Runners: In-Season Weight Lifting Training for Distance Runners

You Prepared in the Pre-Season, Now it’s Time to Stay Strong

Seasons for cross country runners and other distance runners can drag on for months.

Long, high-intensity training runs, speed training, and weekly competitions can take their toll. The wear and tear on your legs can create nagging injuries that, while not enough to keep you from running, could certainly slow you down.

How Elite Runners Stay Strong Through a Long Season

Elite-level runners not only pack in a lot of miles before the season, but also a lot of muscle. They know that time spent in pre-season weight training will help keep them healthy through a grueling running season.

And, they’ve got a secret: they stay in the weight room all season long to help keep them running strong at the end of the season, through the big national and international races when they need to be strongest.

After all, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to train hard in the preseason and then let it all slip away as you near your most important competitions, does it?


Keep Lifting Through the Season

This easy, twice-a-week training plan can help you stay strong through the season and even help you recover more quickly from those tough runs.

There’s enough upper body work to also help you muscle your way through those traffic-congested starts and around tight corners in your race. The core work will help your back and hips, and keep them pain free, even in cold, wet weather. The easy leg work will assist in your recovery and also give you just a little more stability on muddy or rut-filled courses.

At this time of year, remember that it’s quality and not quantity that matters.

Try to workout twice a week, generally the day after a race or tough workout. Each repetition should be done with a 1-2-3-UP! cadence, taking time to lower the weight and then exploding it up. The weights will be light enough that they should be pretty easy to handle, and you don’t want to get sloppy.

As to rest periods, keep your between-sets rest to 30 seconds or so, about a 1:1 ratio of work to rest. The entire workout should take you about 20-25 minutes.

If you’re pressed for time, don’t hesitate to hit the weighs immediately after a run or race; you’ll be surprised just how good it might help you feel.

And stretch, stretch, stretch after each session.

The Exercises – Day 1

Arms/Upper Body

Do two sets of 10-12 repetitions

Standing Dumbbell Press

Standing French Press

Standing Dumbbell Curls

Bent Over Dumbbell Row

Legs/Lower Body

Do two sets of 8-10 repetitions

Romanian Deadlifts

Do one set of 10 repetitions on EACH leg

Dumbbell Lunge


Do two sets of 15 reps

Glute/ham raise

Do two sets of 8 reps

Turkish Get-Up

The Exercises – Day 2

Arms/Upper Body

Do two sets of 10-12 repetitions

Standing Lateral Dubbell Raise

Tricep Kickbacks

Standing Dumbbell Hammer Curls

Legs/Lower Body

Do two sets of 8-10 repetitions

One-Leg Squats

Poor Man’s Glute Hams

Do one set of 10 repetitions on EACH leg

Dumbbell Step Ups


Do one sets of 6 reps

Superman (10 second hold)

Do one set of 3 reps for each side)

Side Plank (10 second hold)

Do two sets of 50 sit ups or crunches
Do two sets of 30 second bicycles

If you start with a weight that’s about 65 percent of your one-repetition maximum (1RM), you should be able to add a little (about 5 percent) to your weights each week. Unsure how to find your 1RM? Not to worry. Your goal is simply to get to the end of each set feeling like you probably couldn’t do two more reps. When you can, add weight.

Just like any other program, you should think of this part of your season as just one period of a much bigger plan. That means you’ll want to change it, say, after four weeks. You might want to substitute some exercises, adjust weights and even reps as you get into the second half and closer to your big meets, that’s a concept called periodization.

Remember, being a runner – especially a distance runner – doesn’t mean you don’t need muscle, you do … just a different balance.