Running is a great way to get in shape, lose weight, and increase your endurance – but if running is the only form of exercise you undertake, you might find yourself facing injury or burnout. By focusing on three key areas that are often the weakest in runners’ bodies, you can help maintain strength and stability – ultimately leading you to become a more well-rounded and less injury-prone runner.

Core

Core workouts are key to helping you retain proper form and technique, especially over long distances. Your abs, obliques, and back create the foundation of your posture and can lead to many secondary injuries if they’re not strong and flexible. A classic core exercise is the plank. Some of my favorite core plank exercises are elbow planks, walking planks, and side planks. As you plank for longer and increase your strength, try raising an arm and/or leg during the exercise or balancing one end of your body on a Bosu ball, exercise ball, or medicine ball. Another tried-and-true core exercise: the “super man,” which will isolate and strengthen your lower back muscles. Throw in some basic ab exercises, like sit-ups, crunches, V-ups, and bicycles, and you’ve got a complete core workout lined up!

Glutes

Glutes are also a key problem area for many runners. They’re essential in maintaining good form and can lead to a slew of injuries if not strong enough. Because many runners have weak glutes and/or hips, their bodies overcompensate by over-working other muscles in the legs, leading to overuse injuries. To help keep your glutes nice and strong, I’d recommend incorporating squats and lunges into your cross-training routine. Start off with basic standing squats, and then progress to one-legged squats and/or squats on the Bosu ball or with one leg in a TRX band. Walking lunges are also a classic glute-building exercise that can be done almost anywhere. Throw in some deadlifts and add weights as you progress!

Hips

Lastly, it’s important to include plenty of hip exercises in your workout. Because running is such a forward-facing sport, lateral movements are minimal and can lead to imbalances in strength across your body – especially in your hips. Try doing some windshield wiper and fire hydrant drills (neither of which require weights) at home. One of my favorite exercises to do at the gym is a lateral walk with a resistance band – no matter how strong or weak your hips are, this adjustable exercise can scale to meet your fitness level. Most hip exercises only require a band, Bosu ball, or exercise ball, meaning that they are easy to do at home or at a basic gym.

After all that strengthening, don’t forget to get in a good stretch. You can simply add five minutes of foam rolling to your cross-training routine; or knock out both strengthening and stretching by joining a yoga or Pilates studio. Hip openers, hamstring stretches, and back and shoulder flexibility are key to maintaining good posture during a run.

However you fit in your cross training workouts, make sure to stick them!

Mary Lambkin

Mary Lambkin is a Nashville-based writer, runner, and foodie. She's run seven marathons and ten half marathons, with lots of healthy (and occasionally unhealthy) food along the way. Follow her at her blog, minutes per mile.

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