Runner Specific Workouts

A Runner’s Strength Workout That Can Be Done Anywhere

I travel quite a bit for work, and I’m able to get in my runs. But I’d love to figure out a convenient way to get in regular strength training. Do you have any ideas for runners on the road? Thank you! ~Linda

Kudos to your on-the-road training, Linda! Regular travel can be challenging when it comes to getting into a consistent routine, but it’s not impossible. The key is to have a flexible plan and a go-to workout you can do anywhere.

I created one of my favorite on-the-road strength workouts a few years ago when I was in your shoes. It’s tailored to the specific needs of a runner and includes exercises that target strength, balance, and mobility. It’s like a Swiss Army Knife because you don’t need any equipment, it can be done pretty much anywhere in 10 or 20 minutes, and the exercise sequence can be modified to keep it fresh and challenging. Plus, if you add a warmup and cooldown, it becomes its own workout that can be performed on those days when you can’t get in a run.

Use a digital watch with an interval timer, and set it up to repeat the interval at 75-second increments. Follow the 10 strength exercises back-to-back, performing each for one minute. The goal is to keep your heart rate up by moving from one exercise to the next while fatiguing target muscle groups. (Note: The 15 extra seconds allows for movement into the next exercise. If you find you need less time, you can shorten the interval time.)

If you are new to strength work, complete each exercise in order once. If you have been doing some strength training, complete the circuit twice.

Repeat this sequence 2-3 times per week--do it after a run or as a standalone workout with an added warmup and cooldown--for 3-4 weeks. Then modify it by starting with the last exercise first and going in reverse order. Hold that pattern for 2-3 weeks, then change the sequence to get in all the lower body exercises (squat, lunges…) consecutively, then upper body moves, and finally the core work (planks, crunches).

As you go, you can eventually mix up the routine during the week to include one of each sequence. It’s amazing how just a little change in the exercise order can make for a different challenge in the body.

Runner’s Strength Workout 1.0

  • Squat and Calf Raise: Standing with your feet hip-width apart, sit back and lower down into squat position focusing on keeping your weight back over your heels. Press and extend your legs, and then press up onto your toes for a calf raise. Lower and repeat slowly for one minute.

  • Push Up + Plank Hold: Start in modified push up position on your hands and knees (unless you perform push ups regularly). Press up and extend the arms straight, hold for 5 seconds with a neutral body alignment (plank), and lower slowly back down. Repeat for 1 minute.

  • Lunges (60 seconds each leg): Stagger your feet front and back and about hip width apart. Take an exaggerated step forward. Keeping your core in good alignment, bend the front knee 90-degrees until the thigh is parallel with the floor. Make sure the knee is over the ankle and not beyond the toes. Pause and push through your front heel to return to starting position and repeat for one minute. Perform one minute on each side.

  • Plank (30 seconds): Lie face down with your forearms on the floor. Push up so your elbows are under your shoulders and arms bent at 90 degrees. Hold your body in a straight line from your head to your feet.

  • Side Plank (30 seconds each side): Shift to your side on your elbow and feet, and hold the lateral plank for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

  • Plank (30 seconds): See above.

  • Single Leg T-Raise (60 seconds each leg): Stand on your left leg with your arms at your sides. Keep your right leg straight and bend forward from the hips, raising your right leg behind you to form a “T” out of your body. Hold for 5 seconds. Lower and repeat on the other side, alternating sides for 1 minute.

  • Bridge: Lie on your back with your hands by your sides on the floor. Using your gluteal muscles (bum), squeeze and lift your hips off the floor until you make a line from your knees to your hips and shoulders. Pause for a few seconds and lower your hips back to the floor while continuing to press in to the ball. Repeat for 1 minute.

  • Jack Knife Crunches: Lay on your back with your arms over your head and your legs bent with feet on the floor. Crunch and extend your legs slowly straight up towards the ceiling, and reach your hands towards your toes and slowly lower back down to starting position. Focus on keeping your core contracted and low back on the floor.

  • Fire Hydrants (30 seconds on each side): On your hands and knees, slowly raise your right bent leg up to the side, pause and hold for 2 seconds, then slowly release down. Repeat on both sides.

  • Superman: Lie face down on the floor with your arms over your head and legs straight. Lift your arms and legs off the floor and hold for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat for 1 minute.

