Running requires the coordination of all the muscles in your body. Conditioning exercises improve the ability of your leg muscles to push against the ground, increase the frequency of your strides and enhance the endurance of your core and upper body muscles. Such exercises also augment the capacity of your cardiovascular, respiratory and muscular system to transport and utilize energy and oxygen. Include running-specific conditioning exercises to improve your running economy.
The muscles of your neck, back, shoulders and arms work to hold your body in an optimal running position--head up, chest open, elbows bent, shoulders relaxed and arms swinging. If your upper body muscles do not have sufficient endurance and strength, your running performance will suffer. Do one upper body workout per week including flat bench presses, standing cable rows, shoulder presses, biceps dumbbell curls, triceps dips and dumbbell shrugs. Complete two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions per exercise.
Standing lower body conditioning exercises are more effective in improving your performance than leg exercises done sitting down. Dumbbell and barbell exercises also activate your core to maintain your balance, similar to running. Perform a lower body workout once a week including barbell back squats, walking dumbbell lunges, one-leg dumbbell dead lifts and step-ups on a bench. Do two to three sets of up to 12 reps per exercise. Strength training improves your running speed because it increases your muscular power, according to a 2010 article by Jason Karp, Ph.D., published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Abdominal and Lower Back
The abdominal and lower back muscles are constantly working during a run. These muscles stabilize your trunk so you can efficiently move your legs and arms. Do hyperextensions, crunches and ball bridges on an exercise ball. Complete three sets of 20 reps per exercise.
High Intensity Runs
Running workouts such as high-intensity interval and tempo training increase your capacity to run hard and fast over a longer period of time. Include interval training such as sprinting for 30 seconds then walking for 90 seconds for 20 minutes one day a week. Tempo training means that during a 20 to 30 minute run, you alternate between a specific running pace and a slightly slower and shorter recovery pace, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Do one tempo run per week. Hill intervals enhance the strength and power of your leg muscles during your runs. Sprint up a hill then walk or jog back down for 10 to 15 repetitions.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Thomas R. Baechle and Roger W. Earle
- Strength and Conditioning Journal; Strength Training for Distance Running; Jason Karp, PhD
- Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research; Running-Specific Periodized Strength Training Attenuates Loss of Stride Length; Jonathan Esteve-Lanao et. al