Cross-Training Exercises for Marathon Training

Cross-Training Exercises for Marathon Training

Why Cross-Training Exercises are Important During Marathon Training

Completing a marathon is an impressive achievement. The journey through 12 – 20 weeks of training leading up to the race takes dedication, motivation and ultimately makes an athlete feel accomplished. Cross-Training exercises are important during marathon training because one of the challenges for many athletes training for marathon is to stay injury free. In my experience, middle age athletes who successfully achieve their goals also included some form of cross-training or Crossfit exercises in their marathon training.

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Typically, athletes want to do cross-training that compliments their main sport. So cross-training isn’t a substitute for running.  However, to provide variety, help with recovery, build strength and help in injury prevention, runners can complete a number of cross-training or CrossFit activities during their training cycle. Be it running outdoors or doing a workout on CrossFit equipment at your home gym, you have plenty of options. You can always add difficulty to these workouts by including body weight exercises between each rep. Consider adding push-ups, sit-ups, planks or burpees and other applicable exercises from https://totalshape.com/equipment/crossfit-home-gym/.  In this post, I will add a little more structure to these activities, as well as share different cross-training exercises runners should integrate into their marathon training plan to maximize the benefit of these activities. 

Cross-training vs Crossfit

To be clear, Cross-training & Crossfit are 2 different activities and neither should be considered a substitute for long runs, recovery runs, hills, tempo workouts or other running activities included in marathon training plans. Instead, these “cross” activities are used to add variety and when completed properly, can help to improve an athlete’s power, speed, balance, coordination and overall fitness level. Cross-training can help increase endurance, cardio, and build muscles faster.

For middle age athletes, who may be more susceptible to injuries and the effects of overtraining, Crossfit or cross-training can be low impact workouts that give runners a break from the pounding of running. Crossfit is actually a branded fitness regimen that involves High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) plus gymnastics and certain Olympic weight lifting movements. Basically it’s a strength & conditioning workout that involves weights and other equipment to complete various pushing, pulling & squatting movements.

 

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I would caution any athlete that Crossfit shouldn’t be an activity they complete on recovery days. The workouts can be intense and wouldn’t allow for proper recovery from a previous day’s hard or long runs. Instead, I typically recommend less intense cross-training & conditioning exercises as part of my marathon training plans.

Swimming

Swimming for runners

Swimming can help reduce common running injuries while improving cardiovascular performance. It is an effective resistance training for your legs without the pounding of running. Swimming reduces pressure on the body’s weight-bearing joints, which minimizes stress on muscles, tendons and ligaments. As long as it’s not performed at a high intensity, swimming is an excellent way to recover from long runs. Depending on your ability, swimming for 35 – 45 minutes will provide benefit without exhaustion.

Cycling

cycling for runners

Cycling is an excellent cross-training & recovery exercise for runners. The benefits of cycling for runners are outlined in this article. Cycling is relatively easy on an athlete’s joints, tendons and muscles. It can be completed on a stationary or wheeled bike. Like swimming, cycling can help a runner stay active during injury recovery. For injuries like stress fractures, cycling can be completed (along with other low impact activities) as a part of an active recovery plan. Riding a bike strengthens legs and can provide a solid aerobic workout without the impacts of running.  Cycling can be completed on a stationary bike or on the road.  I recommend one of 2 stationary bike activities.  40 – 45 minutes at varying speeds so heart rate varies from 65 – 80%.  Another is a alternating workout with 1 minute on the bike with 1 minute of various bodyweight + dumbbells. I call this 50 minute workout, “bike blast.”


If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details. 


Pilates

Pilates is a low intensity physical activity that improves breathing, posture, flexibility and mobility. Pilates is a low impact exercise that can help athletes gain strength and flexibility. Doing Pilates for 30-45 minutes per session makes for an ideal cross-training session. Here’s a good pilates routine for runners.

Pilates can help improve stability which is essential for good running technique and to help avoid injury.

Hiking

Hiking can benefit runners in many ways. It improves leg strength, core stability and strengthens stabilizing muscles in an athlete’s ankles & legs.

In addition to the glutes and quads, the balance required to maintain a steady pace while hiking engages your stabilizing muscles which can improve your running form and make you stronger overall. I think that hiking is a nice way to add variety to your routine, give your body a rest, while building strength that will enhance your running.  Hiking is also really enjoyable with others on a scenic trail. 

Elliptical or Stairmaster

Stair Master for runners

There’s a lot of benefits for runners to workout with an elliptical or stairmaster. For aerobic conditioning, you don’t have any impact like with running, so you can maintain fitness while injured. I’ve coached runners who are recovering from stress fractures and using the elliptical 2-3 times per week, along with other low impact activities like a stairmaster.  These machines really helped them maintain a decent level of fitness. If you have access to an stairmaster or elliptical, you don’t need any special gear. Word of caution: get Dr’s approval to use either of these machines if you’re recovering from an injury. Bottomline, if it hurts while on the stairmaster or elliptical, stop.

Some of the keys to a good stairmaster or elliptical workout include, varying the resistance, staying on long enough and going at a sufficient pace to get your heart rate up to 140+ beats/min. How fast of a cadence you maintain depends largely on the distance of the race for which you are training.

Here’s a good Elliptical workout. 10 minutes easy effort at a low resistance (3-4). Gradually increase resistance over next 5 minutes to 6-10 and maintain that effort for 20-25 minutes. Finally complete cool down for 15 minutes at low resistance (2-3).

