With the events just around the corner and marathon training in full swing, the warmer weather has enticed many more people out jogging (despite the rain). However, jogging around the block and clocking up those miles is one thing, but to fully prepare yourself for a marathon requires more than just cardio.
If you are looking to improve your race time and stamina, then you should also be focussing on strength training. Adding strength training to your exercise regime can transform your preparation for these iconic races. Hitting the gym may be a welcome break from running for some, but for others this notion can be like stepping into the unknown. Read on for top tips that will shave seconds off your time, before long you will be hash-tagging ‘PB’ all over your social media.
Traditional cardio alone is good exercise, but for maximum health benefits you should be matching your training with strength exercises too. To start this process try assessing your running technique and become consciously aware of your style, seek the help of a specialist if your want a more detailed analysis or just simply speak to fellow regular runners. If you can make a small change to improve your running style, this can make a very quick difference as a more efficient technique can have a really positive impact on your running strength and consistency.
‘Running tall’ is a simple first step you can make to your technique, with your back straight and your chest high. This way you open up the lungs for more efficient breathing and your body position will allow your feet to land underneath you as opposed to in front of you. This technique will also encourage more mid foot landing rather than a heel foot landing which can be painful and less efficient over these long enduring distances.
Preparing for marathons requires a huge output of energy from your large muscle groups. Strengthening the key muscle groups throughout the body will help you maintain efficient and injury free cardio training week after week. Strong, fast running has the foundation of a strong core which can act as the base for your PBs. Core strength goes hand in hand with running strength, in which case improving the postural muscles can reduce your risk of injury and rapidly develop your training, and ultimately your marathon times.
At home try holding the ‘plank’ position on your living floor for the whole of the ad breaks in between your favourite TV shows. This classic core strength position will develop with every evening you do this until your next race. The stronger our core, the longer we can hold our running form which also strips our running time.
Speed & Strength
Speed and strength go hand in hand; shaving time off your training will need some speed exercises to build up your strength endurance. I know this sounds obvious, training faster and building speed. However, being mindful of more aspects of your run rather than just speed will actually allow you to perform better. Not neglecting the strength element of your run will actually allow you to run the same distance not just quicker, but stronger.
Shorter, high intensity bursts of exercise can boost your performance greatly and improve overall race speeds. Short sprint training with a small amount of rest between sprints can activate and strengthen fast twitch muscle fibres. This training will help your body become accustom to faster paced running, as well as recognising how your body reacts to the higher demand of oxygen and so forth.
I know, I admit it, this doesn’t sound good. But, hill training is a great way to improve your training and overall race times. Your preparation for a better London or Brighton marathon performance should very much include running up a hill or gradient a few times a week.
This type of training is something the most seasoned of runners hate, however, they all know it knocks seconds off their times overall. This is taxing on your legs, your lungs and you will be lying on the floor at the end of it. But, it will all be worth it; again building on your core strength and your technique this type of training will have you smashing your previous times to pieces.
You can do this up to ten times in a session to really feel the burn and get your body ready for what will soon seem like a very ‘flat’ marathon.
Whether you are new to running, or a seasoned runner, flexibility shouldalways be part of your training programme. Running with good technique and strong posture also requires good flexibility. Improved flexibility and a more developed range of motion in your ankles, knees and hips will make your training and racing so much smoother.
Preparation for any exercise, let alone a marathon requires static and dynamic stretching before and after exercise. This helps to warm up specific muscle groups and improve flexibility to avoid injury but to also allow for greater performance of muscle groups.
The preparation of the run is just as important as the run itself, improving your flexibility along with it is key. Our body needs to be managed and maintained, muscle fibres need to be stretched and oxygen pumped to all the right places. Pre and post exercise stretching will certainly support this as well as develop your daily suppleness and flexibility.