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Health & Fitness: 3 quick circuit workouts that’ll make you a stronger, faster runner

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How many days do you run a week? Four? Five, six? And how many hours does that take up? As much as you love to lace up your shoes, logging so many miles doesn’t leave a ton of extra time for all the other workouts you should do to be a better runner: mobility training, yoga, and strength work. We’re all a little guilty of letting the cross-training and prehab work slip from time to time.

Supplement your running routine with these cardio-meets-strength training circuits from a Barry’s Bootcamp instructor. © Caiaimage/Sam Edwards - Getty Images Supplement your running routine with these cardio-meets-strength training circuits from a Barry’s Bootcamp instructor.

But, “runners need to constantly training smarter, not harder,” says Matt Nolan, master instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City. That’s where circuit workouts, where you combine high-intensity cardio and strength training in one workout, come in. “With a great circuit routine, you can hit every muscle group in a short amount of time and without a lot of equipment,” he explains.

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This is especially important for runners, who—by the nature of the sport—tend to focus on their legs. “Sometimes we forget that we need a strong back, core, and arms to survive the training we put ourselves through,” Nolan says. And there are cardio and fat-burning benefits, too: “Strength circuits send your heart rate, and your metabolism, through the roof.”

The best part? You’ll never get bored during a circuit workout. “Play with different moves, play with new equipment, rearrange the order of the move, increase or decrease your reps or how heavy or light you go,” suggests Nolan. “The possibilities will always be endless.” To get started, try Nolan’s circuit workouts below.

1. Treadmill + strength circuit workout

Here are the exercises you’ll need to know for this circuit, demonstrated by Jess Movold, Runner’s World+ run coach:

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Note: Warm up easy, then perform some dynamic drills such as high knees, butt kicks, and side shuffles. As the runs get shorter, increase speed by 0.5 or one full point. Your run should be done at 85 percent max effort.

For the strength portion: You’ll need two medium-weight dumbbells.

Finish with an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) set: Set a timer for 8 minutes, and complete as many rounds as possible—aim for 7 to 11 rounds.

  1. Squat to Overhead Press: 6 reps
  2. Reverse Alternating Lunge to Biceps Curl: 6 reps, 3 on each side
  3. Alternating Plank Row: 6 reps, 3 on each side
  4. Mountain Climber: 20 reps

2. Outdoor speed + bodyweight circuit

Here are the exercises you’ll need to know for this circuit, demonstrated by Jess Movold, Runner’s World+ run coach:

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Note: For your next outdoor run, warm up easy for 10 to 15 minutes. Then perform the below exercises and speed drills. If you are not on or near a track, simply estimate the distance using a run watch or perform each drill for around 30 seconds.

3. 300 rep ab challenge circuit workout

A strong core is essential for strong running. On your strength training days or after an easy run, try this core challenge. Start with one set of each exercise to build strength, and when you can complete 100 reps (20 reps of 5 moves), then add a second and third set.

Here are the exercises you’ll need to know for this circuit, demonstrated by Jess Movold, Runner’s World+ run coach:

Images: Julia Hembree Smith

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