Rowing

Rowing for runners

Photo Courtesy of Victor Freitas (Unsplash)

Rowing, if completed correctly, doesn’t just work your arms. It actually targets your glutes, back, shoulders, hamstrings, quads & core. If you have access to a rowing machine, you can get a great low-impact aerobic or even anaerobic workout where much of the fitness gains from running transfer easily. I wouldn’t substitute multiple days of rowing each week for running if you’re injury free and training for full or half marathon. Instead, rowing can be a part of a cross-training workout or if used to maintain fitness if you’re rehabbing from injury and have your Dr’s approval.

Here’s a sample rowing machine workout that will help to build endurance and work various muscles.

Complete dynamic stretching
Row easily for 7-10 minutes to warm up;
Row two sets of (4 x 400m) as follows:
Row 400m at moderate intensity (heart rate elevated, but still comfortable)
Slow/row easily for 1 minute

  • Repeat moderate intensity and complete another 3 x 400m with 1 min recovery between
  • Row easily for 3 minutes.
  • Repeat for another set of four 400m.

Row easily/recover again for 8-10 minutes.

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Conditioning:

This can also be referred to as strength training. Unlike machines or hiking, these include workouts that strengthen the legs, glutes, core, shoulders, hips and other muscles/joints used when running. There’s a few links to YouTube videos where I will show specific conditioning routines that I recommend. Most of the exercises are simple bodyweight exercises. A few use a BOSU Ball or resistance bands just for variety. Below are some exercises that I recommend.  For a full workout, you can check my post, Strength Training Workouts For Runners.

Resistance Bands

Resistance Band Workout For Runners

Resistance bands are perfect because they help to boost your power and strength in your calves, quads, and glutes. I provide a complete & challenging resistance band workout in this post.

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Squats

Squats build increased leg power and improve knee stability. To complete a squat, use a your body without additional weights, dumbbells or a barbell with free weights. Start slow (light weights) if you have never completed squats. The key is to keep the head in a neutral position, looking forward (not up or down). Keep your straight back as you squat down. Also keep knees behind toes and hips below parallel. Just imagine that you’re sitting in a chair. You can rest on your heels and then slowly push back up. Breathe in on the way down and out as you stand up. Start with 7-8 and increase to 10 – 12 before increasing weight. Complete 3 sets before moving to next exercise or complete all exercises as part of a circuit and come back to the squats (2 complete sets of all exercises).

Bear Crawls

Bear crawls for runners

Bear crawls are a tough exercise because they work many muscles and really can get you tired. It’s a great exercise for runners. You’ll increase your heart rate and burn plenty of calories when you complete bear crawls. When properly performing a bear crawl you strengthen entire body including the shoulders, chest, back, glutes, quads and hamstrings. You only need about 15 – 20 feet to complete bear crawls. The key is that your hands and feet can only touch the ground (no knees). Go forward 15 – 20 feet and then go backward to where you started. Complete as many as you can in 1 minute.

Clam shells

This exercise strengthens the gluteus medius (hip abductors), which is on outer edge of the butt and is responsible for stabilizing your pelvis. Strong hips, helps to avoid knee pain, For runners, this is an essential exercise to ensure good running form and ultimately to prevent injury. You can complete this exercise with or without resistance bands.

• Lie on your either side with your feet and hips stacked. Bend your knees about 90 degrees and rest your head resting on your arm. • Draw your knees in toward your body until your feet are in line with your butt. This is your starting position. • Keeping your abs engaged, squeeze your glutes and keep your feet together. Then raise your top knee as shown without rotating your hip or lifting your other knee off the floor. • Hold for 1 second. Continue to squeeze your glutes through the top of the move and then slowly lower your left knee to the starting position. • Start by completing 20 reps on each side.

Bicycle Crunches

bicycle crunches ab workouts

This exercise reaches the deep abs and the obliques. To perform, lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands on the sides of your head. Contract your abdominal muscles as you bring your knees up to a 45-degree angle. Straighten and bend your knees as you alternate crossing and touching right elbow to left knee, then left elbow to right knee. You can also perform this exercise on a BOSU ball.

Plank and side plank

Strength Training for Runners

Plank exercises help strengthen core, which will improve your running form. Start by holding a plank position as shown for 30 seconds. Increase up to 45 seconds as you can. Proper form includes keeping hips level, core & glutes firm. An alternative exercise is the side plank or introduce a twist. To complete this exercise, while on your side resting on one forearm, raise your hips while also raising your body on your forearm. Hold this position for 30 seconds before switching sides.  For added difficulty, raise your arm and leg as shown. 

Lunges

Lunges are essential for a better, stronger and quicker stride. This exercises helps to strengthen your back, hips, and legs, while improving mobility and stability. Complete lunges by stepping forward with one leg and lower your hips till both your knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Keep your front knee over (not past) your ankles. Add weights and dumbbells. Also consider incorporating other moves with lunges, such as arm curls.

Burpees

Burpees are a full body strength training exercise. They work your arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings and abs. The basic movement is performed in four steps. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, weight in your heels, and your arms at your sides. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body into a squat. Next, place your hands on the floor directly in front of your feet. Shift your weight onto your hands. You can jump back up or complete a push-up and then jump up.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are great for building endurance, core strength and agility. Many athletes hate performing mountain climbers, because they’re tough. This is exactly why you need to make them a part of your cross-training routine. You get a total body workout with just one exercise. When you perform mountain climbers, you target your triceps, deltoids, abs, back, hip flexors, quads, hamstrings and butt. You also increase your heart rate.

