5 Things To Look For When Choosing A Strength Training Class

Photos by Maura Gownley

Photos by Maura Gownley

By Takia McClendon

If you’ve ever followed along a distance running plan, you’ve probably come across the terms “cross-training” or “strength-training” on your schedule. Sadly, if you’re like most of the runners I know, you either skip those workouts or opt for a friendly yoga or spin class. Now before you spit out your coffee, I’m not saying yoga and spin are bad (I enjoy doing both workouts!). What I’m saying is that if you want to reduce your chance of injury and become a stronger runner, your cross-training should also include at least one or two days of weight training.

Does that mean you have to do CrossFit? Nope. Does it mean that you have to pump heavy iron to get “serious gains”? Not exactly, bro. What it means is that by adding a few workouts that incorporate lifting weights that specifically benefit runners, you could be on your way to an injury-free training season and maybe a new personal best.

Now before you jump in the next weightlifting studio on ClassPass, you should know that not all “strength workouts” are created equally. In fact, I can pinpoint the exact workout that triggered an injury that put me in a boot for 6 weeks. It’s not that the workout was bad, it just wasn’t what I needed to complement my training schedule.

If you don’t have a home gym or a gym membership and you’d rather opt for a group training environment, here are five things you should look for when choosing a strength training class:

1: The Coaches Are Familiar With The Specific Needs of Runners


Not only should your coach/instructor be encouraging and supportive, they should also know specific movements that runners need to improve performance. Do they focus on workouts that improve hip strength? Do they focus on movements to strengthen your quads and hamstrings? Before you commit to a membership, find out if any of the coaches on staff are runners, running coaches, or familiar with training runners who want to get stronger and avoid injury.

2: The Workouts Incorporate Resistance (with Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Barbells, Bands, etc.)


Don’t be afraid of weights. Movements like weighted squats, lunges, rows, deadlifts, etc. can help increase mobility, improve your posture, make your muscles stronger, contribute to joint health, and increase your stability and range of motion. If done properly, weight training can contribute to running injury-free by increasing strength to support adding more miles to your training load.

3: The Workouts Are Progressive (But You’re Not Forced To Over-Do It)


Is there an end goal? Is there a standard way to measure progress? If you show up to class three times a week and the workouts don’t really seem to progress or mesh together, this routine may not be the best to help improve your running. If you find yourself pressured to add weight or do exercises that you’re not ready to do, talk with your coach to make sure you’re on the same page about your needs.

4: The Workout Starts With Some Type Of Warm-Up or Movement Prep


Before doing any strenuous activity, your muscles should be warmed up to avoid injury during your workout. Some classes will start with a dynamic warm-up (not static) and others will start with cardio. Either way, your muscles should be prepped and activated before you start the real work. Bonus points if the class includes a cool down.

5: The Workout is Fun & Enjoyable


Yes, you should be working hard but the class should also be fun! If you’re not in a welcoming and enjoyable environment, it may be time to find a different class. You should leave class in a better mood than when you arrived.

The photos (and video) included in this post are from City Fit Girls’ private workout with Never Give Up Training (NGU) in Manayunk (Philadelphia, PA). If you’re in the Philadelphia area, check out their Sports Specific Training or pop in for a group session to learn more about their studio. 

Takia McClendon is the co-founder of City Fit Girls. She's a Certified Level 1 USATF Coach. Follow her online at @takiamcclendon.