top of page

Strength training tips for runners

The top tips for strength training for runners include being consistent, lifting heavy, and being able to rest and recover properly,

By Henry Howard


This past weekend I completed my fourth 100-miler, Kettle Moraine, my most challenging race to date. While the race description listed the elevation gain at about 8,800 total gain, my watch showed 9,700.


Whatever the elevation total truly was, the race was definitely a test of my fitness and mental toughness (more on that in an upcoming race review).


For now, I’m going to focus on strength training for runners. Here are some tips, whether you are curious about how to implement lifting into your routine or you are preparing for a challenging race like Kettle in which you will need strength beyond running fitness.


Strength training to-dos for runners


Be consistent: Physical fitness will build over time. This doesn’t necessarily mean lifting even close to daily but wisely supplementing your running with strength work. For example, I almost always do 100-plus pushups six days a week. This will strength work goes a long way in maintain strength for this masters athlete.


Jason Fitzgerald underscores the importance of focusing on lifting heavy a couple of days a week, rather than more regularly but with fewer reps.

Lift heavy: Jason Fitzgerald underscores the importance of focusing on lifting heavy a couple of days a week, rather than more regularly but with fewer reps. For example, as he told me for this post, “Ideally, every runner would get in the weight room twice a week, and spend 45 to 60 minutes trying to get stronger and develop power.”


Understand your max load: So what does lifting heavy enough mean?  Your one-rep max is the heaviest load you can successfully lift one time. As you begin a lifting routine, determine your max for various exercises. For example, the deadlift is recommended for runners who strength train. Try the deadlift, adding weight until you hit your one-rep max to determine what it is. Then, create a routine where you are doing two to three sets of no more than eight reps at 70-80% percent of your max.


Rest and recover: When you’re running, intervals allow the athlete to slow down and reset the heart rate before doing another repeat. For heavy lifting, the period after a set is typically a full stop. Give yourself enough time to rest for a few minutes before doing the next big lift. 


Keep the easy days easy: Don’t lift on rest and recovery days. I give my athletes at least one rest and recovery day a week. For those who regularly incorporate strength training into their routine, I recommend the “easy days easy, hard days hard” approach. This means don’t do strength training on recovery days, and also don’t lift the day before a long run. That can limit the options of when to get two or three strength training sessions in per week. However, we need to remember this work is complementary to our running.


Change things up: For full disclosure, I need to do a better job with this. I have added crunches to my pushups routine, working up to three sets of 90 thus far. But I’ve let my actual bodyweight routines slip. As I recover from my race, I’ll need to put together a roadmap to doing more — and different — bodywork routines in the coming months. By making exercises more challenging, we will build strength.




bottom of page