15-minute workouts to improve your running

Written by Olympic Runner and coach, Ben St Lawrence

Fun run season is upon us, and one way to make sure your body can help sustain the distance, and hopefully get a fast time, is by spending some time in the gym strength training.

There are a few physiological things to consider when you are running. The first is that when you run, you use one leg at a time, so it is a good idea to do some exercises that work your legs individually because otherwise, one leg will often overcompensate for the weaker leg.

It is also a good idea to work on core strength and your postural muscles because when you run, you need to maintain good posture, or you may start to feel pain, aches, and niggles.

With that in mind, here are a few quick workouts that you can do to help strengthen the relevant muscles for running.

For balancing your legs

The exercises are:

Runners’ lunges - 12 reps per side

  • A runner’s lunge does not take as big a stance as a traditional lunge
  • Have your feet staggered at around 30-40cm apart
  • Lunge down with most of the pressure in your front thigh then straighten back up
  • Do all reps on one side before changing over

1 leg deadlift - 6 reps per side

If you have access to a Bosu ball, use this to help train your balance. The dumbbells will help to balance you. 

  • Standing up straight, put a slight bend into your knees and lean forward slightly so you can feel your glute muscles working throughout this exercise. Aim to keep your hips square and back straight throughout the whole movement
  • Deadlift into your right leg, as you kick the left leg back behind you in a deadlift. 
  • If your balance is not great, you can also leave your left leg on the ground, just move it slightly behind your right leg to ensure your right leg is doing the bulk of the work
  • Do all the work on one leg before you move to the other leg
Man lifts dumbells

Side lunge into a leg lift - 12 reps per side

This is a great exercise for balance. 

  • Start by standing up straight with your abs tight and your shoulders rolled back and down
  • Step your right leg out and sit back into your right glute as you lower into a lunge
  • Slightly push on the leg you are lunging into to stand back up to straight
  • Raise your knee up into your chest as you come in
Woman does lunges

30 seconds of mountain climbers

  • To get your heart rate up and shake out those legs, move into a plank position
  • Now drive your legs into your chest one at a time as fast as you can
Man exercises on floor mat with leg lifts

1 minute break – and repeat!

Keep going until you reach 15 rounds.

For posture

This workout will ideally be done in a gym with equipment.

Man in blue shorts on exercise rowing machine

Rowing on a weighted rowing machine - 12 reps 

  • Sitting on the bench, grab the handle, roll your shoulder back and down
  • Pull the handle into your chest for 2 seconds
  • Hold for 2 seconds, slowing release back to straight 

Chest press (or push ups if you prefer)

  • Lie on a bench with a barbell or dumbbells above you
  • Tighten your abs, make sure your shoulders are down and back
  • Press the weight up straight over your chest, then lower it back down
  • Aim for 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down although you can play with tempo as you see fit 

Walking lunges - 12 a side 

  • Get two dumbbells to hold beside you
  • Step into a lunge and lower down so your legs are in 90/90 
  • Walk up for 12 lunges, walk back for 12 lunges

Russian twists - 12 a side

  • Using dumbbells or a medicine ball, sit on the ground or on a mat, with your legs forward, lean back until you feel your core engage
  • Twist holding the weight to one side, twist again to the other aside

400m row on a cardio rowing machine 

Using the cardio rowing machine keep your shoulders back and your abs tight. You want to be rowing mainly from your legs. Race for 400 metres. This will work your entire body and get your heart rate up.

Rest for 1 minute and go again.

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