We get it—runners would much rather prefer being outside in the fresh air, cruising down the road, and not stuck inside doing strength exercises. It’s easy to put off, but adding in strength training two to three times a week can really benefit your running and help you power through your miles injury-free for years to come.
Running can create muscle imbalances or accentuate ones you already have. Weak calves, for example, put too much stress on the Achilles and break down the fibers that make up the tendon. Unstable hip and core muscles hurt your biomechanics and overload your shins, which can lead to shin splints and stress fractures.
So in order to run well and stay healthy, it’s essential to incorporate some strategic strength training to your regular run routine. If you’re generally healthy—but especially if you have had shin splints, calf, or Achilles issues in the past—these five calf exercises will build the resilience and endurance you need to run well.
How to use this list: Perform the exercises below, demonstrated by Mat Forzaglia, certified trainer and founder of Forzag Fitness, twice a week. If you’ve have had shin, calf, or Achilles issues in the past, perform these exercises daily. Do not perform these exercises if you are currently injured; they are preventative only. You will need a box or step and a set of weights or weight alternatives you can find around the house.
Start standing then take a step forward with right foot and drop into a lunge, lowering left knee to touch the floor. Push through right heel to explode into a jump and switch legs in midair so you land in a lunge with left leg forward. Use your arms for momentum. Repeat the lunge jump on left leg. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand on the edge of a step. Shift weight to right foot and lift left foot or cross it behind right ankle. Balancing on the ball of your right foot, lift right heel and pause; then lower. Do 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand on the edge of a step. Shift weight to right foot and lift left foot or cross it behind right ankle. Balancing on the ball of your right foot with right knee bent, lift right heel and pause; then lower. Do 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.
Stand on a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Push yourself up on your toes. Then very slowly (to a count of 10) drop your heels below the level of the step. You can place hands on hips for balance. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
Hold heavy dumbbells at your sides. Rise up on your toes and walk forward for 60 seconds. If you feel that you could’ve gone longer than 60 seconds, increase the weight. Do 3 sets.