    This may not look all that fancy on your screen, but I promise you it is a simple way to get regular strength work into a busy lifestyle, anywhere in the world. A little strength goes a long way in keeping you fit, strong and running injury-free.

Print this off and put a copy in your suitcase so you’ll have it for your next trip. 

Mizuno Wave Inspire 15 8 Challenges for Your Overall Fitness

As a runner, it’s easy to enter a training bubble: sleep, eat, run, repeat. It can be a cycle that helps you become a better runner, but it’s easy to forget—or flat-out ignore—that you should be doing other exercises to stay in the best overall shape.

This really hit home when reading The Better Man Project, the new book by Men’s HealthEditor-in-Chief Bill Phillips. It contains thousands of ways to improve your life everyday, including how to sleep soundly, how to keep your brain sharp, and, this being Men’s Health, how to improve your fitness.

As a former editor for the Men's Health website, I admittedly took a giant gulp when I turned to the following series of tests about where the average guy should be when it comes to overall fitness. After trying the tests, it was a wakeup call that I still have a lot left to do when it comes to being a fit runner.

Here's a look at the 8 Tests of Overall Fitness, excerpted from The Better Man Projectalong with my score after trying the self-checks. If you fall below the Men's Health Fit Standard like I did, check out the training advice so you can get stronger over time. (The book excerpts are in italic.)

Check 1: Is your core weak?


Even if you don't have an ounce of fat, you could be soft in the middle. This test will tell. Lie facedown on the floor and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor with your thumbs in line with the top of your forehead. Lift your elbows off the floor and position your feet the way they would be in a pushup with your ankles flexed. This is the starting position. Now, push yourself off the floor while maintaining a straight, stiff plank position from your shoulders to your heels. If your hips dip lower than your torso, your core is weak. Try the test again with your hands repositioned at chin level. If you still can't keep your hips from sagging, you need even more core work.

The MH Fit Standard: Hold a stiff arms-extended plank for 10 seconds.

My Score: A solid 10 seconds. This didn’t shock me because I do—a few times a week—hold a normal plank for 30 to 60 seconds just for the heck of it. While this was probably the test I was least concerned about, the variation with my arms more extended gave me some pause. A good confidence booster going forward. (Though it wouldn’t last long …)

Get Fitter: Fall short? No problem. "You can more than double your score in a matter of weeks," says Angelo Poli, owner of Whole Body Fitness in Chico, California. Alternate among these three exercises during the course of a week.

1) Three-point tennis ball toss: Hold the top position of a single-arm pushup (feet slightly beyond hip width, body straight from head to heels, weight supported on one hand) and bounce a tennis ball off a wall. Catch the ball and immediately bounce it back against the wall. Do 2 sets of 15 reps each arm.

2) Plank push/pull: Assume a plank position with a weight plate between your forearms. Lift your right arm, push the plate forward as far as possible, and then pull it back. Do 2 sets of 10 reps with each arm.

3) Swiss ball "stir the pot": Assume a plank position with your forearms on a Swiss ball. Make small circles with your elbows, switching directions every 10 circles until you've done 40. That's 1 set. Do 2.

Check 2: Lower-body power


The standing broad jump is another great test. This evaluation is used by strength coaches and drill sergeants to gauge raw leg power because it requires several muscle groups throughout the body to fire at once. Stand with your toes on a line and your feet shoulder-width apart. Dip your knees, swing your arms, and jump as far as you can. Have a buddy measure the distance from the starting line to the backs of your heels.

The MH Fit Standard: 8 feet

My Score: 7 feet. My form was pretty good according to my witness, despite my lack of practice of jumping in any way. (Maybe those years of doing the long jump in high school more than a decade ago helped.) Though I came up a little short on the distance, I was happy I came close.

Get Fitter: "Power is a combination of strength and speed, so if you come up short, work on both," says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. Start by doing squats and hip thrusts each week in separate workouts. During week 1, go heavy with the hip thrusts (3 to 5 sets of 5 reps using 85 percent of your 1-repetition maximum) and light with the squats (6 sets of 2 fast reps with 50 percent of your 1-rep max). The following week, flip the set-rep scheme, going heavy with squats and light with hip thrusts. Continue alternating for 4 to 6 weeks. "To build even more explosiveness, also do 3 sets of 10 kettlebell swings twice a week," says Gentilcore.

