Strength and Conditioning for Runners

By Tom Harrison – Physio at Reach Physio

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Running is an easy, enjoyable, and great way to improve your health and wellbeing. You can lace up your shoes almost anywhere and enjoy a workout in the great outdoors without any fancy equipment (of course these days you can add endless amounts of futuristic gadgets, if you’re that way inclined). 

Despite popular opinion that running is bad for our joints, it seems that running may actually have a protective effect. One of the largest pieces of research into this area compared over 200,000 non-runners with runners and found that those who run recreationally displayed significantly fewer signs of hip and knee osteoarthritis than their non-runner counterparts. 

However, running is not without injury risk. Research has found that around 50% of recreational runners develop a running-related injury when measured over the course of a year. Concerningly, research also suggests that only 20% of novice runners who developed injuries during the popular couch to 5k programme returned to running following the injury. From my professional experience treating runners, I also see an all too familiar pattern of runners picking up injuries and deciding not to return to the sport. 

As a physiotherapist, the vast majority of people I see have already developed an injury. But I often wonder whether we can do more to prevent injuries occurring in the first place. A preventative approach rather than a cure. 

Perhaps the solution is not so complex once we understand why injuries occur in the first place. Injuries happen when an applied load exceeds the capacity of a tissue. 

Let’s break this down a bit:

Every tissue in our body (bone, muscle, tendon etc.) has a capacity in which it is able to sustain loads placed upon it before an injury occurs. When we talk about load this can be physical; such as the volume of running or the percentage of high intensity sessions within the week. But it can also be non-physical, such as emotional load – increased stress or anxiety at work. 

Whilst the above factors may increase the load applied to a tissue, many factors also reduce a tissue’s capacity. Poor sleep, nutrition and lack of rest days between runs may contribute to this, but the most common and arguably most important factor I see is a lack of strength. To say that runners need to be strong would be an understatement. The hamstring muscles absorb forces up to 9 times our body weight when running at higher speeds. Whilst the calf muscles absorb around 7 times our body weight at most speeds. This does not mean I would expect a 70 kg runner to be able to calf raise 490 kg but I do believe that to improve the tissue’s capacity to withstand the applied loads associated with running, some form of strength and conditioning exercise needs to be included in a runners’ schedule. 

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That’s why I have started a new weekly Strength and Conditioning for Runners class, which aims to build strength in the key areas associated with running. During the class we combine strength, power and plyometric exercises with the ultimate goal of reducing injury risk whilst improving running performance. Anyone is welcome to the class and booking is on a weekly basis using the following link:

If you are keen to attend the class but have any questions prior to booking then don’t hesitate to contact me on 


Dorn, T. W., Schache, A. G., & Pandy, M. G. (2012). Muscular strategy shift in human running: dependence of running speed on hip and ankle muscle performance. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(11), 1944-1956. 

Jungmalm, J. (2021). Running-related injuries among recreational runners

Relph, N., Taylor, S. L., Christian, D. L., Dey, P., & Owen, M. B. (2023). “Couch-to-5k or Couch to Ouch to Couch!?” Who Takes Part in Beginner Runner Programmes in the UK and Is Non-Completion Linked to Musculoskeletal Injury?. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(17), 6682.