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5 Strength & Conditioning Tips Newbie Runners Can Learn From Pro Athletes

    You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to make great strides as a new runner. Even if you’re one to despise just the idea of running, the slew of benefits of running should be able to convince you to take that first step.

    From aesthetic benefits to overall health and mental perks, everyone can gain something from pounding the pavement. And soon, you may learn to love it enough that one day, for no particular reason, you decide to go for a little run. Soon, that sense of accomplishment may transform into a passion.

    But where should you start? For newbie runners, it’s hard to know what the right steps are to hit the ground running. There’s a lot to consider. Hopefully, these five strength and conditioning tips from pro athletes will break down any barriers you may experience as a new runner.

    Work on mental toughness

    A newly formed habit begins with motivation. But motivation will wane and without the right mental fortitude, all your hard work will also disappear. Running requires mental toughness.

    It doesn’t matter if the goal is to get off the couch for your first run, or compete in your first race, or even competitively finish first. It all requires mental fortitude.

    In his prime, U.S. Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson dominated the 200 and 400 meters events. His records speak for themselves; 4 Olympic gold medals, 8 World Championship gold medals, and in his prime, he was dubbed as the “World’s fastest man,” having formerly held the 200 and 400 meters world and Olympic records.

    But, Johnson credits his success and path to glory to more than just innate talent. In a keynote speech he did at the Advantage Travel Conference, Johnson spoke of the mental fortitude he required to break the 200m record. In his keynote speech, Johnson said, “I visualized the race mentally and took into consideration many factors that could happen on the track and think of ways of overcoming them.”

    In doing so, Johnson was able to adopt a positive approach that filled him with the confidence and motivation required to accomplish his goals.

    Now while you may not be striving for world record success, anyone can develop the mental toughness to feel like a world champion. Daily visualization, using power words such as “I project confidence and energy” or “I am in my element; I am fully engaged in my running,” and building a mentally tough outlook will foster the right mental attitude to ensure success.

    Strength training

    To go from strength to strength as a new runner, it takes more than just lacing up your shoes and pounding the pavement. To truly make great strides as a runner, new runners should consider incorporating strength training into their running program.

    Darien Hawkins once represented Adidas for the United States on the national and international stage for the 110-meter and 400-meter hurdles. He competed as a collegiate athlete and qualified for the 1996 Olympic trials. As a professional athlete, Hawkins emphasizes the importance of strength training.

    For new runners looking to improve performance, Hawkins suggests three to five days of optimum training. Looking to maintain current performance levels? Then one to two days will suffice for your goals.

    Hawkins also suggests that new runners incorporate strength training movements that improve flexibility, explosiveness, balance, and SAQ (speed, agility, and quickness) movements. Movements such as bridges, single-leg squats, speed ladder drills, plyometric training, and dynamic moves like burpees and pushups are good workouts to incorporate into a running program.

    Improve conditioning

    Since running is a high-impact sport, it may be tough for new runners starting out. According to Jason Fitzgerald, new runners start off with a handicap, “a small aerobic base,” or limited endurance or stamina. As an elite marathoner, USATF-certified coach, Fitzgerald stresses that aggressively increasing mileage is a sure path to injury.

    So how do you improve your running stamina without risking injury?

    Fitzgerald suggests introducing alternative training to the cardio portion of your running program. Simply hitting the pavement day after day and mile after mile can result in boredom. This decreases your performance levels and opens your body up for injury.

    Alternating with other cardio-intensive workouts not only introduces a welcome change but keeps training fresh and builds cardiovascular energy. Fitzgerald recommends including cycling, swimming, and pool running to avoid workout staleness and maintain motivation.

    If you still prefer to keep running, then alternate your run workouts from endurance runs to sprints. Sprints may not consume as many miles, but it will build the cardiovascular endurance you need to hit those long trails.

    Build a strong core

    It’s true that strong legs are a must for runners, but so is having a strong core. In fact, the key to a resilient athlete is developing a strong midsection. Core work is key for any level of running, for beginners and pro athletes.

    Ironman triathlete and long course triathlon U.S. gold medalist, Ben Greenfield offers six core movements that are beneficial to any new runner. These six core movements include:

    1. Pull-ups
    2. One-leg, one-arm rows
    3. One-leg Romanian deadlift
    4. Split squats
    5. One-arm overhead press
    6. Woodchopper.

    Each of these core movements has been considered for their ability to improve overall strength and running performance. Ideally, this core workout should be three times a week with 10 reps per exercise with minimal rest in between. Greenfield emphasizes that each movement should be performed in a “smooth and controlled manner.”

    Stretch like a pro

    No running program or workout program for that manner is complete without stretching.

    Flexibility is important for any runner as it improves lower-body strength, increases joint range of motion and lengthens their stride. Performing a dynamic warm-up and stretch beforehand has been shown to enhance peak force output and improve injury prevention.

    NSCA-CSCS-certified sports performance specialist Giovanni Grassi proposes the lying hamstring stretch, crossover stretch, side stretch, and quad/hip flexor stretch, as key dynamic warm-up movements for any runner. Each stretch should be done for two sets and thirty-seconds each leg.

    Doing these stretches before a run “increases blood flow and activate muscles” so that your body’s nervous system is firing and ready for work.

    Grassi also advises that post-run activities should include static stretching to increase flexibility, speed up recovery, and reduce lactic acid buildup in your muscles.

    To a certain degree, simply going for a run will improve your performance. You’ll soon rack up the miles and feel great about doing so. But to take your running to the next level, runners should consider employing these five strength and conditioning tips. Not only will they allow you to squeeze out every inch of every mile in superior fashion, but you’ll have fun doing so.


    Marc Innes is the Owner and Principal of the School of Natural Therapies, a training school for Massage & Holistic Therapies located in London. Marc, began his career in the NHS, working in a number of managerial and training roles within the Ambulance Service in London. Marc spent much of that time educating and coaching medical staff. Over time he developed an interest in all things complementary to Allopathic Medicine, in particular, Reiki Healing, which along with EFT, which culminated in Marc running a successful teaching and ‘energy healing’ practice. Marc is passionate about the massage and complementary therapy industry.