You get older, you get slower, even for the elites science, competitive records and experience all show that all athletes slow with age. It’s true and it starts happening faster and faster (as you get slower and slower) after 40 and especially after age 50. You might not be able to beat father time, but you can fight back.
Quite a few recent studies have shown that regular, targeted strength training can at least push back and help hold our fading paces a little longer. Here are my 7 favorite strength and weight training exercises to-do as a Master’s runner that hates the idea of slowing down.
Why do we need to strength train as runners? There are two primary benefits for dragging our reluctant runner’s bodies to the gym on a regular basis:
- It prevent injuries by focusing on the specific needs of runners (hip and glute strength) and helping to avoid the muscle imbalances that most often lead to injuries
- For Master’s runners specifically, the stronger muscles, joints and connective tissue helps maintain stride length and stride rate, which both tend to slacken as we get older, and to better stabilize the body overall to deal with running’s impact forces.
Most importantly, for athletes of any age, stronger muscles improve running economy by helping you to maintain good form when the body starts to fatigue. And if you maintain good form and efficiency, you will be able to go faster and go longer despite your age.
Here are my favorite running specific exercises that I work into my 1-2 sessions per week.
Forward/Backward Lunges (video demo/instructions)
Works: glutes, quads and hamstrings.
Builds: A big butt and a big butt is the key to a happy life and a happy athlete. As someone that spends a lot of time seated and staring at a monitor, I am prone to developing weak glutes and hips flexors, both of which can lead to big problems for runners.
Sideways Lunge (video demo/instructions)
Works: The quads and glutes.
Builds: Stability and strength that helps you maintain good running form while going up and down. Strong glutes will help keep everything from your back to shoulders in alignment and help prevent a lot of injuries that typically plague runners.
Squat/Split Squat (video demo/instructions)
Works: The glutes, hamstrings, and quads (quads are the primary muscles used for running uphill).
Builds: A stronger knee. Avoid runner’s knee and other knee issues by developing a strong core and balanced muscles that should help you improve your form and avoid knee issues.
Dumbbell Deadlift (video demo/instructions)
Works: The glutes, hamstrings, and calves, which give you stability and control on downhills.
Typically done with a bar, I like to keep it simple and use dumbbells, especially when doing a home workout.
This may look like a simple exercise but it actually targets all the major muscles needed for great running form. Check out this article from irunfar for a great breakdown on form and why you should be doing this as a runner.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Bend at the waist and knees and pick up a pair of dumbbells from the floor. As you stand up, pinch your shoulder blades together. Then lower back down, tapping the dumbbells on the ground before standing back up. Do 25 reps at a controlled pace.
Step Ups (video demo/instructions)
Works: Powerful quads for stronger hill climbing.
If you have no knee issues, you might substitute box jumps here, but with my arthritis the pounding of box jumps can be irritating, so I aim for a similar but lower impact result with step ups.
Push-up (video demo/instructions)
Is there a more perfect exercise than the pushup? I always end each session with a round of HIIT pushups as my one concession to needing some upper body strength as a runner.
Plank/Side plank (video demo/instructions)
Builds: Obliques, abdominals
Don’t neglect the obliques in helping with the hip flexors as a runner.
That’s it. I’m not going down with a fight. Mix these up into a few sessions a week and you’ll be far ahead of many other runners for staying healthy and staying strong.
If I can do it with as a master’s runner with a gimpy knee and a chronic health condition, you have no excuse.