Check 3: Anaerobic endurance


You'll have fun with this one. Performing the squat, biceps curl, and push press exercises with dumbbells as a single compound move is an accurate measure of your anaerobic endurance, or your ability to work at near-max intensity in bursts of 20 to 60 seconds. Anaerobic endurance reflects the stamina of your fast-twitch (type II) muscle fibers, which generate energy in the absence of oxygen (i.e., when you're sucking wind). How to do it: Use dumbbells that together total roughly 30 percent of your body weight (that's a pair of 30-pounders if you weigh 200) and hold them at your sides with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back naturally arched, push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you stand up, curl the dumbbells to shoulder height using a neutral (or hammer) grip (palms facing) and then press them straight overhead, using your legs in the effort. Return to the starting position and repeat the compound move for 1 minute.

The MH Fit Standard: 20 reps in a minute

My Score: 14 reps. This started off feeling easy with a set of 20-pound dumbbells, but by the time I was 30 seconds into it I could feel my muscles wanting to take a breather. While I struggled a bit toward the end, at least my form didn’t suffer—I just slowed down. Could have tried to do 20 reps without a time limit.

Get Fitter: Perform 2 sets of the drill twice a week, resting 90 seconds between sets. If you can't do at least 16 reps on your first set, lighten the load. "Each time, add an extra rep to your first set," says L.A.-based strength and conditioning coach Chad Waterbury, M.S. "Once you reach 20 reps with the lighter weight, grab slightly heavier dumbbells and work your way up to 20 reps again."

Check 4: Mobility

Mobility is a quality great athletes hone, but most regular guys ignore. The more mobile you are, the less likely you are to injure your joints. See how you do with the wall squat check. A lot of people fail this test because they have a rounded back or inflexible ankles. Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes 2 inches from the baseboard and turned slightly out. Keeping your feet flat, chest up, and back naturally arched, see how far you can lower your body without touching the wall or falling backward.

The MH Fit Standard: A full squat—that is, when your hamstrings touch your calves, in control

My Score: 1 full squat. I did this in a mirror and can assure you that it wasn’t the prettiest (or fastest) squat ever, but I did maintain form and got low enough to touch my hamstrings to my calves without comically falling over. However, when I tried to go for a second one, I felt my left hamstring tighten up—and it hurt all weekend. Looks like I could still use some work.

Get Fitter: Loosen your back with self-massage. Lie on your back with a foam roller placed perpendicular to your spine just below your shoulder blades. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Support your head with your hands, and move your head, neck, and upper back forward and backward over the foam roller four to six times. To loosen tight ankles and calves, try the ankle mobility lunge. Stand in a split stance with your front foot about 6 inches from a wall. Now bend your front knee to touch the wall without letting your front heel leave the floor. Do this 8 to 10 times. Switch legs and repeat.

Check 5: The Beep Test


Cardiovascular endurance isn't just a sign of your 10K potential or how long you'll last in a 48-minute game of basketball. People with solid aerobic health tend to have a longer life expectancy than those who lack it, according to a German study review. The Beep Test or 20-meter shuttle run is a classic measure of aerobic fitness. Easiest way to do it is to download the Beep Test app for your iPhone (Beep Test Solo, $1) or Android device (Beep Test, free). Place two cones 20 meters (about 65 feet) apart on a track or field, hit the start button on the app, and run from one cone to the other. When you hear the beep, run back. Continue until you can't reach the opposite cone before the next beep sounds. (The time between beeps will shorten as you progress through the test.)

The MH Fit Standard: Level 12

My Score: 11.5. I’ve often heard the beep test was easy until you get to level 8 or 9. That’s very, very true. As much as I wanted to make it to 12, my legs—and lungs—just couldn’t quite get there.

Get Fitter: Repeat the beep test once a week. Just repeating the drill can help boost your peak aerobic capacity, says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. On two other days each week, do sprint intervals. Sprint at 85 percent of your maximum effort for 1 minute and then rest for 2 minutes. Do that 5 to 8 times total.

Check 6: Upper-body power


A powerful upper body doesn't just look good shirtless, it also helps transfer force to the world around you. The clapping pushup—which requires explosiveness as well as strength—is an old-school move that many still consider the ultimate test of upper-body pushing power (thanks in no small part to Sly Stallone's Rocky). Get into a pushup position, with your body straight from head to ankles. Lower yourself until your chest is 3 inches from the floor. Push yourself back up explosively so your hands leave the floor. Maintain a straight body as you clap in midair and land back in the starting position.