There’s a lot of variation for mountain climbers. You can start by going as fast as you can – for 30 seconds and then 15 seconds rest. Do this 4-5 times. Alternatively, go for 1 minute or as as long as you can manage with good form.

Combining Cross-Training Exercises to Optimize Your Marathon Training

There are many more exercises that you can incorporate into your cross-training routine that help prepare you for your race. I like including multiple exercises into circuits. This works best with the conditioning exercises.  For example, try any of the 3 above conditioning exercises for 1 minute each with no rest between. After taking 30 seconds rest after your 3 minute circuit, perform 2-3 additional circuits of the same exercises. Each 3 exercise circuit is a set. Perform 2 – 3 sets. If you have access to a stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical, you can work in 3-5 minutes on these machines between each set.  Bottomline, get creative and mix/match your cross training exercises every week.  If you’re using dumbbells, steadily increase weight as you get stronger. 

If you can, I recommend setting up your own home gym. There’s a number of very informative posts with ideas for equipment you can include in your home exercise studio.

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Review – Coaching with Team RunRun

Review – Coaching with Team RunRun

Why TeamRunRun is great for both runner’s & coaches….

 

 

I’ve been a running coach for middle age athletes since 2014.  It’s been a challenge during COVID to coach runners in person and it’s always been a challenge to attract runner’s whom I can coach virtually.  In April of 2020, I started coaching with the TeamRunRun group. Working with TeamRunRun has really helped my coaching business in only a few short months. My goal with this review of TeamRunRun is to provide a candid assessment of how TeamRunRun can help both runner’s and coaches. 

What Is TeamRunRun?

TeamRunRun is a marketplace and complete training resource for runners of all abilities to connect with experienced coaches and other runners who are training for races of varying distances on the track, trails and roads. Inside TeamRunRun’s portal, you’ll find a enthusiastic group of runner’s and coaches. These are people from all over the globe who are interested in becoming better runners at distances from 1 mile through 50mile+ Ultraas.

I really like TeamRunRun because I get to Coach with my own philosophy and set my own price, but most important I know that I have all of the TeamRunRun staff & coaches behind me.

As an RRCA certified running coach, I’m well aware that we’re always learning in this sport.  With TeamRunRun, both runner’s and coaches enjoy a highly interactive support forum for coaches and athletes on critical topics such as training, racing, nutrition, strength & cross training, gear & injury prevention.

These days it seems like most races have been cancelled or are virtual, but through TeamRunRun, I have access to race reports from all over the globe.  The group reports on new races (virtual & in person) & the accomplishments of the athletes in the group, every week. It’s very motivating to see so many athletes training & achieving their goals. You’re not training by yourself anymore, you’re training with the TeamRunRun community by your side.

Other TeamRunRun Benefits

One-on-one coaching – You train with your own coach each step of the way. You’ll receive a custom plan that’s tailored to your athletic ability, goals & preferred number of days to run per week.

Regular face to face meetings. Whether it’s in person or virtual, you’ll be able to easily ask questions and get very quick feedback. Adjustments to your plan can be made as necessary.

  • Day to day planning – you’ll find all of your workouts clearly listed using Google docs.
  • Individualized training paces for every workout – duration or distances & recommended intensity/pace.
  • Training plan includes conditioning exercises loaded onto a calendar and ”How to” videos of all the exercises you are assigned.
  • Weekly newsletter which highlights running articles on training and injury prevention, group events and race reports.
  • Exclusive access to the TeamRunRun Group Forums, Facebook & Strava groups.  

Joining TeamRunRun has been a very positive move for my coaching business. Their safe and secure online payment system & customer support help my athletes feel confident when they join. The interactive community setting, along with my personalized coaching allows for a positive experience for all the athletes who join TeamRunRun.

If you have ever considered working with a coach or have questions about how to reach the next level in your running, let me know! I can develop a plan and help you stay accountable. I offer strength training for injury prevention, guidance on how to set realistic goals, nutrition advice and much more. You are capable of so much more than you believe and I can help you get there!
 

To find out more about TeamRunRun, visit the link to my TeamRunRun profile or visit TeamRunRun.com

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Resistance Band Workout For Runners

Resistance Band Workout For Runners

Why Resistance Bands Are Great For Runners…..

If you’re a marathon runner, you really want to improve your strength and endurance so that you can avoid muscle injury. Resistance bands can be the perfect tool for you because they help to boost your power and strength in your calves, quads, and glutes. Strengthening these and other muscles with resistance bands will ultimately you run more efficiently and more powerfully. I like to use resistance bands to strengthen my core, hip flexors, and upper back. Strengthening all of these muscles will give you a strong base to build upon.

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The following routine also helps joint flexibility and strengthening smaller muscle groups that surround your major muscles. Completing this 15 minute deep strength work will result in fewer injuries, which keeps you training consistently and ultimately helps you achieve your running goals.

Warning:

Note: Be sure to check with your doctor or another medical professional before doing any new strenuous exercises such as with resistance bands. These exercises may look easy, but when performed for the first time, you will be sore the next few days.

Many of the following exercises use hip circle bands. Check out the photos on this page for more information 

#1 Lateral band walks

Lateral band walks are excellent for runners because they target your not just your thighs, but also hips, and glutes. Completing this exercise regularly with a band will help stabilize your knees and hips and the smaller muscle groups supporting them. I strongly recommend including lateral band walks in your conditioning routines to help prevent injury while running.

  • For this exercise, begin with your feet together and a hip circle band above your knees.
  • Come down into a partial squat with your back straight and leaning slightly forward.
  • Move sideways, crab-style, with your arms out in front of you, and your chest lifted. Lead with your heel to then bring your feet together while keeping them parallel. Keep your knees bent slightly so that you remain in a partial squat the whole way across the room. Make sure your abs are tucked in.
  • Once you get to one side of the room, work your way back to the other side.

