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Run Better, faster, stronger: How to build strength and improve your running

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RUN Better…Faster… Stronger…

How to build strength and improve your running

Add strength to your running by adding these 3 training strategies

from Doug James, intraining Physiotherapist & Podiatrist:

Read more about how you can do this and some simple exercises you can do at home. 

Despite a myriad of gimmicks over the years (remember the holographic wrist bands?), miracle dietary supplements (beetroot juice[1,2]) and footwear fads (‘barefoot’ shoes[3]), the number one way to become faster at running is still simply to run (preferably regularly, and with a considered combination of easy and challenging training sessions).

If you are new to running, training three times per week for at least 6 weeks, should see your body start to adapt and improve your running economy (RE), and in turn, boost running performance.  Improved RE can make running faster and easier whereby you use less oxygen to perform a similar effort as when less fit [2].

For more experienced runners, however, improvements in performance and fitness are harder to come by – hence the allure of the aforementioned gimmicks, but there are a number of training techniques that can help you get to your next PB.


One of the well-known ways to improve your running performance and RE is to incorporate speed work (fast interval running sessions) into your weekly training routine [5]. This can take one of many forms including the ‘fartlek’ (Swedish for ‘speed play’) approach where a run commences at a comfortable pace for a few minutes then alternates between faster and slower speeds for a few minutes each.

Other variations of interval training can involve fast running efforts performed over 100m to 2km distances with either standing or easy jogging recovery periods in between. Studies show that incorporating this type of running training into your routine once a week (or up to twice a week for more experienced runners) can help improve both running economy and performance through physiological changes derived from the increased training intensity [7].

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Most people run for one or two reasons – aside from the health benefits for your physical fitness and weight, runners often run for stress relief, or to achieve a goal (to go faster and/or further than before). Unfortunately, running has a fairly high injury risk with around a 79% likelihood of one developing in a year [8]. Injured runners can sometimes tend to be just a little bit (or very) irritable when they are unable to run. This can be due to the lack of stress relief that is usually afforded from running, or the prospect of missing out on a goal race that was the focus of months of training. Either way, being an injured runner is a bad thing. Becoming stronger in key muscle groups helps to reduce the likelihood of injury, allowing you to run more consistently with less time off from the sport. 

Strength exercises can offer improvements to both running performances [4,5,6] and reduce the risk of certain running injuries [9,11]. While it’s unlikely that lifting weights will make you significantly more muscular while undertaking regular running training, it can leave you feeling fatigued and sore following the session [10]. For this reason, it’s recommended that lifting weights should be performed no less than 6 hours before running training sessions to allow for recovery time. Interestingly, when running training was substituted with weight lifting for several weeks, no noticeable drop in running performance was observed.

Add a subheading 1Click HERE  to watch Doug’s tip for Calf Raises. 


The term ‘Core Strength’ is often used, but not always well understood. It is probably best explained as the ability to provide a stable platform through the lower back, abdominals and pelvis while under exertion. Runners with poor core strength tend to have excessive movement through their torso and pelvis while running, which in turn has a negative effect on running economy (more energy is required, greater risk of fatigue), increased risk of injury and poorer running performance [11]. This can be seen through excessive sideways sway and rotation of the torso and dropping of the opposite side hip to the landing leg[12,13].

While core strength exercises are highly regarded for their injury prevention properties, done regularly they can also help to significantly improve running economy and performance. A group of trained runners was given 5 core exercises to do 4 times per week. After 6 weeks of the core strength program, runners recorded an average improvement of about 1 minute for their 5km time trial.

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If you are looking to improve your running performance, or simply want to keep running injury free, include strengthening and core stability exercises as part of your training. These exercises can be completed without the need for any equipment or expert supervision. 

Additionally, incorporating speed work with a training group into your weekly routine can be a fun and stimulating way to become a stronger, faster runner (check out the intraining website for speed work training times and locations). 