The MH Fit Standard: 10 clapping pushups without stopping

My Score: 1 clapping pushup. This was the embarrassing display I thought it might be. In my mind I was hoping my skinny arms could at least blast me up into the air for three decent ones. At least the gym was nearly empty and nobody saw me attempt this!

Get Fitter: Can't clap? Add the exercise to your weekly routine but perform it with your hands elevated on an aerobics step, which reduces the load. Shoot for 3 sets of 5 reps, lowering the step as the exercise becomes easier.

Check 7: The Go-Muscle Test


The muscles of your posterior chain provide the power behind many of the most important skills in sports; consider them your "go" muscles. These include your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves—lots of muscles that may not be visible in the mirror but are vital to overall fitness. And no exercise hits them harder than the deadlift does. Load a barbell with the maximum amount of weight you think you can lift once, and roll the bar on the floor until it's close to your shins. Bend at your hips and knees and grab the bar using an overhand grip that's just beyond shoulder width. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, pull your torso back and up, squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward, and stand up with the barbell. Reverse the movement to lower the bar to the floor, keeping it as close to your body as possible.

The MH Fit Standard: 1.75 times your body weight

My Score: 165 pounds, which is 1.14 times my body weight. It’s been a while since I even thought of attempting a deadlift. Part of me was happy that a) I could deadlift a weight slightly over my 145 pounds and b) I didn’t hurt myself. When I did the numbers in my head and realized 1.75 times my body weight is a little over 250 pounds, I see there’s a lot of work I could be doing.

Get Fitter: Add the deadlift to your weekly routine using a weight that allows you to do 3 sets of 5 reps. That's right, only 5 reps each set. "Keeping the rep count low allows you to do two things: concentrate on form and go heavy," says Mike Robertson, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training. When you can complete 2 extra repetitions in your last set for two consecutive workouts, move up in weight. Retest your 1-rep max every 2 to 3 months.

Check 8: Flexibility


The sit-and-reach check is a time-tested measure of flexibility in the lower back and hamstrings, two areas that are often super tight in men, especially those who sit in a chair at work. Tightness in these muscles is a major cause of back and knee pain. Check it out: Place a yardstick or cloth measuring tape on the floor and put a footlong piece of masking tape across the 15-inch mark. Take off your shoes and sit down with your legs out in front of you and your heels at the edge of the tape, one on each side of the yardstick. Keep both knees locked and pressed flat against the floor. (You can have a helper hold your knees down.) Now straighten your arms forward and place one palm over the back of the other hand. Bend forward, reaching as far as you can with your fingers while making sure that neither hand is reaching farther than the other. Take a few practice reaches, then hold the reach for 2 seconds while your partner records your distance.

The MH Fit Standard: 17 inches

My Score: 17 inches. Boom; got it. Thank you, foam-rolling-on-the-weekends for helping me finish on a higher note.

Get Fitter: It's time to wake up your hamstrings. Do this stretch daily, recommends BJ Gaddour, Men's Health's fitness director: Place your heel on a knee-high bench, a high table top or counter, or the appropriate step of a staircase and fully extend your leg. Flex your quad and push your heel down into the bench. Focus on hinging at the hips and minimizing movement at the spine to keep the stretch on the hamstrings. Oscillate in and out and move side to side to stretch all 3 compartment of the hamstring. Do it for 2-5 minutes on each leg. (View how to do it here.)

10 Essential Strength Training Exercises for Runners

Whenever the topic of strength training comes up, many of us tend to respond with, “Wait, I’m supposed to do something other than running?” But supplementing running with strength training exercises will not only help you prevent injury, but it will also make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner.

That said, runners need a different strength-training program than your standard gym rat. Instead of pushing weight away from the body with bicep curls, leg extensions, and bench presses, runners should focus on targeting the key muscles that will keep them balanced and moving forward.

We asked our experts to come up with 10 essential strength exercises for runners then had Hollis Tuttle, certified personal trainer and run coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City, demonstrate them.

How to use this list: Perform these 10 exercises for the amount of reps listed twice a week. For best results, add them to your easy or cross-training days.