You can take a look at lateral band walks in action here:

#2 Dead bug with band

Completing this exercise will help to improve your posture and work your core and hip flexors. The dead bug with resistance bands also strengthens the stabilizing muscles of your lower back which is essential for running efficiently  When completing this exercise properly, extend one leg easily and fully while keeping your hips in a neutral position.

  • Get down onto your back and put your feet up in the air as if you were a dead bug. Make sure your lower back stays flat, and your pelvis is tucked in.
  • Wrap a mini band around your toes.
  • Now extend one leg out straight while bringing the knee of the other leg towards your chest. The closer your leg is to the floor, the more challenging this exercise will be.

Here’s what dead bug with band looks like in action:

#3 Banded sumo squat walks

Banded sumo squats work the muscles of your inner thighs, hamstrings, glutes, calves, quads, and hip flexors. Your core even gets a workout too! All of these lower body strength muscles are important for having more power for your running.

  • To perform banded sumo squat walks, wrap a hip circle resistance band around your thighs (just above your knees).
  • Stand up tall with your feet and knees turned slightly out. Your feet should be about 3 feet apart.
  • Sink into a sumo squat and then walk to the side, crab-style, while keeping the sumo stance the entire time.
  • You can clasp your hands in front of you. Ensure your back is straight and that your knees and feet stay in line with each other (at a diagonal compared to your trunk).

Below you can see how to perform sumo squats:

#4 Standing abs twist

Standing abs twists using resistance bands work your upper and lower abdominals, as well as your obliques. Strong obliques will help you retain stability as you run.

  • Attach a longer resistance band through a door anchor or around a pole at waist height, and hold the ends with both hands.
  • Stand with one side facing the door, your feet a bit wider than hip-distance apart. Be sure you’re far enough away from the door or pole so that the resistance band is taut.
  • Try not to move your lower body during this exercise. Move from your waist to grab both ends of the resistance band.
  • Pull the band in toward the center of your chest.
  • Next, turn at the waist away from the door, still holding the band close to your chest. You are, in effect, stretching the band away from the door. Keep your feet and hips in the starting position while you move.

Here’s what a standing abs twist looks like:

#5 Standing leg raises

Standing leg raises work your gluteus maximus, which are the muscles that control the flexion of your hip, the extension of your thigh, the slowing down of the swing action of your legs, and the flexion of your trunk.

  • Wrap a resistance band around your ankles.
  • Stand on one leg and send the other leg first out to the side, then out on a diagonal, and then straight out behind you. Keep your hips square when doing this exercise.
  • You can rest your hands on your hips to remember to keep them steady the whole time. The only movement should be in that banded leg.

Working at different angles activates your glutes in different positions depending on your leg’s angle with your hip.

Here’s what standing leg raises look like using a resistance band:

Resistance band takeaway

Once you try working out with resistance bands for your marathon training, you’ll love it. You’ll also see a real difference in your performance in the long term. Enjoy your resistance band exercises and watch your marathon times improve.

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12 week half marathon training plan

12 week half marathon training plan

Free 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan ….

 

 

The half marathon is the most popular race in America.  Running 13.1 miles is not easy, but as long as you put in the training, it’s a relatively “friendly distance.” Beginners who have completed a 5K or 10K, think of the half marathon as the next step up. Many experienced runners like half marathons, because they are easier to train for and race 13.1 miles compared to a full marathon.  The purpose of this article is to provide a 12 week half marathon training plan that you can follow. If your ultimate goal is 26.2 miles, a 13.1 mile race offers a good starting point.  However, if completing a half marathon is your goal, I can assure you that crossing the finish line will give you a feeling of great accomplishment.

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KEY POINTS

  • The goal of the following 12 week half marathon plan is to get you to the starting line fresh, fit and ready to race your best.
  • This plan is meant for beginners who have never run a half marathon. If you are an experienced runner and seeking to improve your time off your last race, consider training with me or hiring me to develop an affordable custom training plan.
  • You should consult a qualified and licensed medical professional prior to beginning or modifying any exercise program.
  • During the course of using this plan, you need to be willing to adjust and adapt to your individual circumstances. These include your goals, abilities, school, family life, illness, work, injury, etc.
  • This half marathon training plan is intended to be for general informational use. It is not intended to constitute any fitness and/or medical advice.
  • It is strongly suggested that you use personal judgment when participating in any training or exercise program.

I have prepared many beginner half-marathoners.  My step by step interactive plan increases the weekly mileage and is designed to challenge middle age athletes while also minimizing the risk of training too hard. The plan allows athletes to build endurance and ultimately taper properly.  Before starting to train for a half marathon, you need to possess a basic fitness level. But assuming no major problems, most healthy people can train themselves to complete a 13.1-mile race.  This half marathon training plan assumes you have the ability to run 3 – 4 miles without stopping, three to four times a week and have been doing so for the last 6 months. Basically, you need a fitness & mileage base before you start training for a half marathon. If that seems difficult, consider a shorter distance for your first race.

PACE CHART

Use the paces below when determining your pace for the various workouts within the training plan:

 

Goal Time 1:45 2:00 2:15 2:30 2:45
Easy/Long Run Pace 9:18/mile 10:32 11:30 13:00 14:12
Tempo Pace 7:47 8:52 9:57 11:00 12:02
Long Interval Pace 7:09 8:12 9:17 10:15 11:15
Short Interval Pace 6:33 7:32 8:31 9:25 10:20

Pace:

This plan includes some specific pacing for the workouts.  Use the above pacing charts for guidance, but feel free to adjust.  When I write out plans for athletes whom I coach, I like to include a range for the paces.  This helps the athlete so they don’t get too worried if they’re slightly off.

