Tire Running for Strength

Tire Running is a great strength building workout whether you're training for a mountain race or the flats

I’ve had quite a few people comment and email about the tire pulling that I’ve been doing during runs recently and thought that I’d share a bit more about why and how to do it.

My main reason for adding tire pulling to my training was that we don’t have many hills and certainly nothing of any length that would compare to a mountain. The idea behind pulling a tire during a run is that it mimics the resistance and gravity of long uphill sections of running and is a great strength building workout.

With training for Transrockies 6 day race in Colorado that begins next weekend, this has been a really good training tool. Tethering/towing your teammate is permitted at Transrockies, so Sara and I may have the opportunity to do this as well.

I first started doing some tire running, while training for Rock and Ice Ultra a few years ago as it’s very specific to pulling a pulk/sled when there is no snow on the ground. It’s a tough workout, but one that you certainly gain a lot of strength from doing.

Here are a few recommendations that you may find helpful.

Belt – Many will use a weightlifting belt, but I find that a wide hydration belt is a little more comfortable. The belt that I used is the same Nathan winter belt that I use for pulling a pulk. The extra padding is quite comfortable.

Tire – Any worn out tire will do. Drill a hole through the middle and attached the rope through the tire so that the rope doesn’t drag on the ground and wear through.

Rope/Bungee – Attach about an 8 foot section of rope from the belt to the tire (any shorter and the tire may bounce). The last 2 feet should include some bungee cord to help take some of the strain off of your lower back. Rope/bungee can be attached by carabiners to the tire and to the belt.

Name your tire – Always best to name your tire as you’ll be spending some quality time training together so need to be on a first name basis. Mine is named Bubba. I know of many with names which shouldn’t be repeated.

This is my setup for Tire Running with 'Bubba the Tire'

Training with your tire:
First run – Like adding any new form of training, you need to begin very easy. Adding a few minutes of tire running at the end of your normal run is a great spot to begin. It is considerably more challenging than running, so don’t do too much the first couple of times out.

Frequency – Once per week is plenty and will compliment your training nicely. It’s always best to include on a lighter day of training where you will have an easy day before and after your tire run.

Duration – As mentioned, start with a few minutes to begin with at the end of your run, then increase from there. After a few weeks you should be comfortable with 20 minutes of continuous tire running. Don’t hesitate to take walk breaks though if you feel you need to or if feeling any excessive strain. I’ve built up to a 60 minute tire pulling run as my longest after about 6 weeks, and not sure if I see the benefit of extending that any further.

Surface – Grass and asphalt seem to be the most challenging surfaces to run on. We live on a dirt/gravel road which is a pretty good pulling surface. My favourite surface to tire run on is the Cataraqui Trail, which is stonedust/cinders. The small rocks provide a good surface for the tire to roll over with a little less friction.

Intensity – You will be running considerably slower while tire running, than normal running. In most cases you will probably be running at least 2 minutes per km slower, depending on the surface. One good way of monitoring your effort is by wearing a heartrate monitor and staying within your normal training zone.

Form – You will find yourself leaning forward a little more than normal, but should avoid leaning forward too much. Make sure to shorten your stride slightly, but aim to maintain your normal stride turnover with the goal of hitting close to 180 strides per minute.

Now you’re all set to add this challenging, but effective workout to your training. Once again, ease into it gradually and I’m sure that you’ll be impressed with the strength you’ve gained after a month of weekly tire running workouts. Just don’t be surprised if you get a few funny looks from your neighbours; although you’re probably used to it. I know I sure am!

See you on the trails!


  1. Looking forward to getting Kegger out again this winter.

  2. For you?….tractor tire! :)

  3. When (if?) you tow me at TR, please, please, please……don’t call me BUBBA!

  4. Haha….deal. Same goes for you!

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