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Fitness

Go the Distance

Follow this exercise program to improve your running strength and APFT score
©Shutterstock; illustrations by Kyle Hilton
©Shutterstock; illustrations by Kyle Hilton

To become a strong, dynamic runner, you need to build strength head to toe. Utilize exercises that create symmetry in the body as well as strengthen posture so, whether you’re prepping for the APFT or hoping to improve your time for next year’s Army Ten-Miler, you can finish and set new personal bests. 

Incorporate these five exercises once or twice per week for six weeks. Start at the lower range for sets and repetitions and work toward the higher end.

1. DEAD LIFT
Utilizing a bilateral exercise like the dead lift is a great way to identify lateral differences and be able to correct them. Feet should be shoulder width apart and straight, with your hand grip outside the knees. Shift weight back so shins are vertical, core tight and chest open. Extend legs by pressing through flat feet. The path of the bar will be vertical. Sets: 2–4. Reps per set: 10–15. 

Tip: Avoid lower-back pain by engaging glutes and abs and keeping chest lifted.

2. STEP-UPS
Use this versatile exercise to develop glute strength and stability to power up a hill, or to improve your kick at the end of your APFT 2-mile run. Feet, hips and shoulders should face forward throughout. You are working the front leg. Focus on driving that heel into the step to engage the glute. As you approach a fully extended position, bring the opposite leg up in front at 90 degrees. Sets: 2–3. Reps per set: 10–15 (complete all reps on one leg, then switch). 

Tip: Pace should be slow and controlled.

3. OVERHEAD WALKING LUNGES
Carrying a load directly overhead while moving forward will develop the postural muscles that need to be strong to support longer or more intense runs. Start with a light weight and then build as form allows. Arms should be directly over your shoulders and hips. Abs must draw in to maintain neutral spine. Keep this position as you perform either stationary or walking lunges. Sets: 2–4. Reps per set: 10 lunges per leg. 

Tip: Keep feet straight and drive up through flat front foot while keeping torso and arms stacked.

4. FOREARM PLANK KNEE DRIVES
Maintain a straight line from head to toe, drawing abs toward spine and keeping chest broad. Once you can hold this position for a minute, incorporate alternating knee to elbow. This reflects the knee lift position used in running. Sets: 2–3. Reps per set: 30–60 seconds. 

Tip: Draw abs strongly toward spine with each exhale to strengthen core posture. The ball should remain still throughout.

5. INCLINE PULL-UPS
A strong back helps you stay upright during long or intense runs. Grip bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart, open chest and pull shoulders down from ears. Maintain a straight line from head to toe. Exhale and pull chest to bar. Shoulders should be relaxed and back, away from the apex of the chest. Difficulty increases as the bar lowers. Sets: 3. Reps per set: 10–20. 

Tip: Keep body tight throughout, using smooth, controlled movements.


GETTING UP TO SPEED

Use these tips to max out your running potential. 

  • Incorporate running drills to improve running technique and increase efficiency of the entire leg. High knees, seat kicks, heel-ups, skipping and other drills can be used as an effective warmup for running. For some helpful videos, check out the Beginner’s Guide to Pose Running on YouTube.
  • Invest in a standing workstation. When you sit all day, you shorten your hip flexors, calves and hamstrings and tend to slouch—all of which are counterproductive to running. A standing workstation will mitigate these issues and encourage better positioning overall to prep you for your workout.
  • Take the stairs. Climbing sets of stairs two at a time will give you bonus glute work and a pop of cardio throughout the day. 

 

Warning: Always seek the advice and guidance of a qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have before commencing a fitness program. This article should not be relied on or substituted for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. The exercises presented are for suggestion only. Participate at your own risk. Stop if you feel faint or short of breath.