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Michael Wardian’s strength training recipe for masters athletes

By Henry Howard

It’s no secret that as we age, we lose muscle mass. For runners, that means an increased injury risk and more recovery time. In addition to proper recovery and eating healthy, masters athletes can overcome these challenges by improving their fitness through strength training.

In my four-part series on Strength Training for Runners, I wanted to dedicate one story to masters athletes. And I am honored that elite runner Michael Wardian agreed to participate. (Previously, we’ve chatted a couple of times, including for this post about “the hardest thing” he’s ever done.) In this installment, he shares some tips and exercises that will help fellow masters athletes.

Last week I began the series with a story after chatting with strength running coach Jason Fitzgerald, who provided a lot of great information in this Q&A. Over the next two weeks, the series will address:

• Guidance on strength training for female runners.

• How nutrition relates to strength training.

Thanks to Gnarly Nutrition for sponsoring this series. Gnarly offers clean, healthy and tasty nutritional products for athletes to use before, during and after their workouts. For me, I regularly use either the Pre or the BCAA mix before almost all of my running and other training.

A guide to strength training for masters runners

In this interview, Wardian answers some questions about the importance of strength training as we age, how it has helped him and examples of exercises.

Question: Walk me through why strength training is important for masters athletes.

Answer: I think strength training is important for all athletes but in particular for masters athletes as it helps me feel stronger and reduces the chance of injury. I also believe that strength training builds resilience and grit. Being strong helps me run longer without losing form and maintaining the pace.

Question: How has it helped you in your fitness journey?

Answer: Strength training has helped me stay injury free and excited about fitness. I love that I am starting from the basement and each workout is fun and challenging and I can see and feel improvement.

Question: Define what we mean by strength training for masters athletes who are marathon and ultra marathon runners.

Answer: For me, strength training is body weight and weight training focused on improving mobility, efficiency and strength to allow me to run faster and longer. Strength training also enables me to always be ready for the next adventure and carry what I need.

Question: What are some specific exercises that masters athletes should do, and how do they help?

Answer: Here are some specific exercises that use body weight and then weights, which are very helpful and could be the part of an easy and quick routine:

Body weight:

1) Push-ups. Simple, easy and powerful.

2) Sit-ups. You can do these anywhere.

3) Burpees.

4) Dead Bugs.

5) Bird Dogs.

6) Bridges.

7) Step ups.

8) Lunges.

9) Box jumps. If you don’t have a suitable box, then jump rope.

10) Planks.


1) Dumbbell press.

2) Curls.

3) Skull crushers.

4) Kettle bell swings.

5) Wall balls.

Question: Talk about the balance between strength training that supplements running and actual running workouts. i.e. As an athlete, how do I balance my limited time to get the benefits of both forms of training?

Answer: I think people have the impression that strength training is going to take the place of running and it can but I don't use it like that. I would suggest trying to make it easy and not more than 10 to 15 minutes to start. You can get a great workout and build strength in just a few minutes a day.

For example, set a timer for five minutes and do three sets of pushups to see how many you can do in that time frame. I can do about 25 to 30 push-ups, so not that many but way more than a year ago.

Question: Anything else that you think would be helpful?

Answer: I think if people are intimidated it is worth paying for a few sessions with a trainer so they can show you the correct way to do the exercises. Or watch videos on YouTube to gain a better understanding of proper form.

Also, feel free to check out my workouts on my Instagram page, @mikewardian.


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