucial for absorbing the impact of your daily runs.
  • Improved Posture and Alignment: Those core-strengthening workouts? They’re practically a makeover for your posture. And good posture isn’t just about looking confident; it’s about running more efficiently and safely.
  • Boosted Running Efficiency: Imagine feeling lighter and more powerful with each stride. That’s what strengthening, particularly your lower body muscles, does.
  • Mastering Hill Climbs: If hills have been your nemesis, strength training is your secret weapon. It transforms daunting hills into manageable challenges.
  • Enhanced Endurance: Picture yourself running, and fatigue is just a word, not a feeling. Strength training helps delay fatigue, empowering you to run longer and stronger.

Running and Strength Training Schedule for Beginners

First things first: identify your goals. Whether it’s fixing muscle imbalances, refining your running form, or steering clear of injuries, there’s a strength training plan that fits your needs.

Here’s the best part: you don’t need to spend endless hours in the gym. Just 20 to 30 minutes of resistance training two to three times a week can significantly enhance your running performance.

I suggest hitting the weights two to three times a week, ensuring you have at least 48 hours of rest between sessions. It’s crucial to allow your muscles and connective tissues ample time to recover and strengthen.

Let me outline a sample weekly schedule for you. Remember, though, this is just a starting point. Feel free to tailor it to fit your unique journey:

Sample Weekly Schedule:

  • Monday: Strength Training (focus on lower body)
  • Tuesday: Easy Run
  • Wednesday: Rest or Active Recovery (like yoga or a light walk)
  • Thursday: Strength Training (focus on upper body and core)
  • Friday: Tempo Run or Interval Training
  • Saturday: Long Run
  • Sunday: Rest or Active Recovery

Personalization Tips:

  • Adjust the intensity and duration of your runs based on your current fitness level.
  • Mix up the focus of your strength training sessions each week.
  • Listen to your body. If it’s screaming for rest, give it some extra love.

Key Strength Training Exercises for Runners

Now, let’s talk about the good stuff – the exercises that will transform you from a runner to a running powerhouse.

  1. Squats (From Basic to Weighted): These babies strengthen your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. Start with bodyweight squats, and as you progress, throw in some dumbbells or a barbell for added challenge.
  2. Lunges (Forward, Backward, or Walking): These are like a magic potion for your lower body. They target those leg muscles and improve your balance. Start with stationary lunges and then level up to walking lunges.
  3. Deadlifts (Kettlebell or Barbell): Deadlifts work wonders for your back, glutes, hamstrings, and core. Start with a light kettlebell to get the form right before you go all-in with a barbell.
  4. Planks (Front and Side): Your core’s best friends. Begin with shorter durations and gradually increase as your core strength soars.
  5. Glute Bridges (From Bodyweight to Weighted): These are your secret weapon for running power. Start with just your body weight and then add a weight plate or barbell when you’re feeling adventurous.
  6. Calf Raises (From Bodyweight to Weighted): Don’t forget those calves. They’re essential for ankle stability. Start with bodyweight and then spice things up with dumbbells.
  7. Upper Body Work (Push-Ups, Dumbbell Rows): A strong upper body means better running posture. Adjust the push-up form to your knees if you’re just starting, or go easy on the weights for rows.

Begin with the Warm-up

Before diving into your strength training, let’s talk about the non-negotiable: the warm-up. Think of it like prepping your car on a cold morning – you wouldn’t dream of revving up without letting it idle first.

A solid 10-minute warm-up should be your go-to. Engage in brisk walking, light jogging, and dynamic stretches like inchworms, lunges, and high knees. These activities are crucial for getting your blood flowing and muscles ready for action.

But remember, your routine doesn’t end with the weights clanging. Cooling down is equally important. This is your chance to stretch out and perform mobility drills. It’s not just about winding down; it’s about enhancing flexibility and expediting recovery. Future you will definitely be grateful.

The Importance of Proper Form

Now, onto a crucial part of strength training – maintaining proper form. It’s the foundation upon which all your training rests. Just like a skyscraper needs a solid base to stand tall, your strength training needs proper form to be effective and safe.

