Strength and Conditioning for Distance Runners

strength and conditioningConsidering running as a way to exercise or help you stay in shape?

If so, you aren’t alone.

In fact, approximately 64.17 million(!) people in the United States went jogging or running in the past 12 months as of spring 2016.

Running is a great way to lose weight or maintain the body you want, but you need high strength and conditioning to excel.

If you’ve ever talked about running with someone else, chances are that you’ve heard the term “running shape” come up at least a handful of times.

Being in good “running shape” doesn’t happen overnight. It often doesn’t come in a matter of weeks either. It’s usually the result of a disciplined running regimen you participate in for an extended period of time — over months or years. You want to keep track of your workout metrics like how you are doing in your strength training and also by keeping track of your running times with a running watch so you can see progress.

It also means supplementing your runs with exercises that will help you build stronger muscles for your runs.

But just like any other workout routine, there are ways to make gradual improvements to help you achieve your goals.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can develop a higher level of strength and conditioning to help make your runs more effective.

Strength Exercises For Runners


Planks are an exercise with multiple health benefits to your body in many areas.

When you hold yourself up off the ground with your elbows and your feet spread apart slightly and keep this position, you will begin to strengthen many different muscle groups.

Your core and back aren’t the only areas that will benefit from this exercise. Your abs, hamstrings, and glutes will also get stronger over time.

Reps of three to five planks is the norm and holding the position can range from 30 seconds to a minute, but this varies on your comfort level. Starting with less can be beneficial for your long-term progress.

The strength and conditioning of your hamstring and glutes will help you improve as a runner.

Kettle Ball Squats

Kettle ball squats are another exercise to add to your routine as a way to improve your strength and conditioning for running.

When done properly, squats are one of the best exercises you can do for your back and lower body, but adding a kettle ball into the mix ups the ante.

Begin with a kettle ball held out in front of your chest and as you lower yourself into a squat position, raise the ball above your head. As you return to standing in the full upright position, bring the ball back to where you started.

This is a challenging exercise that requires you to remain focused and balanced throughout. Besides the strength and conditioning benefits you receive from this movement, these are two things that will help you as a runner.

Overhead Lunges

Lunges help you build strength in your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

But add in some dumbbells and this will help your strength and conditioning in your core muscles and shoulders.

Try standing with a dumbbell in each hand and over your head as you lunge forward slowly with one leg, bringing it to a 90-degree angle. For safety, you might consider trying a regular lunge and getting comfortable with that movement before you move on to holding the appropriate dumbbells.

Shoot for sets of six to eight reps, but as with any exercise, know your limits and be careful.

When you get used to this movement, it will help you build strength and conditioning for your runs.

Medicine Ball Bridge

The medicine ball bridge has a name that describes it well.

Like a plank, this is a good challenge for your body and one that will have a positive impact on your strength and conditioning for running over time.

With a medicine placed on the ground or a paved service, extend your body with both feet on the ground. Lean over onto the medicine ball with both your hands while keeping your back straight.

Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute, or as long as you are comfortable with.

As you grow stronger, you can try moving the ball on the ground over your head higher to make it more challenging.

Using a medicine ball makes you focus on your balance, while muscles in your back, legs, and arms work to keep you steady.

Russian Twists

Russian twists are an exercise that will improve your endurance and the strength in your core, while also helping you break quite a sweat in the process.

With your butt on the ground, feet on the floor and your knees bent slightly, grab a dumbbell or medicine ball.

Ensure your feet are held in place and with your torso at a 45-degree angle to the ground, begin to twist your body to the left, rotating the dumbbell. Return to the right side and repeat.

Do this for a period of 30 to 60 seconds or longer and feel the burn!

When you get into a rhythm with this, you will be able to go for longer periods, helping you to improve your endurance and to strengthen your core.

Building Strength and Conditioning as a Runner

Becoming a better short- or long-distance runner is about more than just running.

You have to build up strength and conditioning in your muscles through different exercises.

Through a sustained workout regimen that includes exercises like planks, lunges, and squats, you will become stronger when you are on the track or field.

Want a great way to improve your conditioning? Try incorporating Russian twists into things to continue to challenge yourself.

In Summary

The best part about these exercises is that these can be part of a time-sensitive workout plan that can be completed in the comfort of your own home. Running is an extremely popular sport and their are millions of runners out there doing it day in and day out. Hopefully a few of these exercises will give you some ideas on how to get stronger to go farther or faster over time.

Are you a runner with an exercise or tip for building strength that we haven’t mentioned here?

Have you tried these things as part of a conditioning program and found some work better for you than others?

What’s helping you get into “running shape” the best?

Let’s discuss this below and remember, being in “running shape” isn’t just a word, it’s a journey!

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