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Strength Training for Runners

Radhika Meganathan talks to the assistant secretary of Chennai District Powerlifting Association JYOTSNA JOHN about the importance of strength training for serious runners.

Meet the NSCA certified personal trainer and Olympic weightlifting instructor – Jyotsna John, who founded The Unit in Kotturpuram, in 2012. Since then, she and her team have helped train over 900 people into a better lifestyle through exercise and nutrition counseling. In this exclusive interview, she shares her strength training tips for the avid runner.

How did you get started in strength training?

I have played competitive basketball for 16 years. I started strength training during my high school, as part of fitness regime for the sport. I loved how strong I got and how much better my jumps were when I trained and I haven’t looked back since.

How important is strength training for runners?

Extremely! Running places a lot of stress on the knee joint and the muscles around it. If you don’t have the strength to carry your body over the many miles you have to run both for the long training period and on race day, you will definitely get injured at some point. Strength training will help you avoid this pitfall.

What kinds of strength training programs are available for runners?

With runners, the focus is not on building big muscles or lifting big weights. It’s on building stability through the knees, hips and ankles and increasing their tolerance to distance running. At The Unit, we usually recommend light weights and lots of reps along with plenty of core training to help our runners stay injury free.

How should marathon runners set goals for strength training?

Do shorter runs at faster paces once in a while. It’s a good measure of how strong you’re getting without creating too much stress on your joints.

How does strength training help in recovery after a marathon?

Benefits of strength training are largely indirect. If you’re stronger and more capable of handling the impact of tens of thousands of steps on a hard surface (like the road) at high velocity, then you are likely to need less recovery time.

Are there different ways of strength training for men and women Marathon runners?

Women can tolerate more volume than men. Hence, the only (tiny) difference is, strength training for women usually involves more sets and reps than for men. Otherwise, the exercises and the training itself is the same for both gender. Same group of muscles, same demand on both muscles and joints, why should the training be any different!

Your strength training tips for first time marathon runners?

Balance the amount of time you put into running, with the amount of time you spend strengthening your muscles for the run. Lower your mileage, if needed, till you’re strong enough to do them well. 

What do you most worry about training runners?

Runners are by far the most obsessive, neurotic bunch of people I train. Even in the middle of an injury you can’t tell them to take a break because if you do, they react as if you’re trying to steal their inheritance!

For the runners I have so far trained, their weekly mileage is usually more important to them than their joints and they are for all these reasons more prone to injury than the average person. I’ve always found this amusing, because if you ask any runner why they started running, they’ll tell you it was to get fitter. But the longer they’ve been running, the less they care about health and the more they care about random numbers like mileage, tempo and other such things that look good on paper.

So is this what you’d like to caution long distance runners against strength training?

Yes. Don’t over-train. Somehow runners seem to be particularly susceptible to overtraining. The need to clock miles or put in the time for lifting weights should not outweigh your need to be healthy. Listen to your body and if needed, take days off from training. Rest before you need it and eat enough carbs to keep your muscles fuelled.

Is it better to do the strength training at home or with a trainer?

If you can’t afford professional training, at least do a few sessions with a good trainer and learn the right way to perform your movements. Bad movement patterns can cause injury and wear out the joints. But if you are a serious runner, investing in a good trainer will help you understand exercise technique and prevent injuries.

For training queries, Jyotsna can be contacted at http://jyotsnajohn.in or at The Unit (www.the-unit.in)



A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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Understanding the Ultra-marathon

So now since you have run the full marathon a few times, are you looking to ramp up to the next level of long distance running and are you prepared for it, asks Nandini Reddy

The classic marathon is running a distance of 26.2 miles. But the next level after you have done the marathon a few times is the Ultra-marathon. Each ultra marathon distance varies between 30 – 50 miles. There is really not set rule that it should be a particular distance only. So what is it like to run an ultra marathon?

So if you have decided to give it a go then there are a few things that you need to understand about an ultra-marathon which are different from a marathon.

Trails rather than city runs: Ultra-marathons are more scenic. There are several races organised along trekking trails. The varied terrain gives a full body workout so its necessary that pre-race you work on strengthening your muscles.

Food is a huge factor: Ultra Marathons have breaks where you have to recharge your body with food and energy drinks. Certain events even put out a lavish spread for runners. You need to understand that ultra marathons might last upwards of six hours so fueling your body is a huge portion of the race.

Run slowly: Keeping in mind the distance that needs to be covered. It is recommended that you run slower than normal. It is generally opined that Ultra-marathons are more fun than full marathons because of the pace. The key is to finish the race without collapsing at the end of it. There are no real set standards of time to complete and ultra-marathon so don’t try to race against the clock.

You will find walkers: It is likely that for a few stretches you will find folk walking. During the uphills people are encouraged to walk to conserve their energy to run on the flatter terrains.  You might even come across people using trekking poles on uphill terrain. If you are walking you might make some friends along the way as well.

Training varies: Most ultra runners train much as they would for a marathon, but make the long run a little longer, or run some back-to-backs. Training runs can be shorter for 30 – 35 miles and then you can ramp up with slower paced runs for 40-45 mile runs.

Ultra marathoners are a massive welcoming group of runners so it would be a good deal to try one sometime soon.




An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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