Strength Training for Runners

Just over three years ago I started running and I completed my second half marathon last fall. Over my running career I have made some hefty mistakes that led to injury, with the biggest mistake of depending solely on running to stay “fit”. Running is a fantastic way to stay active but our bodies need more to stay healthy.


strength training for runners

Why is it important to combine strength training and running?

  • Prevent injury
  • Increase speed and endurance
  • Speed up recovery
  • Switch up the monotony and avoid plateaus


What is strength training?

A flexible and easily modifiable format that can be included under the group exercise, weight lifting, or body weight umbrella that involves the manipulation of number of sets, repetitions, and exercises with the overall goal of muscular hypertrophy (increase in size). Strength training will increase your muscle mass, strength, endurance, metabolism, and bone density.


How frequently should I do each and for how long? Can they be combined?

You know your body best so it’s up to you to know what you can or can’t do. Hiring a personal trainer is a great way to learn new workout methods under supervision to prevent injury but not all of us can hire a trainer or belong to a gym. Do your research and always consult your doctor before trying anything new.

For maximum results try 2-3 strength training sessions per week on non consecutive days. You can combine strength and running in one day but pace yourself. Don’t plan to run 10 miles and have a heavy lifting session immediately afterwards. Running before you lift will ensure you are fully warmed up but can also mean your legs may be fatigued heading into your lifting.


According to the American College of Sports Medicine healthy adults should adhere to the following exercise guidelines:

Do moderately intense cardio 30-60 minutes a day, 5 days/week or 

vigorously intense cardio 20-60 minutes a day, 3days/week


Do 8-12 strength-training exercises, 8-12 repetitions of each exercise 2-3x/wk.

For healthy adults older than 65: Do 10-15 repetitions of each exercise 2-3x/wk

Sample workout weekly plan

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How do I compliment a half marathon running program with strength training?

Training for any race can wreak havoc on your body. It is especially important to be cautious and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Don’t be afraid to take rest days and modify your schedule if you need to. Maintaining a regular schedule will help you keep track of your training and make workout planning easier. Still try to strength train 2-3 days per week but put more emphasis on maintenance versus progression. Below is a sample half marathon training program with ample running, strength training, and rest time. Every one is different so feel free to modify for your body!

Half Marathon
Strength training doesn’t always happen in a weight room. All you need is your body and you can build plenty of strength and muscle. Here are simple body weight strength exercises that will help you run faster, get stronger, and prevent injury. Do each exercise for 8-12 repetitions and 3 full sets after a run.

Body weight squats:
Lateral lunges:

Plank: go for time when executing- start with a short amount of time and gradually increase as you get stronger


Learn to listen to what your body needs and have patience. Start by slowly adding bits of strength training to your workout regimen. Over time you will begin to notice small improvements and can modify your plan. Running is a wonderful way to burn calories, explore new places, and live an active life, and every runner should have at least one day of strength training each week prevent injury and improve.