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Strength Training for Beginner Runners: Your Top Questions Answered

Does managing both strength and running workouts always have to feel like sheer OVERWHELM?

Because for a lot of new (and intermediate) runners, that's exactly how it seems.


You grab a strength circuit over here.

Listen to an expert over there.


You're start mashing together different bits and pieces you've learned and attempt to organize exercises together.
Because you know if you don’t, injury is lingering right around the corner.

However, before you know it, you have:

  • 50 exercises you feel you "have" to do

  • But they can't ALL get done in one day

  • And you have 25mins before your next meeting or when you have to get the kids.


That's exhausting.

Let's NOT do that.

Instead, let's answer your top strength training questions for beginner (and intermediate) runners.

This way you have answers, tools, and don't have to feel like you're drowning in an endless to do list.


Questions like:

  • What does "keep your hard days hard" even mean?

  • But what if I get sore from lifting? Won't that completely wreck my run?

  • How do I combine the right strength workout with the right running workout?


The short (and unsexy) answer?

It all takes practice.

And a plan that works for you.


Let's go.




Top Questions: Strength Training and Running questions for Beginner (and intermediate) Runners


Do I need to keep my hard days hard?

THE WHY BEHIND IT

• This could be an entire blog post by itself. I'll keep things concise.

• "Hard days hard" is all about load management and true recovery days.

○ Example: Monday is easy run day

○ Tuesday is Speed workout

○ Wednesday is easy run + HEAVY lift

○ Thursday is hills

○ Friday is easy run + HEAVY LIFT

○ Saturday is a "rest" day, but your busy from dusk to dawn chasing the kids.

○ Sunday is long run day (which is a hard day, btw)

• Do you see in the example above how there's no actual rest day and there's genuinely only 1 easy day?

• Keeping "hard days hard" isn't about running you into the ground. It's about condensing and consolidating your hard, high effort workouts into ONE day in order to open up space on your already busy calendar for genuinely easy and true rest days.

In other words: if you spread HARD workouts out across MOST days of the weeks (these include both running + lifting), then you don't ever give your body a long enough period of time to truly recover and create the physiological changes you're striving so hard for.

THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE

• There's always an exception

• You're just starting to implement strength + running. I get it; it's going to feel IMPOSSIBLE to do back-to-back hard workouts. I would rather you first be consistent lifting 2x a week in any way that makes this possible before you start worrying about trying to lift and run in the same day.

• Once you've established that consistency, then begin to combine the two workouts but to make it easier and more physiologically beneficial, give yourself a minimum of 4 hours between running then lifting.

• You tolerance to "hard" will gradually increase. And it's OK to start with easy run + heavy lift, but remember the example above: make that transition to hard run + heavy lift that way you create the time for your body to recover.

But I'll be sore if I lift heavy and try to run the next day! Won't that ruin my runs?

Listen…

• If you haven't figure this out already, there are going to be some runs that wreck you and leave you sore. What's your solution in those circumstances? Probably get up the next day and make sure it's a easier workout, right?

• Give yourself 2 weeks.

• 2 weeks of all easy runs with 2-3 heavy lifts per week. This gives your body and brain the mental and physical time to adapt to new sensations and realize, you're not going to die. Your legs might feel extra heavy and your glutes might feel like they're going to fall off your body, but you're not going to die. And you can still run (at least easy runs).

• Because yes, heavy lifts will inevitably, eventually leave you a little sore. You shouldn't be waddling like a penguin for a week, but some soreness can be expected. And it's ok.

• Overtime (especially those 2 weeks), you're body will adapt and you won't feel as sore. And you'll be incredibly proud of yourself and even more impressed with how strong and effortless your runs will begin to feel.




How do I begin to combine strength and running workouts? Is there a wrong or a right way to match certain strength and running workouts?

As far as I am aware of, there are no rules for pairing certain lift days with specific running workouts.

Here's what I like to do personally: I like to pair my speed work with my upper body strength days. I personally find that when I try to push my pace, that's when all my upper body and core weakness are all out on display. By pairing the two of these together, I'm able to keep ONE thing in mind: strong, fast, solid upper body. That's it. That's the theme and that's my focus. I find these 2 types of workouts complement my personal needs as a runner.

• For you, that lifting + running workouts might be better paired with long run day + upper body and Hills + leg day. Listening to your body and understanding your personal weaknesses (and goals) is what makes for your most effective plan.

How do I know if I'm doing the "right" strength exercises for running?

THE SCIENCY ANSWER

• If we want to be research nuts, you'll want to stick with strength exercises that are focused on: single leg strength, single leg balance, anti-rotation exercises for core, a special focus on glutes (plus hip mobility), and foot strength. In other words, exercises that look like running.

• THE CATCH: research can't give you the black-and-white-answer yet on what exactly you need to do. We just don't know *cue the need for more research* But I can give you my personal, informed, clinical, and professional opinion ;)


MY CLINICAL, PROFESSIONAL ANSWER

• I find runners do best with strength exercises like the ones above that look like running (surprise, surprise), but especially when we begin to get their upper body involved.

○ Split squat while holding a weight overhead with both arms

○ A bulgarian split squat holding 1 DB over head

○ Elongated runners lunge with OH press

• If you're just getting started: there's no way of getting around the basics. Do your split squats, Bulgarian split squats, a deadlift of your choice (RDL if you like), please sprinkle in some core work that goes beyond a standard plank (spiderman plank, maybe?), and DON'T shy away from push ups. And LIFT HEAVY. Do HARD THINGS.

• I've noticed the magic happens and something clicks that makes my runners excel when we begin to incorporate:

○ upper body stability and core exercises like bear crawls,

○ core + glute exercises like tall kneeling halos that take away their feet

○ And plyometrics like a Bulgarian split squat plyo (it's not as scary as it sounds)

• THE POINT: the basics are a NECESSARY PLACE to start. But it's also ok to want something more once you've built that foundation. And when it's time to progress, make sure those progressions look like running, serve your purpose as a runner, and not just look for a video to go on the internet.


WRAPPING UP

Can you feel the OVERWHELM leaving? ;)


Psst: it's also ok to still feel a little confused.

"Great, I know all these things now,…but how do I put all this together?"


I got you, running fit fam.


Let me give you a place to start with my FREE strength guide for runners HERE.


But I also have a special treat for you.


Have you checked out my TWO, COMPLETE, FREE PROGRAMS for runners?

I'll leave those YouTube Playlists linked here:


You shouldn't feel like you have to string a million exercises together to write your own programing.

I know; it's tempting.

But I can promise you as a physical therapist, it's not going to give you the results you're looking for.


So grab my FREE goodies above; get started!

Explore movement and new ways to move your body.


You'll be a stronger, better, faster, more injury-resilient runner for it ;)


Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit


P.S. I was serious about the FREE Strength Guide for Runners. Grab (at least) that one here!

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