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Twin Cities, Bank of America, and Marine Corps. If you’re a distance runner, like me, you probably recognize these as a well-known trio among a pantheon of fall marathon offerings. Perhaps some of you are gearing up for a fall race and you’re getting into the high-mileage heart of your training schedule.

A great many runners whom I’ve met and some for whom I’ve provided training advice share something in common. They overlook or eschew lower body strength training because they want to save their legs and not fatigue them with activities other than running. I have been there.

“I’m gonna run a 4-miler today, that’s all the leg work that I need.” Or “I don’t wanna max out my legs, I have a long run on Sunday!”

Sound familiar?

The most important line that I’ll share with you today: Strength training helps you run more efficiently. (So do mobility exercises and core work, but I’ll save these topics for a later date.)

I can sense the furrowed brows and skeptical looks directed at the screen. Stay with me. I’m not going to suggest that you take up high volume, heavily weighted training and then go out and do a fartlek workout or tempo run. You needn’t know what a squat rack is or where to find one in your local gym. What I am suggesting is a reasonable, balance between your paramour, cardio, and strength work. My reasoning goes a little something like this:

The gluteus maximus commonly, your butt or glutes in regular people speak, is part of the biggest single muscle group and a prime mover in the body. We demand a lot of this muscle. We demand that though we sit for hours during work, school, or Netflix marathons and then be ready to immediately “switch on” automatically for a quick 3-miler or an 18 miler on a weekend. The glutes as a whole (the maximus, medius, minimus, & the TFL) move the hips forward, bring your foot down to the ground, and propel the body forward after each footstrike. Of course the hamstrings, calves, and hopefully the core musculature support this motion but the more efficiently the glutes do their job, the more seamlessly the rest follows.

Three key exercises (in my professional opinion) for glute strengthening:
1. Lunges
2. Deadlifts
3. Squats

Over the next week, I’ll be discussing each of these exercises in turn including technique & ways of approaching them as well as presenting i variations. The idea is not to have you spend hours in a gym. It’s even possible that you needn’t go to a gym at all… More on this later.

Happy running, and may the “bonk monster” stay at bay.

-JF

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