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April 12, 2013 at 2:52 PMComments: 5 Faves: 0

Pumping Iron the Runner's Way

By Jeff from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Running with Sole Blog Series

Am I wrong, or is the ideal for Americans to maintain a physique similar to that of Channing Tatum (for the guys at least)? It’s no secret; there is an ideal body type: big chest, big arms, washer board abs, legs if you have time. And it isn’t without effort. I’m sure you have people you know who have a gym member ship or see your neighbor bench press in their garage to Van Halen’s “Eruption.” But is the “beach body” conducive for a runner? How might a runner benefit from strengthening exercises? Should a runner be lifting at all?

To pump or not to pump…

Imagine that you notice Channing Tatum on the street, he’s just out for a stroll with his bodyguards and a Pomeranian (he’s a gentle soul). Now what’s your first thought? Was it, “bet he’s a runner “? …No? I’ll tell you why you weren’t thinking it, it’s because every good runner ever is slim as a Triscuit.

So I have a dilemma for you. Do you want to get big and buff, or train to be a better runner? Are you content living the only way you’ve ever known, or do you take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes?

How do runners pump that iron?

Welcome to the real world. There are things that will seem strange to you.

First, strength training, for runners, may not involve a lot of actual lifting. Accept it. The biggest issue with the typical style of lifting is that it isn’t the same type of movement as running. So why would it help you run better? It involves strengthening a muscle group individually, but the act of running activates various muscle groups in a range of motion. Consider the logic presented by Peak Performance Online: from the sitting position of a knee extension, you might run faster if only you would “attempt to run sitting down!” Lifting helps you with lifting, not running – or relationship trouble.

Add the fact that flexibility is decreased and that your endurance won’t be improved, and traditional lifting doesn’t sound so great at all.

So, what are some productive methods of strength training?

I will offer you two methods here. The first is through running itself…on a hill.

If an inevitable wave of dread hasn’t left yet, I understand, but I hope you also feel the excitement I feel. As you may know, running isn’t always easy. When I look back, running has been about conquering one obstacle after another, and it feels good. You want to get some power? Do some hills. Chart out a lap of 200-400 meters and run that a few times.

But, perhaps you want some variety in your exercise. You know, something other than running on the side to power up your running – like winding up a toy car to watch it fly across the kitchen floor. You have the option to lift your bodyweight.

When it comes to adding a strength training routine on top of your running, everyone seems to have their own opinion about what’s important. It could be a little overwhelming to sift through the fog, but there’s some commonality with many of them.

First, plan on 20 min sessions 2-3 times each week for your training. You should be able to cover three different exercises within that time.

When it comes to choosing exercises, think of the areas you want target. The abs are always a big one for runners to keep good posture and add power, but what about the back? Without a strong lower back, you’ll lean forward and lose efficiency. You don’t want to be too one-sided, so try to find exercises that include the back. Similarly, the hips and ankles are important for stabilization, an exercise that incorporates both is extremely beneficial. For suggestions of exercises try Runner’s World.

Now I know some of you runners might be afraid to try strengthening, thinking you’re going to “bulk up,” but don’t worry. If you’re routinely running, you’ll keep that runner’s body just fine (no loss in runner cred). However, if you were hoping to get big and buff, running might not be the best way to do it. But you don’t need to worry about that either.

You don’t have to pump iron to look at yourself in the mirror. Trust me, I do it all the time.


Campbell, Adam. "Build A Better Body." Runner's World. Rodale Inc., 12 Jan. 2005. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.

Fitzgerald, Matt. "Ask The Experts: What’s The Best Weightlifting Program For Runners?"Competitor. Competitor Group, Inc., 10 Nov. 2010. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.

HillRunner. "Will Lifting Weights Help My Running?" HillRunner. HillRunner, n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.

Reynolds, Walt. "Endurance Training: Strength Training Exercises." Peak Performance. 2P Publishing Ltd., n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.

What did you think?


Previously:Burning Rubber: Treadmill Running

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  • Before anyone thinks otherwise, I'll set the record straight. I do like Van Halen.

  • Damn right you like Van Halen.

    Great read and some great tips, but I can't give up my huge biceps. hahaha

  • It's all about what you're looking for. But, I'm pretty sure you could still be a descent sprinter with the huge biceps.

  • hum, my son used to be the muscle man but he switch over a year or so ago to be a runner! His goal is to do the iron man contest. He just told me on Mother's Day he biked 84 miles, that sounds crazy to me, then he ran. He says the hardest is the swimming - I mean he's a good swimmer and all it just takes a lot out of him.

  • Wow, your son sounds like he means business! I'm sure he does extensive training to do that kind of mileage on his bike. I wonder if swimming is harder because it tends to use a different set of muscles from biking and running? Personally, I avoid swimming if I can help it.

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