Since this free plan is designed for beginners, I recommend that runs designated as “easy” be completed at a comfortable / conversational pace. If you can’t do that, then you’re probably running too fast. (If you run using a heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum pulse rate.)

Distance:

The training schedule dictates workouts at distances, from 3 to 11 miles. Don’t worry about running precisely those distances, just try to come close.  If you’re longest run prior to the race is only 8 miles, you’ll likely struggle to finish the entire 13.1 miles.  Simply do your best to pick courses through the neighborhood or in some scenic bike paths or nature trails. In deciding where to train, talk to other runners. If you’re not certain of distances, there’s many GPS watches make measuring courses easy.

Long Runs:

The key to success with the half marathon is the long run.  Fortunately, you don’t have to complete any 20 milers.  However the 10 – 11 mile runs will help to build your endurance and get you closer to your goal of completing the half marathon. Pacing for these runs is supposed to be easy/conversational.  What’s most important on these runs is to listen to your body while completing them and back off if you feel like you are having any pain. As you can see in the plan, I will have you progressively increasing your long runs each weekend. So, over the 12 weeks, your longest run will increase from 3 to 11 miles. During the last 2 weeks prior to the race, you’ll taper (less mileage, similar intensity) and then you’ll race the full 13.1 miles. Even though the schedule below suggests doing your long runs on Saturdays, you can do easily complete them Sundays.


If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details. 


Rest Recovery:

Rest is essential to your success.  In fact, remember this formula, stress+rest=success.    There’s a few harder/longer runs included in this plan.  You need to rest and go slow in between these harder runs to avoid injury and get the most benefit out of the harder workouts.  Also remember, to keep your hard days hard and easy days easy.  Even if you feel really good on a planned easy day, this doesn’t mean pick up the pace or go run some hills.

Speed Work:

These are workouts where you run at a faster pace. For beginners, you complete a few of these workouts.  Benefits of speed work include: physiological & physical. You are training your body to push past its comfort zone.  As you feel the burn and learn to push past it, you train your body to deal with fatigue.  For each of the speed workouts, you should start with 10 – 15 minutes warm-up at Easy pace + some strides.  Following speed workouts with 10 – 15 minutes of cool down/recovery jog.  Use the pace chart above or either of the calculators to determine proper pace.

Types of speed work:

Tempo Runs:

Runs where you warm up for 10 minutes with a slow jog, and then run at a faster pace than your normal. This pace should be something you can maintain for 20 minutes, and is meant to be somewhat uncomfortable. You then cool down for 10 or 15 minutes with a slow jog. Click on this link for more details about How Tempo Runs Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals

Intervals:

These are a specific duration of time at higher effort, followed by an equal or slightly longer duration of recovery. After a warm up at an easy pace, you run hard for 2 minutes, then walk or jog slowly for 2-3 minutes to allow recovery. Then you repeat. Just like the above workouts, you end with a cool down.

Fartleks:

Swedish for “speed play.” These are less structured than interval workouts. The distance and duration of the higher intensity running varies, as well as the rest between. For example, you would decide, “I am going to run a pick-up at a quicker (not sprinting) pace I could maintain for an entire 5k all the way to that tree (or for 45 seconds). Then, after starting you reach the tree, you jog slowly until you’ve recovered and then you run another pick-up. Keep repeating as designated in the plant. As with the other speed workouts, you start and finish with a slower jog to warm up and cool down.

Hills:

A great way to build strength, endurance, improve running form and increase speed. There’s 2 x hill workouts included in this plan. If you can’t find a hill in your area, try stairs at a local high school football stadium. Click on this link for more details about hill training for full and half marathons.

Cross-Train:

I schedule cross training 1-2 times per week in this plan. This means you’re doing something other than running. Aerobic exercises work best. It could be swimming, cycling, hiking, cross-country skiing. The reason we cross train is to stress the body in a different way. This helps build muscle as well as give our body a break from the stress of running and helps to reduce the risk of injury.  Cross-training days should be considered easy days that allow you to recover from the running you do the rest of the week. I recently completed a post with a complete guide to cross training.

Conditioning:

This can also be referred to as strength training. It includes workouts that strengthen the legs, glutes, core, shoulders, hips and other muscles/joints used when running. There’s a few links to YouTube videos where I will show specific conditioning routines that I recommend. Most of the exercises are simple bodyweight exercises. A few use a BOSU Ball or resistance bands just for variety. Strength Training Workouts For Runners.

Glute & Hip Strengthening Exercises:

This video shows some exercises that are completed with a Resistance Bands. Bands may be available at your gym or you can purchase a variety of resistances in a pack through retailers like Resistance Bands.  If you don’t have access to a resistance bands, you can complete the exercises below (see photos and descriptions).

Racing:

I encourage 1-2 races or time trials during this plan.  These can help you gauge your fitness.  Also if you’re able to race with others, you can practice nutrition, race footwear and attire.  Completing 5 & 10k races or time trials during your training will definitely help you achieve your goal. 

Making Changes To The Schedule:

Don’t be afraid to adjust the workouts from day to day and week to week. The key is to be consistent with your training plant.

Strides:

Strides are a great way to practice good form & improve your speed by turning over your legs at a quick, but controlled pace.  Watch the video to see how strides should be performed. 