When you’re lifting, always prioritize quality over quantity. I understand the urge to lift heavier or push for more reps, but compromising on form is a one-way ticket to injury town.

The mantra here is slow and steady. Engage your core, keep your posture upright, and move with precision. Protect your joints, align your body correctly, and focus on your breathing. It might sound like a lot, but the effort pays off.

No Cheat Reps

I get it, you want to push your limits, squeeze in a few extra reps, but trust me, it’s not worth it. Sacrificing form for a few extra reps can lead to poor technique, injuries, and a waste of your precious time and effort. And who wants that?

Remember, quality trumps quantity every time. Prioritize proper form, and if you have to, lighten the load. This way, you’re truly strengthening your muscles, not just going through the motions.

Run First or Later?

This is a common conundrum: Should you run before lifting, or vice versa? Here’s my perspective – start with strength training, then hit the road. Especially for beginners, focusing on lifting first helps you hone your technique and build strength without being pre-fatigued from running.

Later on, as you build more endurance and strength, feel free to mix it up or even separate your running and lifting days.

Start Simple

For beginners, here’s a straightforward plan: aim for two full-body strength training sessions per week, and space them out. You don’t need a gym full of equipment to start; your own bodyweight is an excellent tool. Focus on the five basic movement patterns: squatting, pushing, pulling, hinging, and core exercises. These foundational movements are the building blocks for a successful strength training journey.

Bodyweight exercises are a fantastic starting point. They’re effective and versatile – and research backs this up. As you grow stronger and more confident, begin to incorporate resistance exercises like deadlifts, glute bridges, lunges, and overhead presses. And don’t worry if these terms sound alien; there’s a wealth of online tutorials and guides to help you along.

Find the Proper Amount of Weight

Navigating the world of weights can be a bit tricky, but here’s a simple rule of thumb: start lighter. If you find yourself relying on momentum rather than muscle power, that’s a clear sign the weight is too heavy. You should feel the burn by the last rep, but not at the cost of proper form.

Remember, different exercises call for different weights. For instance, with chest presses, control is key. If you’re swinging the weights, it’s time to go lighter.

Typical Running and Strength Training Schedule

Alright, now for the nitty-gritty – your running and strength training schedule. Here’s a basic plan to help you make progress and stay injury-free:

  • Monday: Interval run
  • Tuesday: Strength workout
  • Wednesday: Easy run
  • Thursday: Strength workout
  • Friday: Long run
  • Saturday: Strength workout
  • Sunday: Rest

The Range of Reps

Reps are more than just numbers; they’re about targeting specific training goals. Here’s a quick guide:

  • 2 to 5 reps: This range is all about building dense muscle and raw strength.
  • 6 to 12 reps: A sweet spot for developing both muscle size and strength.
  • 12 reps and above: Perfect for enhancing muscular endurance.

How to Progress

Once you’ve laid a solid strength foundation, it’s time to level up. Here’s how to keep the momentum going and continue to see gains:

  • Up the Weights: As your muscles get stronger, gradually increase the weight. Aiming for a 5-10% boost every one to two weeks is both safe and effective.
  • More Reps or Sets: Push your limits by adding more reps or sets to your exercises. This incremental challenge helps in continuous muscle growth.
  • Mix Up Your Routine: Keep your workouts exciting by trying new exercises. This not only breaks the monotony but also ensures you’re working different muscle groups.
  • Play with Tempo: Experiment with the speed of your exercises. Slowing down, especially during the lowering phase, can intensify the workout.

Don’t Forget to Rest

Never underestimate the power of rest. It’s as crucial as the workout itself. Resistance training creates those tiny muscle tears necessary for growth. However, they need time to heal – that’s where rest comes in, and it’s why you might feel sore post-workout.

Ensure you’re giving your muscles 24 to 48 hours of rest between sessions. After a full-body strength session, take a full day off. Avoid working the same muscle group back-to-back. For example, if you tackle chest exercises on Tuesday, give those muscles a break until at least Thursday.

Consider splitting your strength training routine. One day, focus on upper body exercises; the next session, switch to lower body workouts. This approach allows muscle groups ample recovery time while keeping your training schedule consistent.

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