Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
I am a runner. Therefore I run.
And yet, running has taken a bit of a backseat for a few weeks and months since I ran the Boston and London marathons. The farthest I’ve run is 6 miles, and there have been a couple of weeks where I didn’t hit the road at all.
Interestingly, I feel stronger out on my runs than I have for a while and was hitting paces in the 6- and 7-minute zones in recent training runs–paces I haven’t seen in months.
For years I have read articles explaining the benefits–wait, no: the necessity–of strength training for runners, but it just wasn’t a priority. I didn’t know what I was doing in the weights room, am rubbish at working out alone and since moving to Henley my gym class options have been limited. So it went by the wayside–until now…
I’ve always known that weight workouts were crucial for aesthetics (no, you will not turn into a body builder by lifting), and I feel more confident in my body right now than I have since running the Berlin and Chicago Marathons when I was doing Barre on the regular. I still have a lot of work to do on my core strength (I have to hope that there are abs SOMEWHERE in there).
So whilst I’ve been struggling with the idea of shedding for the wedding, I’ve changed my focus from losing weight for a wedding dress to training for the Anthem Richmond Marathon in November (apparently “America’s friendliest marathon”). I’m focusing on being the strongest runner I can be for my PR attempt and ninth marathon.
To achieve something you never have, you must do something you’ve never done before.
And that is so true when it comes to marathon training. If, like me, you’ve had some less-than-stellar recent marathons (or other race performances), it’s time to evaluate the areas that you have under-prioritized, like stretching, strength, nutrition and pacing.
Personally, it’s the strength and stretching that I tend to neglect. It’s become the focus of my training, as I now work with a personal trainer at my gym who specialises in functional sports workouts and have joined some local strength classes.
I’ll usually do my training run before hitting the gym. When I’m marathon training, my key workout for the day, more often than not, is my run–especially when it’s a speed, tempo or long run. (I’m less worried about what time I run on my easy run days.)
I usually do five to 10 minutes on the cross-trainer or treadmill (if I haven’t already run that morning). I’ll do this before meeting my trainer so that I don’t cut into our time together.
Working with a PT and attending regular bootcamp sessions has taught me that equipment is NOT required to get a great full body workout in. Most of my PT sessions start with a circuit that fatigues me before we hit the weights. These circuits often include:
- 15 burpee press-ups
- 20 sit-ups
- 15 tricep dips
- 30 knee-to-elbow moves in the plank position (15 for each side)
- 20 glute bridges with one leg raised
- 1-minute plank
Rest for 2 minutes. Repeat the circuit three times.
Moving on to the weights section, I start with weighted squats before moving on to weighted walking lunges. I do a lot of supersets to get that burn, like a chest press followed by a bent-over row: 15 each, repeated three times with 1-minute rests between sets. Some of my least favorite combinations are the bicep 21s, which consist of seven lower bicep curls, seven upper bicep curls and seven full bicep curls. These moves are guaranteed to get those muscles burning if you choose the right weight.
Most of my workouts finish with a set of box jumps followed by an abs routine.
Incorporating strength workouts (changing the actual routine a little each time to target different muscles groups and avoid boredom!) twice a week and a group workout class into my training means that, although I’m not running huge distances just yet, I think I am the fittest I’ve been in ages–and certainly the strongest.
However, the biggest difference has been how I feel about myself. I look in the mirror and instead of looking at my ‘flaws’ I notice my strong arms, my smaller waist, my defined back. I power through my burpees rather than resent them. (They seem to make an appearance in every. Single. Workout.)
Day by day, week by week I’m feeling more confident in my body and my ability. And the power of self confidence should not be underestimated when it comes to marathon training.
She believed she could, so she did.
If you don’t currently feel comfortable and confident in your body or ability, do something new. Change things up. Ask for help from someone: a coach, a PT, a friend or a family member. Make necessary alterations to your training to see both mental and physical changes.
You never know what could happen…