Stretching & Warm-Up:

Before all runs – complete Lunges & Leg Swings (click for video).

Dynamic or Rope stretching (click for video).  It’s important to complete rope stretching at least 3-4 times per week.

Foam Rolling:

Foam rolling should be completed at least 3-4 times per week.  Click for video

Nutrition & Sleep:

Both of these are essential to your success, yet in many cases they are overlooked by many athletes.  Lack of sleep can lead to a few negative side effects.  These include reducing your body’s ability to efficiently store carbs, convert fat to fuel and recover properly.

Remember Hard exercise + low carb diet = fatigue.  Fueling prior to and during exercise improves endurance performance.

12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan:

12 week half marathon training plan

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Strength Training Workouts For Runners

Strength Training Workouts For Runners

MARATHON TRAINING

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Strength training for runners is absolutely necessary to optimize performance. To back up this position, a recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research project surveyed 600+ runners of varying abilities.  Outsideonline.com summarized the findings. In this article I tell you why strength training is important for runners.  All of my training plans (regardless of the race distance), include structured resistance-training programs. Also included in this article, I provide images and video detailing an 8 exercise routine of different exercises that will strengthen legs, core, glutes and upper body.

For runners concerned that heavy lifting will build too much muscle mass, it’s important to realize that the ratio of time spent endurance running to time spent completing strength training makes it really hard to build any considerable mass. The Outsideonline article discusses and other research confirms that the physiological adaptations from running actually interfere with the physiological changes from strength training. 

From the scientific survey, the best runners reported that they regularly complete strength training and plyometric exercises. It was noted that the less accomplished runners interviewed reported less frequent time performing various strength exercises.  I was surprised that the survey noted no relationship between strength and conditioning training and injury history in the runners. According to the survey, the key predictor of injury was training volume. Essentially, the more you run, the more likely you are to get injured.  This makes sense, but I’ll still place my money on stronger runners of all abilities being less susceptible to injury. 

Outsideonline.com summarizes these latest research studies detailing how strength training improves running economy, maximal sprint speed, and race performance.  I think this is great news, especially because it reinforces my position that strength training for runners is very important and should be incorporated in every training plan.  Even better is the finding that the strength training for runners doesn’t need to be of the type that would transform runners into big, muscular athletes. Think of someone like Mo Farah (4 time Olympic medalist in 5/10k) or Galen Rupp. They’re both strong, but not bulky.

In summary, strength training for runners results in faster run speed due to improvements in anaerobic power, neuromuscular efficiency, running economy, and power development capabilities.

The authors of these studies recommend incorporating various types of strength training at different times of the year.  I refer to the details of this kind of periodized program of completing different blocks of training in another post. Essentially the goal is to introduce a new stimulus for your muscles once in a while, which will allow for the best development.  Just like you won’t get better by simply running 6 miles at the same pace, day after day, you need to vary your strength training routine.

Strength Training for Runners 101

 

If you’re new to strength training, I strongly recommend starting slow with mobility and bodyweight exercises.  In the offseason, it’s recommended to complete strength training workouts 2-3 times per week. During your race build up, you can reduce strength training to 1-2 times per week.

These days, it may not be possible to lift heavy weights, so your best bet is to conduct some challenging bodyweight exercises, such as those depicted in the following video.  These exercises are typically included as Level 2 or 3 in my marathon training plans.  This means that they’re more challenging than relatively easier (but important) exercises like bodyweight squats and lateral lunges.

Lastly, it’s best to concentrate on exercises that are functionally more important to running.  Without going into a technical breakdown of various exercises, I recommend a lot of core and single-leg variations, like single-leg split squats, jumping and lunge variations. These exercises are essential for the development of dynamic stability, which is important for increasing running economy.

Use the following video and images to incorporate bodyweight exercises into your training plan. If you use weights (especially heavier weights), reach out a certified strength and conditioning coach to advise you on proper and safe lifting techniques.

Here’s the exercises included in the following runner’s conditioning workout (modifications to make some of the exercises are provided when appropriate).

 

  • Jump Squat
  • Triangle Push-Ups
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Forward Lunge
  • Leg Raises
  • Side planks with Twist
  • Single Leg Squat
  • Bear Crawls and Bear Crawls with twist

Remember to keep your hard days hard and easy days easy, so it’s best to perform the following conditioning work within 3 hours of your harder (long run, intervals, hills, etc) workouts.

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[Updated] How to reach a higher and more consistent level of running performance

[Updated] How to reach a higher and more consistent level of running performance

Periodization TrainingPeriodization training is the process of dividing a training plan into specific time segments or phases leading up to and including a goal performance or race. This article will show you how can train the body in different ways during successive phases, gradually increasing the stress on the body, so you can ultimately combine the benefits of these workouts. The collective result is that with periodization training you can achieve peak conditioning for a desired race or races throughout the year.

UPDATE: Since Publishing this article, I have added a section below discussing Periodized Strength Training as it relates to running & a periodized program. Please scroll through 2/3+ of this post to learn about you can benefit from completing specific strength training exercises into a periodized running program.  

Nearly every elite runner uses periodization. I use this system that includes various meso & micro cycles, each with a specific purpose and different physiological goals and psychological benefits. Using periodization allows you to couple hard training periods with easier periods of recovery to avoid over-training and improve components of muscular fitness such as strength, speed, and endurance to ultimately reach your goals. With the information that I share, you can divide your training plan into three parts to run strong and race well, all year.

