Peppy Steps & Workouts

Basic Strength Routine for the Beginner Runner

As you begin your running journey, you’ll soon realize that there’s a lot more to running than the run. Increasing your weekly mileage and quickening your pace will only take you so far as you train to achieve your running goals. And if you constantly pound the pavement without a balanced training schedule, you could end up injured. Supplementing your running with strengthening exercises can help improve your speed and efficiency and prevent common injuries. Think of it this way – incorporating strength exercises into your weekly training is a way you can become a stronger runner, without actually running more! Pretty cool!

The following routine is geared towards beginner runners but can be easily adapted to any skill level. Plus, runners of all experience levels can benefit from incorporating strength work into their training schedule. I recommend completing this routine twice a week for the best success.

All of these exercises focus on strengthening the hips and core to build strength, stability and confidence! Challenge yourself to integrate this routine into your weekly schedule and consider it just as important to your training as your long runs and speed workouts.

Another bonus – this strengthening workout can be completed without any gym equipment. It’s the perfect thing to do if you are traveling, the weather is too nasty to run, you’re taking the day off from running, or you’re just not in the mood to lace up your running shoes. I like using a yoga mat for some added cushion but a towel or carpeted floor or a similar surface works fine as well.


The Routine

This strength routine is made up of six exercises, broken up into three sets of two. Complete each set of two exercises, alternating the two exercises for a total of three times each, before moving on to the next pair of exercises. To summarize your workout should look like this: Set #1 x 3, Set #2 x 3, Set #3 x 3.


Set #1: Fire Hydrants & Donkey Kicks

Fire Hydrants (10 on each side) – Start on all fours in table top position. Your wrists should be directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Using your core to stabilize yourself and raise one leg (still bent) to the side. Lift this leg as high as you can without turning out your hips. Focus on raising your leg with control instead of trying to lift your leg as high as you can. You will definitely start to feel this one even if you only lift your leg 45 degrees. Slowly bring your leg back to the ground and repeat for a total of 10 times on the same side before switching to the other leg.


Donkey Kicks (10 on each side) – Bring your forearms to your mat so that your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Lift on leg straight back and raise it to the sky. As with the last exercise, there is no need to strain yourself to achieve height with your leg. Focus on maintaining control as you lift your leg up and then slowly bring it back to your side again. Do this same motion 10 times total on one leg and then the other.


Set #2: Bridges and Penguins

Bridges (10) – Flip yourself over so that your back is pressed to the mat and your feet are planted firmly on the ground. Leave your arms by your sides on the ground with your palms down. Make sure that your entire back is on the ground from your upper back to your lower back and maintain this position during the exercise so you avoid arching. Lift yourself up using the strength in your upper hamstrings and core. Slowly lower your body back to the mat with control. Repeat 10 times.


Penguins (40) – OK, I know, this one probably has another more official name but I like to imagine myself waddling like a penguin during this exercise so we’re going with it. Start in the same position as you did with the bridges. Lift your shoulders and head off the ground and reach one arm to touch your heel on the same side. Quickly move your body to the side and reach for your heel on the other side. Each time you touch your heel, this counts as one repeat. Do 40 penguins total. You will feel this exercise in your obliques.


Set #3: Planks & Push-Ups

Planks (1 minute: 30 seconds front, 15 seconds each side) – Everyone loves these right? Runners can definitely benefit from a strong core – it helps with balance, injury prevention and gait efficiency. Planks are one of the best moves for building core muscle so here we go! You will start with both forearms on your mat for a 30 second front plank and then, without lowering your body, you will flip yourself so that one forearm is on the ground and your other arm is reaching towards the sky. Hold this side plank for 15 seconds and then rotate to the other direction for a 15 second plank on the other side.



Push-Ups (10) – These are my personal weakness. Another classic strengthening exercise, push-ups will help you build upper body and core muscle. There is always the option to modify your push-ups and start with your knees on the mat. Depending on how I’m feeling, I often do modified push-ups. Feel free to do the same! Otherwise, you will start in a high plank position and lower and raise your body with control. Do 10 repeats total.


Let me know if you try this routine! Here’s an image to pin for later:

What’s your favorite strengthening exercise? How do you incorporate strength training into your weekly running routine? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Special thanks to my photographer, the lovely Gia Grimm.


  1. Nancy Peper

    Hi Lizzy, thanks for the inspiration. I definitely need to build more strengthening into my routine, even though I am not a runner. Do you have any suggestions for people who want to do some strengthening without putting stress on their spine? What can I do while leaving my spine in a neutral position? Thanks for any suggestions. Feel free to demonstrate them on Wednesday night 🙂

    1. Lizzy

      Hi Mom of a Vegan,

      Let’s try to find some low impact exercises you can do while you are on vacation. Perhaps some in a seating or standing position would be better for you? We can do some research together. 🙂

      1. Nancy Peper

        thanks peppysteps 🙂

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