So, You're Training for a Marathon?

Ahhh…it’s that time of year again. The city’s sidewalks will soon be full of Winnipeggers shuffling along in groups sporting new sneakers and brightly coloured outer gear. Why is that? Training for the Manitoba Marathon (and others just like it) is underway.

Most running clinics follow the same idea…a weekly periodization where they alternate between long slow distance/tempo/speed/hill runs all with the goal of improving a runner’s exercise economy, improving stride and improving cardiovascular endurance. The clinics teach proper nutrition, recovery, stretching, etc. The clinics remind their participants of the athleticism required to complete a ½ or full marathon. All good things.

If you’re training like an endurance runner but are skipping out on weight training you’re missing out on the bigger picture. Now, like any true endurance runner you’re likely saying to me “I don’t weight train because I don’t want to add on more weight.” I hear you. Increasing your body weight will require more effort to run the race and will work against you. I’m not talking about training to increase your muscle mass I’m talking about raining to be a better runner. This is just as important as your running schedule.

Some of the benefits of weight training for the endurance runner:

  •  Increased muscle tendon stiffness which improves exercise economy
  • Decreased energy expenditure at a given pace
  • Increased running speed, increased power output and increased time-to-exhaustion
  • Glycogen sparing leading to removal of metabolites and reduced production of lactate
  • Improved stride 
  • Increased rate of force production

Why is this important for the endurance runner?

You want to know that you’ve done everything at your disposal to be the best possible athlete come race day. Think of your initial positioning when trying to break away from the pack - can you you tolerate it? How fast can you react when that pothole comes out of nowhere (these are Winnipeg's streets after all), can you hop out of the way and quickly recover? Or when the finish line comes into sight and and are you able to crank up your speed to make your desired finish time? Your ability to do all of this is improved by weight training.

What kind of weight training?

An athlete loves what they do and wants to excel at their chosen sport. For endurance runners, weight training should COMPLIMENT their training goals. This means that a runner doesn’t want bigger muscles – they want stronger, more powerful muscles. This means explosive, high velocity movements.

How do you prevent overtraining?

Proper periodization. This is huge for an athlete. Your training should not take away from your goals. Training needs to be based around your competition schedule. For example:

  • During competition season: low volume, high-intensity strength training done twice a week to maintain improvements
  • During offseason: frequency, duration and intensity would depend on a runner’s current training status, but would ideally be anywhere from 3-6 times a week. High intensity strength training full of explosive  movements including body weight exercises and weights. Training would not only include lower body power and strength exercises (which tend to be full body moves), but core and upper body strengthening as well. 

Here is one exercise that a runner could add to their training arsenal for strength and power:

Please note: Pick up the kettlebell from between your feet (not so far away from you as shown in this video).

As always, feel free to like, share or comment your feedback.

Happy training!