Exercises to accompany your marathon training
You’ve entered a marathon, secured a place and received your entry pack, it’s around about now that you start to realise the enormity of the task ahead of you.
We’re here to help, and keep you on track with some exercises that you can do to accompany your running training.
In our view there are three key areas to work on alongside your running; Foam rolling, stretching and strengthening exercises. The foam rolling is all about inhibiting overactive muscles and releasing tight or knotted myofascia (a connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, organs and bones in our body).
Stretching is concerned with lengthening muscles that are perhaps physically shorter than they should be, subsequently restricting movement. The strengthening exercises are designed to strengthen key running muscles that are perhaps not as strong as they should be and are subsequently limiting performance or joint function.
The foam rolling and stretching can be carried out every day, the strengthening exercises should be carried out three times per week for optimal results.
By carrying out these three different types of exercise we’re attempting to get off of the ‘Cumulative Injury Cycle’ or avoid it all together;
Above all else, ensure that you are receiving adequate rest in between each run. For more information on the importance of rest, take a look at this earlier article on effective recovery.
Foam Rolling – Every day
The foam rolling is designed to ‘calm down’ overactive muscles and remove adhesions in the muscle’s fibres and fascia that may be causing tightness and subsequently a loss of joint flexibility.
When foam rolling a muscle you should start at one end of a muscle, gradually roll the entire length of the muscle and return to the point that gave you the most feedback, once you are at that point hold it nice and still for thirty seconds.
While we are providing specific areas to foam roll don’t be afraid to experiment with the location of your rolling, sometimes a muscle can be ‘jammed up’ and tight without you realising. Freeing up an area that you weren’t aware was tight may just be what your body needs to function better.
You can also use a roller to carry out frictions on the muscle tissue. This is similar to rolling except you don’t allow the roller to move and you drag the muscle over the roller. This can help to separate connective tissue.
Foam rolling links
Stretching – Every day
All of the stretches can be performed at any time during the day either before or after a warm-up (the research is evenly split on whether or not a muscle should be warm before stretching).
Also, the general belief that static stretching should not be performed before a run is somewhat misunderstood. While a sprinter can experience a decrease in power production following static stretching over one minute in duration this is still only an issue if they are competing or training with maximal efforts and fast times in mind.
However, before a training run a lot of runners would probably benefit from foam rolling and stretching the hip flexor muscles in order to allow the glutes (the opposing muscle group) to contract more freely and effectively.
This in turn could increase their stride length (extension of the foot and leg behind them, not out in front) and distance travelled per stride, i.e. you travel further with each step you take.
Static stretching should not be considered suitable as a warm-up. A warm up will include joint mobilisation and gently increasing the heart rate and body temperature before you start your run and should always be done.
Stretching exercise links
Strengthening Exercises – 3 x per week
The strengthening exercises are designed to strengthen key muscles in the running action.
Specifically, the Tibialis Anterior (penguin walks) to maintain arch function in the foot and control of the foot as it contacts the ground, the Calf muscles (calf raises) to provide strength endurance to the calf muscles and provide protection for the Achilles tendon.
The Gluteus Maximus (cook hip lift) to aid in hip extension and stability of the hip joint, and the Gluteus Medius and core (side plank) to aid in leg stability and pelvic control. There is also a single balance exercise that is perfect for runners.
The strength exercises have to be repeated for a certain number of repetitions (reps) and for a number of sets (a group of reps) to be effective. In this program we are recommending 3 sets of 12 reps for each exercise on each side of the body where applicable (i.e. 2 legs, each leg requires 12 reps).
The tempo that the exercise is performed at is displayed as a three digit number e.g. 3:1:2. If we use a press up as an example, 3 would be the duration from the start position to the floor, 1 would be the pause at the bottom and 2 would be the ascent back up to the start position.
The count should be slightly quicker than seconds but not too fast. The time that the muscles are under tension is just as important an exercise variable as the number of reps and the number of sets. General rule of thumb; don’t rush.
The strength exercises should be performed on the same day as a run but at a different time in the day (but no more than four times per week), this allows a degree of recovery in the muscles before or after your run.
More importantly it allows you to rest completely the day after a run ensuring that you recover sufficiently before your next run.
Strengthening exercise links
These are also great for any distance race, including 10K, half marathon and above.
This training guide was compiled by Matt Jeffery