Essential Upper Body Strength Training for Runners

Essential Upper Body Strength Training for Runners | happyfitmama.comA runner’s legs get all the attention.

Rightly so. We need to strengthen our quads, fire up the glutes, stretch out the ever tight hamstrings and of course, keep our calves strong and loose.

Just because the lower body gets all the attention, doesn’t mean your upper body doesn’t need any love. It’s not just going along for the ride. To be an efficient runner, you need to have your whole body work together to stride through the miles.

A strong upper body in a runner will help you power through when your legs are getting tired in the late stages of any hard effort workout or race. If you’ve ever spectated a race before, you know what I’m talking about. You’ll see runners with hunched over shoulders and arms barely moving as they cross the finish line. Most likely, their feet are shuffling, not gliding along like you want.

With trail and mountain running, I’m finding that strength in my arms and back are really needed as I’m climbing/power hiking up the hills. If I’m collapsing in my upper body when I fatigue on the hills, I’m making my legs work 10x harder than need be. But if I pump my arms faster, my legs follow suit. It’s the same thing even when you are running on flat ground. To run faster and more efficient, you need your whole body to be strong and in sync.

Now, I’m not talking about building bulky biceps or lats. I’m talking about building strength to help carry you through the miles.That’s all a runner wants, right?

Here’s two upper body focused workouts just for runners.

FYI – While I am a certified professional, I am not your trainer. Listen to your body and it’s limitations. Please check with your physician if you are new to exercise or have any questions regarding your health and exercise.

Essential Upper Body Strength Training for Runners |

Essential Upper Body Strength Training for Runners |

Feel free to do either of these complete workouts. Or pick a handful of upper body exercises and lower body exercises to give you a full body workout 2-3x/week for the maximum benefit.

The most important thing is that you are strength training in addition to running. Because a runner can’t survive on running alone.

Looking for more upper body workouts for runners?  Check out 6 different workouts HERE.

Linking up with Coaches Corner.

Last Week’s Workouts

Last week's workouts | happyfitmama.comLast week’s workouts I spent way too much time worrying about the status of my ankle that I sprained at Loon Mountain Race 2 weeks ago.

At one point, I had myself convinced that I had fractured it. It’s funny how your mind can go there once you’ve had a stress fracture.  You never forget that stuff.

In my weekly check in with my coach, I voiced my concerns over my ankle and if it could handle running long over the weekend. He made a great point – worrying about my ankle is energy lost. I should be focusing my energy on what I can do – full recovery of my ankle sprain.

So I made a commitment to not thinking of my ankle. I found that the more I thought about it, the more it didn’t feel “right”. When I stopped focusing on it, I didn’t even notice it. The mind is a powerful thing, right?

Here’s the rundown of last week’s Triple HHH of workouts.


40 minutes Elliptical Intervals

Strength training: Bullet Proof Legs Circuit + Upper Body

After two weeks off from the gym and strength training, I was severely feeling this workout.  My legs were wobbling as I walked out of the gym.

Time to get back at it!


45 minute run, 8:57 avg/pace

I leashed up Max and hit the pavement for some miles. There was nothing too exciting about the run but I had an intense feeling of happiness because it’s SUMMER!  I know it’s hot, humid and soupy AF out but there’s just something about the cleansing sweat of a summer run. It’s different than other time of the year.  Probably because EVERY SINGLE PORE is sweating.  Even your eyeballs. Soak it up, friends.  Winter will be here soon enough.

Morning Flow Yoga @ Bending Bodhi

Last week's workouts | happyfitmama.comI tried something new today.  My friend, Jen, told me about an Infrared Lightstim Therapy Treatment she received after spraining her ankle in May.  She had one treatment and was pain free from then on.

I can’t say that it cured my sprained ankle but it was nice and relaxing.  I bet it would be quite lovely in the winter.


30 minutes Arc Trainer Strength Intervals

Strength Training: Bullet Proof Legs + Upper Body Circuit/core

Nothing too exciting about this workout. Worked hard and got it done!


45 minute run, 8:46 avg/pace

It’s amazing how lower temps (68 degrees!) and lower humidity can feel so refreshing. But then you start running and the sweet summer sweat returns.

The joy of summer running!

Last week's workouts |

Morning Flow Yoga @ Bending Bodhi


Rest day!


