By Alex H.
Consistently working towards a goal is the best way to continue to improve. It makes sense, right? Making a conscious effort to get better at a task, day in and day out, will leave an individual a bit closer to their end goal each and every day. In running terms, every day we run, we grow stronger than we were before, and close in on our goals. But, as any runner can relate to, injuries often leave us sidelined from the activity we love. Many runners start franticly trying to self-diagnose injuries on the internet, before ending up at the doctor with a diagnosis they wish they could have prevented. Throughout the weeks and months of long miles and hard intervals, injuries are bound to show up here and there, but instead of rehab, I want to take a moment to talk about prehab.
Prehab is essentially the process of preventing injuries before they start. You can think of it as callousing your body to the rigors of running. Often, when a physical therapist instructs a patient exercises to help strengthen a damaged tendon, ligament, or muscle head, the same exercises could be used before the injury occurred to further strengthen that same area. For example, resistance band walks are great for rehabbing hip injuries, but they are also a great exercise to perform a few times a week when healthy to strengthen your hips and help prevent injuries.
In addition to resistance bands, tennis or lacrosse balls and foam rollers are great tools to use to help increase strength and flexibility. Even an old set of marbles can be put to great use to help you avoid injury! Resistance bands can be tied around a bed post or the leg of a table and used to strengthen the feet and ankles. They can also be wrapped around the hips to isolate the glutes and hamstrings. Tennis and lacrosse balls are great at targeting pressure points and tight areas. Foam rollers are great tools to help loosen and release tight fascia, or web of muscle, in larger muscle heads, like quads, calves, and hamstrings. Marbles are great for rolling out your arches, or dumping on the ground and picking up barefoot one by one. The small muscles under your feet will thank you!
If you’re wondering how can you add these exercises to your routine, the answers are much easier than you might think. Foam rolling for as little as five minutes before a run will help bring oxygen rich blood to your muscles and increase flexibility as part of an active warmup. Using a resistance band to warm up the hips and glutes works great too, or you can implement band work post-run for a challenging strength workout once your body is already fatigued. Taking your stretch rope and holding a stretch for thirty seconds helps loosen up tight muscles post run, and tying it around a bed post and doing ankle circles while watching tv is a great way to get stronger and more flexible without having to clear out extra time in your schedule. If you truly want to help your body become stronger and more flexible, the tools are there for the taking and you can find simple solutions to make yourself and healthier and more complete runner!
By Alex H.
If you ask 100 coaches how to train an athlete for the marathon, you’ll likely find 100 different answers. Some will give you some arbitrary number of mileage that any athlete needs to run to complete the distance. Others will tell you specific speed sessions that are sure to get an athlete to run a specific -time. But only the special ones are humble enough to admit that there are many different ways to go about marathon training.
The cliche goes “the secret is that there is no secret.” Individuals looking for a workout or a long run distance that will make a giant difference in their training are wasting mental energy that they could be using to focus on whatever plan it is that they are following. Among the masses of information and studies that are available to anyone looking to race the marathon, the key principles of training remain constant.
It is a known fact that stress plus rest equals growth. Applying this to training, we must load the body with a new stressor and break down our aerobic system and our muscular system in order for these systems to adapt and grow stronger. If we do not stress our bodies past their previous limits or thresholds, then they will not break down and in turn will not rebuild to be stronger than before. But even if we do work very hard, if rest and recovery are not adequate, then an individual will wind up over-trained or even worse, injured! So what should the focus of marathon training be? What does all of this even mean? Let me break it down by sharing what a timetable of marathon training looks like.
The Global Period is the time when an athlete is over 3 months out from their goal marathon. During this time, the focus is on building an aerobic base to create a foundation for later training. Training should consist of easy mileage, but also short sprints and long hills. Essentially, this time period is for building up maximum speed and overall aerobic capacity.
One to three months out from the goal race is what should be referred to as the Special Period. During this time, the long run should increase in length and begin to increase in pace. The paces to focus on during workouts around this time are those slightly faster and slightly slower than goal marathon pace. I would recommend keeping workout paces within 5-10% of goal marathon pace. For example, if your goal marathon pace is 8 minutes per mile, then key paces during this time would be 7:12 per mile and 8:48 per mile (8 minutes=480 seconds, so 10% of 480 is 48 seconds, and therefore 712-848 would be within 10%). These paces are going to help build your aerobic power and aerobic endurance without taxing you too much.
Within one month of the marathon is the Specific Period. During this time, all key workouts should focus on feeling comfortable at marathon pace. Between 97% and 103% of goal pace are the rhythms to be focused on during that last month. Many athletes make the mistake of trying to run fast 400s two weeks before the race, or 200s at mile pace to feel “sharp and quick.” The problem here is that during marathon training, your body is trying to focus on being smooth and efficient at marathon pace, and running short and fast when you haven’t been training at those paces can really throw the body off and set us back a bit.
Like I said to start this post, different coaches and training plans will prescribe many different types of workouts and long run distances and weekly mileage plans. It all depends on what an athlete’s goals are and what he or she has previously done and can handle. What is commonly agreed upon is that the further out an athlete is from the race, the further away from marathon pace they can train. As the race nears, our best bet is to buckle down on that goal pace or goal effort and trust what we’ve done to get to this point!
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