Most studies of periodization have proved the superiority of this type of system over non-periodized programs in terms of greater changes in strength, body composition and motor performance (Fleck 1999).

Periodization programs involve a progression from high volume and low-intensity effort towards decreasing volume and increasing intensity during the different cycles. Periodization is not randomly changing volume and/or intensity with no consideration other than to introduce variation into the program. In a University of New Mexico paper, the author discusses how with a periodized program, the manipulation of volume and intensity, over a program that just increases total training volume alone, is an important factor in optimizing training effects.

When I set up a periodization program, I have the athlete, whom I’m coaching, gradually increase the stresses or efforts on their body during a variety of training sessions (distance, intensity, duration and type of recovery vary). Although a large percentage of training is completed at easy or conversation pace, in these programs we stress the body and then allow proper recovery, we achieve cardio gain and muscle growth.  Basically, the work or a specific workout stresses your system.  The planned recovery is what allows your body to adapt.

MACROCYCLES

The overall training period, so it’s the longest of the three cycles and includes all of the elements of training in the entire training period leading up to and including your race. Typically it’s a year in length. Macrocycles are comprised of four stages or Mesocycles.

MESOCYCLES

The mesocycle is a specific (2 – 8 week) block of training that is designed to accomplish a particular goal. The mesocycle is usually classified into 4 stages: recovery + endurance, endurance + strength/lactate threshold, intensity (interval) training and finally competition or peak performance (which includes some kind of taper).  Finally, a set of microcycles, which are generally up to 7 days, make up the mesocycles.

I like the 4 week mesocycle because over the course of 3 weeks of similar workouts, we teach the body to adapt to specific stress, until it becomes not stressful. Then after a recovery week, I like to move on to the next stress.

Benefits of Periodization Training for Runners

Basic Periodization Program

First, if you can imagine a triangle, the bottom or base includes the longest phases of your training which are comprised of recovery/rest from your race (typically 3 weeks), followed by base or foundation training.  Depending on the length of time between races, the base training can be up to 500 miles at relatively easy/conversation pace.  During base training, the athlete will focus on the development of aerobic and muscular endurance which is the foundation of any running plan.


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Not every runner I coach starts in the same phase or level of the triangle.  Some runners only have 10 weeks until their race, they are more experienced and have a substantial base. They may require some strength runs like tempo or hills, followed by shorter intervals to prepare them for a race. Other runners hire me to help them over the course of 6  – 12 months.  I can take them through an entire macrocycle where we develop an entire periodized plan to gradually get them in shape for a few races and eventually a longer race like a half or full marathon.

PACING

One of the keys to a successful program is the pacing.  Throughout the course of a macrocycle, there’s generally six paces that an athlete will train.

  1. Easy/Conversation Pace
  2. Goal Race Pace (goal the athlete wants to race based on dreams, plan)
  3. Date Race Pace (current race pace, based on a recent performance. Should be reviewed with a qualified coach because variables like temperature, course, competition can affect times)
  4. Lactate Threshold Pace (typically 10k pace for most runners. Moderate heart rate, can be sustained for 30 – 45 minutes).
  5. Interval Pace (faster than date race pace, demanding, can only be sustained for shorter time periods (no longer than 10 minutes)
  6. Rest Pace (slow pace in between intervals or as cool down after hard running).

If you need a proven periodized marathon training plan or affordable coaching where I use these principles of periodization training to prepare you for your next race? Train with me where I provide a CUSTOM EXPERIENCE based on your specific situation.


TYPES OF RUNNING

There are numerous types of running depending on the phase of the periodization program.  Some runs like the conversation pace (short, medium or long) runs are completed throughout the program. Other types are tempo, fartlek, hills, long & short intervals and race pace. I posted an article of the essential training runs for middle age marathoners.



ENDURANCE MESOCYCLE

As with any personalized plan, mileage and specific workouts during this mesocycle vary.  If you’re an experienced runner who can handle 55 – 70 miles/week, your training during this phase includes:

5 mile recovery runs at an easy pace.
Gradually build from 6 mile to 11 – 14 mile midweek runs at conversation pace.
8 – 10 mile aerobic or lactate threshold runs at ½ or marathon pace
15 – 18 mile long runs at easy to medium pace (a few runs can include 8 – 10 miles in the middle of these longer runs at marathon pace).  These long runs teach your body to run more efficiently.

Training for runners (beginners, less serious or older athletes) who can’t handle consistent higher mileage (including myself) would follow a slightly different program.

4-5 mile recovery runs at an easy/conversation pace.
8 – 10 mile midweek runs at conversation pace
Gradually increasing from 10 – 16 mile long runs (runs near the end of the phase that include 6-8 miles at marathon pace)
6-10 mile aerobic or lactate threshold runs at ½ or marathon pace
Rest or cross-training twice per week

Speedwork is limited in this phase to strides & “mini-tempos.”  Weekly you can either do 6 – 8 100M on a track or 6 – 8  to 20 to 30-second bursts of speed at the end of one or two of your easy runs. Don’t go any faster than ½ marathon pace in your aerobic or lactate threshold runs.

LACTATE THRESHOLD + ENDURANCE (STRENGTH) MESOCYCLE

hill training for marathons

In the second phase or mesocycle we will still work on endurance, but we’ll step up the lactate threshold training. We introduce strength workouts which consist of tempo, hill & fartlek workouts. We want to push yourself a little, so it’s not a shock when you go faster in the next phase. If the overall training plan is 18+ weeks, this mesocycle can last for 9 weeks. According to coach Greg McMillian, “these workouts strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues, which will prepare the body for the demands of fast running.”

