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The most important tip for runners' strength training is the same tip given to other athletes: try to avoid overtraining, which can lead to injuries, progress plateaus, and even a negative impact on muscle growth. Rest days should always be included in any strength training schedule so the muscles can recover in preparation for more training. Runners' strength training should also be combined with a healthy diet that provides the fuel necessary to train efficiently; avoiding fatty foods is vital, as is being selective about how much food is eaten during the training regimen.
One of the most important exercises that should be a part of runners' strength training is the squat. The squat works several muscles in the legs, hips, and back all at once, and it is one of the most immediately beneficial exercises a runner can do. It is very important to find out how to do a squat properly to avoid injury; squats can be done with or without weights, and it is advisable to start without weights if the runner is new to this exercise. Lunges are similar to squats in terms of the muscles they strengthen, though this exercise is also ideal for improving a runner's balance. Lunges can also be done with or without weights as part of runners' strength training.
It may help the runner to participate in cross-training exercises. Cross-training involves participating in other sports that will be beneficial to the movements and muscles used during running. Cross-country skiing, for example, strengthens many of the same muscles that a runner will use in competition, but tends to be lower impact on the joints in the legs, therefore making it beneficial for exercising the muscles without enhancing the risk of injury or overuse.
Runners' strength training should not avoid upper body work. Developing the muscles of the upper body can help improve balance and help the runner propel himself or herself forward more efficiently. Further, exercising the upper body can help prevent back injuries; the core muscles of the body support the spine, and weak core muscles may allow spinal injuries to occur while running, often debilitating the runner and stopping training altogether. Strengthening the core muscles will help prevent injuries and therefore prevent delays in training or pain in the back resulting from normal running motions. Regardless of which part of the body is being exercised, it is vital that the person stretch thoroughly before and after exercise to promote muscle health.
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