How to boost your running strength

© Julia Eileen Photography

How far you run before you’re passed by the Catcher Car is up to you, but whatever target you pick with the Goal Calculator, you’ll have a lot more fun reaching it if you feel strong – inside and out!

“One of the main things I absolutely love about running is our ability to build inner and outer strength,” says fitness and lifestyle transformation coach Lunden Souza, referring to the mental and physical sides of well-being. “Running has many incredible benefits in itself, but if you really want to become a better runner, I truly believe it’s an inside and an outside job.”

Lunden has worked in the international fitness industry for more than 13 years. After nearly burning out with a “more is more” mentality of trying to over-achieve in every aspect of life, she created her business, which has not only allowed her to find a work-life balance, but enables her to help others create a more fulfilling lifestyle for themselves.

When it comes to the benefits of running strength training, Lunden says, “Running – and cross training to help build strength to run better – can be incredibly beneficial for both your physical and mental health.”

Check out some of Lunden’s tips for best ways to build running strength, including exercises for runners:

1. Start with the "Why"

Lunden says that the place to start is determining why you run.

“This needs to be an emotionally compelling reason that helps you do what you need to do to reach your goals even when you ‘don’t feel like it,’” she explains. “What I have found is that a ‘why’ about looking a certain way – for example, ‘I have to run because I ate some cake’ – isn’t that compelling. But wanting to be healthy and active with your family, or knowing you are helping to raise awareness and money for those with spinal cord injury like what we are doing in the Wings for Life World Run, can be extremely compelling.”

Featuring new weekly episodes leading up to race day, the Why I Run podcast series features global guests who share their own reasons for running: from clearing their minds to sparking creativity and more.

2. Strengthen your lower body in all planes of motion

“Running is in the front-to-back plane,” Lunden explains, “but strengthening your legs and glutes in all planes of motion is going to be SO beneficial for your overall lower body strength, as well as help to prevent injury and improve performance.”

She recommends exercises such as lunges (sideways and forward), the donkey side kick and bridges to make your lower body stronger.

3. Work your core.

Lunden says, “Forgetting to train your core for running is like a tree without a trunk. Our core is our powerhouse and center of gravity. A stronger core helps us run more efficiently and improve running performance.”

Great core exercises that Lunden recommends include planks and the bird dog.

4. Find your balance – literally!

“Strengthening your stabilizer muscles is a critical part of fitness foundations!” Lunden emphasizes. “No matter how fit you are, incorporating regular balance and stabilization exercises weekly is so helpful to prevent injuries in our ankles, knees, hips, and so on, and also helps improve coordination.”

A targeted yoga flow can be an effective way to improve balance and stabilization.

5. Remember that running is an amazing tool for your mental health.

When it comes to dealing with stress, Lunden says, “I have found that staying active makes a world of difference.”

And there’s real science behind it. Lunden cites studies showing that exercise (especially cardiovascular exercise like running) significantly decreases anxiety symptoms.

6. Remember that when you’re fit, you can make a bigger impact in the world.

Let’s face it, the better we take care of ourselves, the better we can take care of others. We cannot pour from an empty cup. We have to fill ours up,” Lunden concludes.

Some ways that Lunden replenishes herself include meditation, eating nutritiously and listening to uplifting and empowering podcasts. You can find more from Lunden on social media @LifeLikeLunden and on her podcast.

Joining a Flagship Run or an App Run now is excellent motivation for building your running strength. Why not take an App Run on your favorite track and see how great you feel?