1. Plank

Works: core, lower back, shoulders

Start on all fours. Lower onto your forearms with shoulders directly over elbows. Step feet back into a plank position. Draw your shoulders down and back—not hunched. Engage abdominal muscles tight to keep hips in line with shoulders so your body forms a long, straight line. Squeeze legs and glutes for support. Hold this position for 45 to 60 seconds. Gradually add time as your core gets stronger. Repeat for 3 to 5 reps. 

Make it easier:
 Drop to your knees. 

2. Russian Twist

Works: core, obliques

Start seated with knees bent 90 degrees, heels on floor, and hands clasped in front of chest. Engage abs and rotate upper body to the right as if you’re reaching right elbow to floor. Keep your back tall and rotate from your hips. Return to starting position and repeat on left side. That’s 1 repetition. Complete 10 to 12 reps.

Make it harder: Keep your legs straight, lift heels off floor, or add a dumbbell as shown above.

3. Scorpion

Works: abs, hips, back

Start lying facedown with your arms out to sides to form a T, thumbs pointing up, and chin rested on floor so your neck is not strained. Bend left knee then swing leg to right to try to touch left toes to right shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, then return to starting position. Repeat on opposite side with right leg. That’s 1 repetition. Perform 3 to 5 reps.

Make it easier: Simply reach toe to opposite hip instead of shoulder. As you gain mobility and flexibility, you can progress to reach for shoulder.

4. Back Extension

Works: lower back, glutes, middle back, shoulders

Lie facedown on a stability ball with feet spread wide for balance. Elbows should be bent with hands placed lightly behind ears. Squeeze glutes and lift torso up until your body forms a straight line. Hold for one to two seconds. Release back down to the starting position. That’s one rep. Perform for 10 to 12 reps. No stability ball? You can do the movement on an exercise mat: Raise your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground.

Make it harder: Hold light dumbbells.

5. Squat To Overhead Press

Works: glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, upper back, shoulders


Hold dumbbells with both hands racked at shoulders. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Send hips back and lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you stand back up, press the dumbbells overhead. Return to the starting position. Complete 10 to 12 reps.

Make it easier: Do the squat without the dumbbells, or just hold one dumbbell at your chest and perform squats without the press.

6. Overhead Forward Lunge

Works: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, core

Start standing, holding one dumbbell straight above your shoulders, with your arms straight and elbows locked. Step forward with your right leg, and lower down until your right knee is bent to 90 degrees. Press through right heel to return to the starting position, then repeat with left leg. That’s one repetition. Perform 6 to 8 reps on each leg.

Make it easier: Perform the forward lunge without a dumbbell or hold it at shoulder level.

[Runner’s World 10-Minute Cross-Training, gives you five muscle-building routines that take just 10 minutes to get you stronger.]

7. Stability Ball Jackknife

Works: shoulders, core

Staility Ball.jpg

Start in a high plank position with shoulders over wrists, but instead of placing your feet on the floor, rest your shins on a stability ball. Engage core to pull the stability ball toward your chest and lift hips up as you roll the ball forward to your feet. Return to starting position and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.

Make it easier: Pull your knees as close as you can to your chest without lifting your hips into the air, and return to the starting position.

8. Stability Ball Leg Curl

Works: hamstrings, glutes, core

Stability Ball Curl.jpg

Lie faceup on the floor, with hands at sides on mat and and feet on a stability ball. Keep arms to sides for support and balance. Push your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Without allowing your hips to sag, roll the ball as close as you can to hips by bending knees and pulling heels toward you. Repeat for 6 to 8 reps.

Make it harder: Do the exercise with just one leg, holding the other leg in the air above your hips.

9. Rotational Shoulder Press

Works: shoulders, triceps, core

Rotational Shoulder Press.jpg

Stand holding a pair of dumbbells racked at your shoulders, with palms facing each other. Press right dumbbell overhead as you rotate from the hips to your left. Lower the dumbbells as you rotate back to center, then press left dumbbell overhead as you rotate to the right. That’s one repetition. Repeat for 6 to 8 reps.

Make it easier: Do half of the repetitions without the rotations.

10. Alternating Row

Works: middle back, biceps, core

Alternating Row.jpg

Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. With a micro-bend in your knees, send hips back and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Keep arms straight as you bend at hips so the dumbbells hang straight down. Bend left elbow to pull the left dumbbell to left rib. Lower and repeat with right arm. That’s one repetition. Repeat for 10 to 12 reps.

Make it easier: Perform the move with both hands at once, which requires less core stability.