Mar 01 2013

Marathon Training: How to Run Faster, Longer and Stronger…

Paula Radcliffe Strength Training I’ve never met a runner who has not suffered an injury. More to the point, of all the runners I have ever known, most view injury as a reasonable expectation and are not surprised when it happens*. The cycle is simple. Train hard until you get…

Paula Radcliffe Strength Training

I’ve never met a runner who has not suffered an injury. More to the point, of all the runners I have ever known, most view injury as a reasonable expectation and are not surprised when it happens*.

The cycle is simple. Train hard until you get hurt. Call your physical therapist (who by now is like a family friend) rest and repeat.

The truth is that none of us want to waste valuable training time recovering from and building back up from an injury. We are ultimately all striving to run faster, with as little effort or input of time as possible. So, today is the day that you need to start your own strength programme.

Two days a week of well designed strength work can be life changing. Strength training results in better running economy and an improvement in running time to exhaustion. Put simply, you’ll be able to run faster, longer and stronger.

A study that tested the effect of a maximal lower body strength training programme on runners found that they improved running economy by 5 percent. Even more impressive, they increased the amount of time they could run at their maximal aerobic speed by 21.3 percent***

Don’t be scared by the idea of heavy lifting. If you do not want to increase body weight by gaining lean mass, don’t worry. You won’t gain muscle mass from lifting. The right strength training programme will also help you lose fat, and lightness is always a benefit for runners.

Strength training will help you get rid of nagging injuries or chronic pain and help prevent future injuries. It will also help you correct structural imbalances that increase injury risk and lead to improper motor patterns. For example, the non-dominant side of your body is often weaker, which will throw your stride off, as will problems with your feet such achilles tendonistis or bunions. Many running injuries, especially knee and hip-related issues, are a result of muscle imbalances or weaknesses and can be addressed during strength training.

Equally, muscle imbalances within each limb can cause problems for runners. For instance, the vastus medialis obliquus is a common weak link in the quad, and weak calves are thought to contribute to shin pain. Including both single leg and two-legged exercises will help avoid imbalances and prevent injury.

Strength training with traditional lifts such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, and chin-ups will increase your core strength. Better core strength will help you avoid back pain and make you faster.

Researchers point to the uselessness of the plank exercise to assess or train the core. The plank (and side planks) is performed in a position that is rarely replicated when running or in daily life, making it useless as a primary component of training!

When you run, the propulsion phase (where your foot pushes off the ground to propel you forward)  is an essential element for improved performance. The greater the force you can apply to the ground, the faster you will go. The stronger you are, the greater this force will be. Two simple exercises, such as calf raises and knee lifts** will strengthen major muscle groups including the calf muscles during the propulsion phase, and the hip flexor muscle to lift the knee higher during running, thereby increasing the length of the stride. This can easily result in an increased stride length of 1cm, which, considering the average runner performs around 50,000 strides in a marathon, means that the actual gain per race is 500 metres. This could mean a faster time by 2-3 minutes!

Strength training is often overlooked by endurance athletes as being unnecessary for their sport. However, you only need to look at those at the top of the sport to see that if you are not strength training, you are missing a trick! Here’s what Mo Farah’s coach Alberto Salazar had to say on the subject: “When Mo came to me 18 months ago, he was a skinny distance runner with a great engine but no upper body strength,” said Salazar. “At the end of races, he would tire and his head would bob around and his arms would flail. He was the weakest athlete I’d ever trained — in terms of core strength and being able to do push-ups, sit-ups and single-leg squats, he was a 90lb weakling. The number one thing that has helped Mo is not the 110 miles a week he puts in on the road, but the seven hours a fortnight he does in the gym.”

Now you can’t argue with that.

*Training Endurance Athletes, Mike Boyle

**Periodisation Training For Sports, Tudor O Bompa

***Charles Poloquin, Why Runners Should Weight Train

There’s still time to book in for a consultation and get some more guidance on how strength training can help you reach your goals. Call us on 0208 166 5110 or email me at becs@salecca.co.uk if you’d like to book!

Becs Cronshaw FST1 iTS BCT
Director at Salecca Ltd.
Office: (+44) 208 1665110

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