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Doug James e1560495841163


Article by  Doug James a qualified physiotherapist and podiatrist at intraining Running Injury Clinic with a special interest in running and sports injuries. He combines the two treatment approaches to achieve successful outcomes for clients of all abilities from non-athletes through to elite athletes. Bachelor of Podiatry (honours), Master of Physiotherapy Studies. Doug has undertaken further training in dry needling, Pilates, and Rocktape and may incorporate these as necessary during treatment. Doug is also a keen runner having completed the New York Marathon


We help injured runners return to their running plans and routines using a range of podiatry and physiotherapy management and treatment strategies structured by a team of experienced runners aligning with evidence-based medicine.”, intraining Running Injury Clinic Team 

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“I like to have a balanced approach to my training including 3-4 strength sessions in the gym combined with 4-5 training runs each week. This has enabled me to recover quickly during the race season as well as prevent injuries from occurring.
In the gym, I focus on upper body and core strength exercises to give my running form better posture, balance and control. I also do running specific injury prevention strength training focusing on hammy and glute strength to protect my body from previous hip flexor injuries.
Looking forward to doing my 60th half marathon at Gold Coast and my 10th marathon in Melbourne this year.”
Steve Beck, intraining Running Coach – Stones Corner, Marathoner, PT
[1] Boorsma, K., Robert ; Whitfield, L., Jamie ; Spriet, L., Lawrence (2014) Beetroot Juice Supplementation Does Not Improve Performance of Elite 1500-m Runners
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Vol.46(12), pp.2326-2334
[2] Arnold, J., ; Oliver, Samuel James ; Lewis-Jones, Tammy Maria ; Wylie, Lee John ; Macdonald, Jamie Hugo. (2015). Beetroot juice does not enhance altitude running performance in well-trained athletes. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. Vol.40(6), pp.590-595
[3] Rothschild, C. (2012) Running Barefoot or in Minimalist Shoes: Evidence or Conjecture? Strength and Conditioning Journal, 34(2), pp8-17.
[4] Yamamoto, L. et al. (2008). The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, pp22-6.
[5] Vorup, J. et al. (2016) Effect of speed endurance and strength training on performance, running economy and muscular adaptations in endurance-trained runners. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2016, Vol.116(7), pp.1331-1341
[6] Sedano, J et al. (2013). Concurrent Training in Elite Male Runners: The Influence of Strength Versus Muscular Endurance Training on Performance Outcomes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Vol.27(9), pp.2433-2443
[7] Bangsbo, J et al. (2009) Reduced volume and increased training intensity elevate muscle Na+-K+ pump alpha2-subunit expression as well as short- and long-term work capacity in humans. J Appl Physiol. Dec 107(6) pp1771-80.
[8] Bovens, AM, Janssen, GM, Vermeer, HG, Hoeberigs, JH, Janssen, MP, Verstappen, FT. (1989) Occurrence of running injuries in adults following a supervised training program. Int J Sports Med 1989: 10 ( Suppl. 3): S186– S190.
[9] Foch, Eric ; Reinbolt, Jeffrey A. ; Zhang, Songning ; Fitzhugh, Eugene C. ; Milner, Clare E. (2015). Associations between iliotibial band injury status and running biomechanics in women. Gait & Posture, February 2015, Vol.41(2), pp.706-710
[10] Doma, K., Deakin, G.B. (2013). The effects of strength training and endurance training order on running economy and performance. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2013, Vol.38(6), pp.651-656
[11] Rivera, C. (2016). Core and Lumbopelvic Stabilization in Runners. Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, February 2016, Vol.27(1), pp.319-337
 [12] Byars, A ; Gandy-Moodie, N ; Greenwood, L ; Stanford, M ; Greenwood, M (2011). An Evaluation of the Relationships Between Core Stability, Core Strength and Running Economy in Trained Runners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Mar 2011, Vol.25, p.S88B,S89
[13] Clark, Aw ; Goedeke, Mk ; Cunningham, Sr ; Rockwell, De ; Lehecka, Bj ; Manske, RC ; Smith, BS (2017). Effects of Pelvis and Core Strength Training on High School Cross-Country Race Times. 2017 Aug, Vol.31(8), pp.2289-2295