14 mile run – 8 on the road, 6 on trails, 1100 ft elevation gain

It was another ridiculously hot morning that was only going to get hotter as the day went on. With a heat index over 100 degrees, I knew it was best to get my run done as early as possible.  I woke up later than I wanted and had zero desire to run on the roads. But then Lukas woke up and I asked if he wanted to ride his bike with me for a few miles before I met up with Kyle.

We cruised along for 3+ miles before I dashed over to Kyle’s house.  We did 4+ miles together for a total of 8 for me. I really, really didn’t want to do another 6 miles on the road so I made a shoe swap, changed my tank, grabbed my pack and hit the trails for the remainder of my miles.

Last week's workouts | happyfitmama.comIt was a nice change of pace on the trails.  Still hot AF but at least I didn’t have direct sunlight on my.

I walked some hills and kept the pace light.  My focus was to work on nutrition and hydration and not end up sick.

Mission accomplished.


40 minute recovery run, 4.23 miles

Last week's workouts | happyfitmama.comI slept in till almost 7. It was 82 degrees with full sun and humid AF. The only saving grace was the lovely breeze.  I kept things light, stuck to the shady side of the street (if there was any) and took walk breaks as needed. I was drenched from head to toe.  I’ll remember these super sweaty days with fondness when I have lashicles and frozen fingers in January.

How was your week in workouts?

Linking up with the Weekly Run Down.

Last Week’s Workouts

Last week's workouts | happyfitmama.comBefore we get into last week’s workouts, let’s talk about what’s been going on the past few days.

My apologies for ghosting you for the past few days. I’ve been nose-deep in blog/hosting issues.  I hate dealing with that stuff. I’ll be doing a chat with Bluehost and they’ll start spewing out words that I have no idea what it means.  Thankfully, Ron speaks that language so I passed my troubles on to him.

Maybe I should spew out my own terms like PR, DNF, BQ just so they can fell my pain.

I’m back online so let’s get back to last week’s workouts.

Last week’s workouts were all about transitioning from “shorter” uphill mountain races to training for my first 50k. It came as a good time considering I needed some downtime from running to make sure my sprained ankle from Loon Mountain was good to go.


Rest day


Morning Flow Yoga @ Bending Bodhi

Last week's workouts |

16.2 mile bike ride

With this being transition week, I had the option of doing whatever I wanted to reset and recharge before 50k training officially starts.

Since my ankle was still puffy, I took the opportunity to jump on my bike for a ride down to the Bay. I like cycling but cars are a scary thing.  Why is it so different than running?  Maybe because we are going faster?

Am I the only one who has visions of their front tire flying off while zooming down a mega hill?  Only me?  Cool.


25 minute fast paced dog walk

20 minutes strength training

I thought about hitting the gym this morning but opted for sleeping in and getting a mini workout at home. Next week starts training again so they’ll be plenty of time to hit the gym.

Good news – my ankle bone became visible again today!


4.2 mile SUP paddle

Kyle and I usually meet up once a week to run but with this being transition week and me taking it easy with my ankle, we opted for SUP (stand up paddleboard if you didn’t know) around Duck’s Head. It was a foggy morning to start with water smooth as glass. You know you are among geeky runner friends when we both were so excited to track our paddle with our GPS watches.  If you are wondering, we cruised along the little islands at a brisk pace of 2.0 mph. Obviously, we had a very large wake behind our vessels.

Last week's workouts | happyfitmama.comFriday

Rest day!


15.2 mile bike ride

I took my bike for another spin. It was a hazy, hot and humid morning so the breeze on the bike was quite lovely. And I still thought about my front tire flying off while going down hill.

FYI – bike pics aren’t nearly as fun as taking Runfies. #justsaying


30 minute walk turned run

I intended to take Max for a fast paced dog walk but after 5 minutes of walking, I thought I’d test out my ankle with some easy running. It’s amazing how one week off from running can feel so weird those first few steps. My ankle initially felt tight at first but loosened up with time. The swelling is still there but mostly gone. There was no pain so that’s a good sign.

Last week's workouts | happyfitmama.comThis is definitely not how I had planned on how I’d be kicking off 50k training but I’m excited to get back to a training plan. You don’t hear this much from runners but I’ve missed the strength training and the gym.  Obviously, I’ve missed running, too.  Here’s to running ALL the miles in the next few months.

How was your week in workouts?

Linking up with Coaches Corner.