Strength training is essential when training for a marathon. Third Space osteopath and personal trainer Henry Howe reveals why.
Some people ask why we use strength training when we only run with our bodyweight. This is because during running the forces posed on us by speed, gravity and the ground can result in three to eight times your bodyweight going through each side of your body, depending on your technique. We need to be strong enough to tolerate that. I have five golden rules that I focus on when training for a marathon, and most of them are to do with working on your strength.
1. Maintain your health. It’s a cliché but they say the greatest challenge is making the start line. Granted, 26.2 miles is no easy task, but maintaining your health whilst you develop your fitness is half the battle: a stubborn flu or persistent injury can derail your training for weeks. But there is so much you can do to avoid this.
2. Focus on strength training. It’s more effective than stretching, using a foam roller, getting a sports massage, the list goes on. There is no comparable approach to avoiding injury than picking up heavy things! Historically we have been aware that cross training is important for running, but it’s really important that you make your cross training as relevant and specific to running as possible.
3. Stay on your feet! Too often I see people doing exercises on the floor; in a marathon you spend all your time on your feet, so this is where your conditioning should take place.
4. Work each side of the body separately. Again, I see too many programmes where people use deadlifts and squats for running. We use our left and our right legs independently when we run, ignoring that fact can leave you vulnerable.
5. Focus on quality not quantity. Although we need a lot of volume in our running, the same cannot be said for strength training. Choose 3 or 4 foundation exercises – do them well, and do them consistently.
Henry’s Basic Marathon Fit Programme
Crossover Lunge – 4 sets of 8 each leg
Single leg RDL – 4 sets of 8 each leg
Single leg zig-zag hops – 5 sets of 6 each leg
*Always use a weight that is heavy enough to be hard work, but light enough that you can perform the exercise with the correct technique. Ask one of our Academy Trainers or PT team if you are unsure.
*Take adequate rest between sets – this is not cardio work, we want you to perform as well as possible. It’s not about getting your heart rate up.
*Plan your strength session before a rest day or an easier run day. Running on a pair of legs that are tired from the gym can compromise your technique.