Need Marathon Training Info

Key Workouts for Lactate Threshold + Endurance Mesocycle:

6 mile recovery runs at conversation pace
8 – 10 mile lactate threshold at 15k to ½ marathon pace. See this detailed article about Tempo running.
Strength Training with hills and fartlek. Hills are a great strength training workout.  Run them at a hard, but not all-out effort. Fartlek is an easy way to introduce longer (1 – 2 minutes) of fast running.
16 – 20 mile long runs.  Start to introduce finish fast runs (last 4 – 8 miles at marathon pace) in your long runs.

This 2nd phase is essential to strengthening the body for the fast running that comes in the third phase. You continue to build endurance through long runs, but a few of your workouts become tempo miles or hill repeats prepare you for the intensity/race preparation phase where you will complete more & longer intervals (800m to 2miles).

INTENSITY / RACE PREPARATION MESOCYCLE

During the intensity or 3rd phase, the focus switches to additional lactate threshold and then interval pace (VO2 max). The goal is to ready your body to enter the competition phase, so you need a greater emphasis to be placed on boosting anaerobic capacity and neuromuscular power.

During the beginning of this Mesocycle, we will run longer intervals (the exact length depends on the race) at 5k race pace. Typical workouts may include 5 x 1000m or 5 x 1600.  Long runs are typically 17 -20 miles with last 8 – 10 miles at Marathon Pace. There should still be plenty of 5 – 7 mile recovery runs included.

Later speed sessions include run tune-up events like 8k to 15k races to help you prepare for your main event and then shorter intervals (such as 600m – 800m) at 5-K pace.  The distance of your intervals depends on the length of your race & your athletic ability. Besides 100m strides, there’s no need to complete 200m– 400m repeats if you’re training for a marathon. If you’re a novice or training for a 5k, these shorter intervals are perfect.

TAPER / PEAK PERFORMANCE MESOCYCLE

This last, peak phase includes short, fast workouts that simulate racing. These workouts fine-tune the speed you began in phase two by recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibers. During this phase, one of the goals is to improve running economy (how efficiently your body uses oxygen) and strengthen muscles. You accomplish this by gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts and then in last few weeks before your race, decrease the overall volume while maintaining intensity.  Coach Greg McMillan calls it “keep the engine revved.”

One of my favorite runs 2-3 weeks prior to the marathon is a 12 – 13 miler at race pace.  This gives you a great indication of your fitness and how close to your goal time you can expect to finish.  During the last week prior to the race, I also like to complete a 6 mile run with 4 miles at marathon pace.

In order to peak for key races, I recommend you mark your event on a calendar and either work with a coach or develop a plan that maps out your base, endurance, preparation, and peak phases. Each should be four to eight weeks long (you can extend the base or preparation phase beyond eight, but not the peak, to avoid burnout). I recommend that every fourth week, recover by reducing your miles by 10 to 20 percent.  Also ease up on strength training. Once you peak, start again with recovery and base training and work your way through the phases over and over again. 

PERIODIZED STRENGTH TRAINING

 

Just as completing a periodized running program with a progression of planned workouts will optimize your performance, it’s important to ensure you have the same kind of progression and variance in your strength workouts.  Runners need to build strength during their training so they they can be more efficient, be more resistant to injury and build power.

Bodyweight Exercises

If you’re new to strength training, it’s not a good idea to start with heavy lifts. Instead, start more basic with body weight exercises that can be performed at home, such as:

  1. Push-ups
  2. Planks
  3. Bodyweight Squats
  4. Lunges
  5. Clam Shells
  6. Bridges with basketball
  7. Jump rope
  8. Dips & Pull-Ups

Other basic exercises can be added gradually, but after 4-5 weeks you can transition to using kettle bells, dumbbells & medicine balls.  The key is you want to strengthen your core, hips, glutes, quads and lower legs & ankles.

Light Weights to Heavier Weights

Eventually you transition to heavier weights at the gym.  I recommend starting with lighter/smaller barbells and completing exercises with 25 – 35lbs at first. You should concentrate on proper form before you increase the weight. Some of these exercises include:

  1. Deadlifts
  2. Lunges
  3. Squats
  4. Bench Press – performed with a longer/heavier barbell

General rules for lifting are: complete 6-8 reps/set and lift so the final set is challenging (not so much weight that you can only do 2-3 reps). Try to complete 3 sets for each exercise and take about 2-3 minutes of recovery between sets.

As Coach Jay Johnson always preaches, keep easy days easy and hard days hard.  This means, it’s best to complete lifting & body weight exercises after long runs and intervals. You should already be tired, but lifting in what’s considered a “pre-fatigued” state where the body already has low glycogen stores will teach your body to perform in this state.  You’ll notice a difference in the late stages of a race.

There are countless stories of elite athletes getting better because they are stronger.  Mo Farah, for instance, gives much credit to his strength which he says helped him to win numerous Olympic Gold Medals.  Using a periodized strength program within your training cycle will allow you to maximize the benefits of all of your training.

In conclusion, you can get the most out of your training by having a good understanding of each of the three cycles of periodization and then using these cycles to create a plan that allows you to peak for your most important events throughout the year.

Resources:

University of New Mexico https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/periodization.html

Training Peaks https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/macrocycles-mesocycles-and-microcycles-understanding-the-3-cycles-of-periodization/

Runner’s World – April 2016

Podium Runner – https://www.podiumrunner.com/use-progression-strength-workouts_123159


Related Posts
How Tempo Runs Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals
Hill Training for Full and Half Marathons

Strength Training for Marathon Runners


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