If you want to improve running as well as recover faster and better then you need to do strength training. Runners get plenty of practice running. Their greatest area of opportunity to improve overall fitness, as well as the amount of time it takes them to go from the starting line to the finish line, is through functional fitness, traditional bodybuilding, and body weight exercises done with intensity.
Rule 1: Load your Core
Functional movements are your best option for to improve running. Skip the weight machines at your typical gym and instead pick up a heavy object and walk with it. Loaded carries – Farmers, Suitcase, Zercher, and Overhead are all examples of fun and challenging ways to get your core firing, challenge your legs, and improve the big movers of your body on your backside. You can use anything from a heavy set of dumbbells to a sandbag to a medicine ball. If it’s a little uneven or wobbly, even better.
For best results split up carries into two separate days. One short and heavy/slow and the other long and fast. Here is a good example:
- Day 1 (Heavy) Farmer’s Carry – 10 x 20M
- Day 2 (Light & Fast) Bear Hug Carry – 5 X 50M
Rule 2: Squat for Leg Strength & Endurance
Every time you take a step you are basically doing one single leg squat with 1/16th the range of motion. Squatting for high volume is a great way to improve anaerobic performance, which leads to a greater lactate threshold. This aids in your bodies ability to recover while you are moving – think submaximal activity – like running. If we were going to break this up into two separate pieces we would focus on a back squat and then a front squat (or lunge). Both improve running:
- Day 1 (Back) Barbell Back Squat – 3 X 12
- Day 2 (Front/Lunge) Kettlebell Elevator Squat – 3 x 12
Rule 3: Move Fast. Faster Than You Think
Every runners greatest enemy is going slow. And this isn’t referring to your long slow distance (lsd) runs. In fact that is often the place where a runner needs the least amount of work. Running efficiency and economy, aerobic capacity and leg endurance are all things MOST runners are good at. If we take a balanced approach to fitness a runner would need to cut out some of the slow time and replace it with fast time. Circuit training, tri-sets and of course a good CrossFit workout would count as “fast”. Try and sub out some LSD days with a good CrossFit workout and you’ll see your 5K time improve.
This is a simple framework for improving your running. Carry heavy things, squat heavy and often and move faster than you are used to.