We’re now in marathon season – if you have a place in London’s flagship event, then you will already know about it – and hopefully are at the beginning of your marathon mission.
Marathon training, however, has moved on somewhat from endlessly pounding pavements and hoping for the best – your running program should consist of a mixture of incremental distance work, interval training, as well as slower paced recovery runs.
But before all that, you need a solid foundation of strength. We talk to Third Space Elite PT Luke Worthington to discuss why traditional strength training is becoming the back bone of all marathon training programs.
I often describe it as the cup that every other aspect of physical fitness sits within.
Speed is determined by strength – it’s simply an expression of force, but applied quickly.
Flexibility and mobility are directly determined by stability (strength), the expression you can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe is true when it comes to human movement. Proximal stability builds distal mobility – in other words the ability of the limbs to move in relation to the torso is determined by the stability (strength) of the torso.
Endurance training requires strength; a 10k run is essentially 1000s of repetitions of hopping from one foot to the other. This requires absorption of force (strength) and propulsion through the air (strength!).
I put all of my clients attempting an endurance test such as a marathon or longer distance triathlon onto a twice weekly full body gym program with the goals of both bullet proofing them against injury – but also giving them that extra gear when they need it.
A strength program to complement a marathon training program should typically be split into four phases.
Phase 1 – Just get strong!
The fundamental movements of the human body – Squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull
are quite rightly the staples of every strength training program (well, every sensible one that works!) and so these should form the basis of your foundation phase (weeks 1-4). Focus on cementing efficient movement patterns and producing force in the basic strength movements
Phase 2 – Get specific
The second four weeks of your plan you should start to incorporate movements that are much more specific to the mechanical demands of running. This is where you should look to focus on single leg hip extension variations (single leg hip thrusts and single leg deadlifts) as well as rotational core stability. Think about mimicking the movements required to run fast.
However much more fun this phase may look to the outside observer – you can’t learn to produce specific force until you’ve learned to produce force at all – so don’t be tempted to skip out the foundations
Phase 3 – Get faster
The third four weeks is when I like to build in more dynamic and explosive movements. You may query why an endurance athlete needs this – but if you consider what their body is going through – they are required to produce explosive power, running up a hill or overtaking a group of slower runners requires acceleration, which requires power.
Phase 4 – Maintain
The final four week block of your 16 week marathon prep should be about maintaining the strength you have built up, whilst you peak and taper through your running. This isn’t the time to be adding weight to the bar or trying anything new – just focus on quality movements. We may also cut down from twice a week in the gym just to once – depending upon how the athlete is coping with the training volume.
As with any strength training program – strength training for running should be about the quality of movements – not the quantity, or the weight on the bar. We are using the gym to complement something outside of the gym – so leave the ego at the door and focus on perfect execution. Our Learn To Lift workshops are a great introduction to strength training – and suitable for all levels.