With my marathon training in full swing, I have decided to write a post on strength training for marathons. The reason being, I feel many people have begun to ditch the weights in the gym in favour of additional miles or half marathons on the pavement.
While the added mileage may be beneficial for increasing endurance, it might actually lead to extra injuries. The impact of the pavement whilst running puts an immense strain on the body and if your muscles aren’t prepared to handle the load, the stress gets absorbed by other parts. Such as your bones and connective tissues.
Over time shin splints, stress fractures and ‘runner’s knee’ can force even the most dedicated of runners to miss their target marathon times! This is why I feel that maintaining a strength programme throughout your training is critical for overall success.
A good strength training programme will assist your body and will help slow any muscle breakdown that may occur when running long distances. In my opinion for best results your weight and running training should compliment each other. With this training duo working on your side you should feel comfortable enough to see yourself cross that finish line.
Stability and balance is also very often overlooked by runners, however I believe it is a vital ingredient for marathon success. Helping your body to sustain good core control and muscle recruitment from other areas around your body will reduce the chances of injury. This will of course help your running ability. Learn to love yoga and discover the power of a two minute warrior or pigeon pose. It might change your life forever…
When should I start my weight training and running programme? I think It is important for non lifters who want to try a strength training programme to begin their weight training as early into their marathon training as possible. This will prepare your mind and body for any delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that you’re likely to get (given you’re working muscles you’ve never worked before). I recommend starting the strength programme early as the last thing you want during your training is for DOMS to kick in and start affecting your ability to complete long distance runs.
You need to remember that the key to success with strength training is good form and great execution rather than heavy weight. After all, you’re not trying to become a bodybuilder. Bodyweight exercises like single leg deadlifts and squats or pistol squats are ideal movements to perfect. These exercises will strengthen your hips and prepare your muscles for all those heavy miles you’re going to complete.
Other exercises like barbell squats and barbell deadlifts are also perfect. Another great thing to try is plyometric training. This type of exercise is great for any ‘power phase’ that you might have added to your programme. This style of training is all about performing jumps as powerfully and as explosively as you can (without falling over). Jump squats, box jumps and plyometric push-ups are perfect to aid potential muscle stiffness that you may have from all the running you’re doing. Since the focus is on form and intensity, not volume, sets and reps should be relatively low (2-3 sets with 6-8 reps) and lots of rest time in-between!
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