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The Not-So-Secret Ingredient To Running A Better Marathon

This seems like a no brainer but strength training plays a huge roll in how well marathoners handle and recover from the challenge of running 26.2. More and more runners are adding strength training regimens to their marathon workouts for that reason. A study based on the concept, was recently published and covered by The New York Times.

Researchers in Spain assessed 22 runners with similar paces and abilities during the Madrid Marathon and Half Marathon (11 runners in each race). They all ran on the same day, during similar time periods and with the same weather conditions.

Sweat samples were gathered during the race via patches on each individual’s body. Before and after the race, a blood sample was taken and jump height was measured. At the end of the race, each participant was also asked to rate their leg pain.

The Study Results

It’s no surprise to any runner that the marathon distance would cause a greater amount of pain. However the reason for that increased amount pain can be avoided, according to the researchers.

Running a marathon creates greater muscle fatigue, causes more strain on the muscle tissues and fibers and results in bigger deficits of water and electrolytes in the body than running a half marathon at a similar pace.

You’re first reaction may be “no kidding!” But if runners trained for a longer distance for as many as 16 weeks prior to the race, why would they be so much more depleted than someone who trained for and ran a half marathon?

According to science (and a little common sense), the answer is strength!

Running long distances will always be a large part of a marathon training plan. But runners also need to do adequate strength training, according to the researchers of this study.

“Just running long distances is not enough to prepare the leg muscles for the great demands of an endurance event like the marathon,” Juan del Corso, a professor of physiology at Camilo José Cela University in Madrid who led the study, told The New York Times.

Your New Strength Plan

For your next 26.2 try to incorporate at least one day of strength training. Try these exercises to get strong and fit.

Weighted Forward Lunges: Hold weights in both hands. Lunge forward with your right leg. Then back to start position. Lunge forward with left. Repeat 20-30 times (10-15 reps on each side).

Deadlifts: Hold weights in both hands. Stand upright. Then lean over at the waist and bring weights to your toes. Stand back up. Repeat 10-15 times.

Box/Bench Steps: Hold weights in both hands. Use a 12-18 inch high step. Step up with your right leg and bring your left knee to your chest. Put your left leg down on step. Step down with your right and then left. Repeat with right leg 10-15x. Repeat with left leg.

Foot-Elevated Single Leg Squats: Hold weights in both hands. Use 12-18 inch step (keep it behind you). Keep right foot on step and go up and down so you are lunging with your left leg. Repeat 10-15 times. Then repeat with the right leg.

Push-ups: I do as many regular pushups as I can before going to my knees. Do the exercise for one minute.

Plank with leg lifts: Get into normal plank position. Lift right leg in air and hold for 5 seconds. Lower. Lift left leg and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat until you reach 1 minutes (or as long as you can hold the position).

Russian Twists: Sit down. Keep your back at 45 degree angle with your legs either on the floor. For a more advanced exercise, keep your legs in the air so your body is making a V. Start with no weight and twist your upper body to the right, then to left (that’s one rep). Repeat 15-30 times. Build up to 10-15 lbs of weight.

Related:

Our No Gym Required Workout

Break 4 Hours With Our Marathon Training Plan

Allie Burdick

Allie Burdick

Allie is a freelance writer, athlete and mom, but not in that order. Her work has appeared in Runner's World, Triathlon Magazine and ESPNW. On her blog, VITA Train for Life, she chronicles her life as a runner/triathlete and hopes her successes and failures help to motivate and inspire others, even the over-40 crowd she somehow found herself in! The rest of her time is spent raising her twin boys with her husband in the Northeast where they live a big life! See it all on Twitter and Instagram.