ST Run: Exercises like squats, push-ups, donkey kicks and plank after runs also help to build your muscles

Hit the hills for added strength

The Straits Times Run training clinic with training drills by Ben Pulham (squatting) at the OCBC Arena Park on July 27, 2019.
The Straits Times Run training clinic with training drills by Ben Pulham (squatting) at the OCBC Arena Park on July 27, 2019.ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

I have been a fan of the quote "Hills are speedwork in disguise" since I first heard it many years ago.

Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic marathon champion, spoke these wise words, and they should be considered carefully by every runner.

While it sounds logical that you must run fast in training to race fast (and occasionally you do), it's not quite that simple.

As Frank knows, and I shared in my first column, you are not limited by speed; you are limited by your ability to maintain a high percentage of your maximum speed for the duration of your race.

What Frank is hinting at is the importance of developing strength. Strength helps to delay the rate at which you fatigue so that you slow down less and maintain a higher percentage of your maximum speed.

Hills provide resistance, so the simple act of carrying your bodyweight up and down the hills over time makes you stronger. The outcome of an increase in strength is your ability to transfer more power through the ground, which leads to an increase in stride length.

Assuming your cadence - the number of steps you take per minute - remains the same, but your stride length is longer, you are faster. It is for this reason that I included hill runs in the training plan I created for the Sept 29 The Straits Times Run.

Aside from running over hills to develop strength, it is also essential for runners to do running-specific strength exercises as part of their weekly regimen. Strength training helps to minimise the structural and biomechanical imbalances that are a primary cause of running injuries.

With up to 79 per cent of runners getting injured every year, strength training is critical. Unfortunately, few runners dedicate any time to this discipline and as a result, are underperforming or getting hurt.

A simple search of "strength exercises for runners" in Google or YouTube will show up an abundance of exercises you can do to strengthen your muscles.

  • #AskCoachBen 

  • Ben Pulham is a former professional triathlete and the founder of Coached, a heart-rate training programme that helps you to optimise, track and enjoy your training.

    If you have a question, visit and post it in the #AskCoachBen section.

Some of my favourites are simple and can be done anywhere - no gym necessary! These include planks, squats, walking lunges, push-ups and donkey kicks.

Complete these exercises at the end of a run or after a short dynamic warm-up. Aim for two to three sessions a week for a total of 15-20 minutes each time.

By focusing on aerobic training and the development of strength, you optimise for consistency while laying down a framework that supports high performance.

Over time, your pace at the same heart rate (effort) will improve and the rate at which you fatigue will slow. In short, you will develop the capacity to run at a higher percentage of your maximum pace and achieve a better result on Sept 29.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 04, 2019, with the headline 'Hit the hills for added strength'. Print Edition | Subscribe