An Olympic Hopeful Runner Just Shared His Super Accessible Full-Body Workout
Whether you love to run or just want stronger bones and muscles to avoid life's wear-and-tear that can limit you later, this elite athlete shares the routine that helped him overcome career-threatening illness and injury. (The best part? You can do all these moves at home!)
There aren’t many six-year-olds who’d want to run two miles a day, much less wake up early enough to get their run in before school. However, that’s exactly what Matthew Schneider did.
As a child, Schneider was inspired by his father, who was also an avid runner. It wasn’t long before it became his own passion. By middle school he was already training with high school athletes and was certain of what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: run.
Schneider, who’s now 24, competed in college while completing a degree in business administration. His discipline paid off when in 2018, he made it to the NCAA Division III National Championships. His dream of becoming an Olympic athlete finally felt in reach. Olympic marathoners have to run a mile in 5:16—for 26.2 miles in a row. At the time, Schneider was pacing around 5:20 per mile. He’d need to push his hardest ever to shave nearly two minutes off his marathon time.
Just as he was trying, he suffered a series of devastating setbacks: The Covid-19 pandemic canceled the competitions he needed to win, if he wanted to qualify. He also contracted mononucleosis, which would call for four months of rest and recovery. Then, he suffered an injury from overuse that required surgery and nine months to heal. (Logging too many miles without recovering is one of the top 10 common mistakes runners make.)
Courtesy Matthew Schneider
Schneider tells The Healthy that he’d taken his health for granted before the pandemic, illness, and injury all knocked him out for a while. Since then, he says he’s learned the importance of being proactive, including eating a diet optimized for his sport, getting plenty of recovery, and especially doing the right type and amount of exercise. “I learned the hard way that anyone can run the miles—but the difference between a runner and an elite athlete is doing all those little things,” he says.
He decided that 2021 would be the year to reach peak form. Schneider moved to Colorado Springs where he started training with an Olympic coach, with the 2023 Olympic trials as his goal. Not only would he need to rehab his injuries—but if this were even possible, he’d also need to build up and make his body the strongest it had ever been.
(Did you know that running might actually make you live longer?)
Strength training is essential for runners
Today Schneider runs six days a week … but any serious runner knows that you need a well-rounded workout regimen to strengthen your total body and help prevent running injuries. So, under his coaches’ guidance, Schneider also strength-trains three days a week. This runner’s strength workout targets all the muscles that runners use and is necessary to increase his pace and running efficiency, and make him resistant to future injuries, he says.
Here, he shares his pro strength workout with The Healthy readers. The best part? You can do every move at home!
Serious about running? These are the terms every runner needs to know.
Schneider says runners should focus on improving ankle and foot strength and mobility. These two warm-up moves will get you started:
Ankle hops: For three minutes, jump as if you are jumping rope—but, instead of landing in the same spot every time you touch the floor, vary the direction in which you jump, going side to side and back and forward.
Plyometrics: For two minutes, alternate every 30 seconds between stepping or jumping lunges (also called “split squats”), and 30 seconds of sideways lunges.
Strengthening your glutes, hips, and legs with these moves will help you run faster and with more endurance. (You’ll need a resistance band for these—here’s one our team loves.)
Glute walk: Place a resistance band around your ankles, lower into a squat, and then step sideways, one foot at a time. Step 10 times to the right, then 10 steps to the left. After the first set, repeat this twice.
Monster walk: With the band still around your ankles, lower into a squat, and walk 10 steps forward while keeping your feet wide. Then take 10 steps backward. Repeat this twice, in both directions.
Fire hydrants: Move the resistance band up to your knees and kneel down on all fours. With your right knee bent, lift your leg to the right side (yes, the name for this move is inspired by what many dogs love to do when they encounter a fire hydrant). Then, keeping your knee bent, lift your leg behind you and press your heel toward the ceiling. Complete 10 before switching to the left side. Repeat twice, on both legs.
Squats: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees, and sit back like you’re sitting in a chair. Stand back up. Do 30 reps, then repeat two more times. (Here’s your guide to doing the perfect squat.)
During a run, you use your arms, shoulders, and upper back more than you probably realize! Strengthening your upper body helps you maintain good form and preserve energy and stamina.
Push-ups: From your knees or your toes, do 30 pushups. Repeat for two more sets.
Triceps dips: Find a stable chair whose seat reaches you at approximately knee-height, and place it behind you. Place your hands on the chair and—with your legs extended in front of you—lower your bottom toward the floor. Keep your elbows in tight as you raise and lower your body. Do 30 reps (yes, you’ll feel this burn). Repeat this twice.
Running arms: Holding a weight in each hand, bend your elbows and keep your arms close to your side. Move your arms as you would when you run. Do 30 slow reps. Repeat twice. (Don’t have dumbbells? Here’s a dumbbell set we love—or, Schneider says, you can use cans of soup or jugs of milk. )
Schneider says a strong core is a runner’s secret weapon. It helps you maintain good posture, which in turn improves your lung efficiency, making it easier to take deep breaths. A strong core is also necessary to lift your knees with each step as you run, as well as to prevent back injuries.
Schneider has an intense 10-minute core routine that he does after every workout, completing each of the following exercises for 30 seconds:
High planks (on the hands)
Low planks (on the elbows)
Up-down planks (alternating from the elbows to the hands, and back down again—yowza!)
Right side plank
Left side plank
Star plank (a high plank, but with arms and legs set wide)
Plank with hip dips (alternately dropping each hip toward the ground … again, this one’ll burn)
The following exercises are designed to work the back:
Dead bug (lying on your back, raise your arms above your head and your legs to a 90-degree angle. Then drop one arm as you straighten one leg. Come back to starting position, and repeat on the other side)
Core twists (seated in the risen crunch position, alternate the hands from one side of the torso to the other)
In & out crunches (balancing on the rear, extend arms and legs at the same time and then bring them into a ball. Extend again, and repeat for 30 seconds
Left side crunch
Right side crunch
Scissor kicks (on your back, alternately bring one knee over the opposite kneecap, then continue to switch legs for 30 seconds)
Flutter kicks (again, on your back, simply raise one leg while lowering the other)
Heel taps (on your back, raise your legs to 90 degrees and, with control, drop your heels to touch the ground)
Boat pose (raise both your head and toes to equal height so that your pelvic region forms a V)
You may want to start with holding a plank for 30 seconds to one minute. As you get stronger you can add more time and variations, like these 19 of the best core exercises of all time.
And, don’t forget recovery
“Recovery is the best tool runners have, and yet a lot of us try to skimp on it,” Schneider says. “If you want to improve, you have to make recovery just as much of a priority as your workouts.” Here are his recovery tips:
- Stretch and foam roll after each workout, focusing on your legs, hips, and feet.
- Drink or eat protein after each workout. (How much protein should you eat? We offer a formula here.)
- Get seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.
- Don’t push through pain or small injuries, or you’ll likely end up with serious injuries.
- Take one day off per week for “active recovery,” like a hike or gentle yoga.
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