With the London Marathon now less than 3 weeks away an injury is the last thing you want. Yet so many people seem to push it too hard and as a result fail to make the start line, wasting all that hard work. There are a number of things you should be doing alongside running to get the best results, here are the basics:
Resistance Isn’t Futile
Hopefully you’ve already included some resistance training in your routine – it helps to strengthen and stabilise your muscles and connective tissue, improve your gait and increase your potential range of motion and stride length. So here are my top 3 exercises to keep your body functioning correctly as you begin to taper your runs.
- Hip bridge – These days most people spend the majority of their time in a seated position, meaning their posterior chain gets lengthened and lazy. Put simply – don’t take this personally now – most of you reading this will have a lazy arse! The best way to put this right is to get them activated and firing efficiently.
Lie on your back with your knees raised and feet planted flat on the floor. Actively clench your bum muscles to ensure they’ve activated, tilting your hips slightly, then drive your hips upwards until you have a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, hips fully extended. Slowly return to your start position, making sure the glutes deactivate before repeating. Repeat 10 on each leg for 3 sets. To up the difficulty extend both arms above your chest. Remember the aim isn’t to push yourself to the brink of poor form, but to activate the muscles, so take it slow and steady.
- Box Step Up – Again, this exercise focuses on engaging your posterior chain, but has the added benefits when performed correctly of also working your quadriceps, plus improving your balance and core control.
Facing any raised surface around knee height (eg. park or gym bench, or a stair), place one foot up so it forms a 90-degree angle with your hips and knee. Lean forward and engage the bum muscle on your standing leg to drive your hips forward and up, until you’re standing tall on the bench with also driving your lower knee forward and up in front of you, raising that leg to a 90-degree angle. Do not jump up. Return your trailing leg back to the floor slowly. Repeat 10 on each leg for 3 sets. Hold some weights to push this up a notch.
- Plank – This one will help to activate your core muscles, and recognise when they’re firing correctly. While most people think they know how to do this exercise, follow our guide to really nail it and you’ll be surprised how much tougher it is!
Start lying flat on your front with your elbows tucked by your side and palms flat on the floor under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under, then engage those glutes again. Pull your shoulder blades back, and pull the front of your ribcage down towards your hips, activating your abdominals and core. Check those glutes are still firing, then lift your hips off the floor until your body is horizontal, hips fully extended, and hold for as long as you can with good form. Rest for 20 seconds, then repeat. If you find this a bit tough then don’t be a hero, simply bend your knees and rest on them rather than your feet to lower the difficulty.
NB If you feel your lower back at any point then reset and start again, this is a sign your core is not switched on correctly.
Don’t forget to regularly perform a spot of myofascial release with a foam roller (be brave, it hurts but it pays off!) to improve muscle tissue quality, and stretch thoroughly to lengthen the muscles and maintain healthy range of motion.
The other often overlooked aspect of preparing for any event is nutrition. Your training regime could be perfect, but if you’re not eating the right stuff in the right quantities then you’ll seriously limit your improvements. So pay attention to balancing your macronutrients according to your training, and be sure to always favour nutrient-dense foods over processed nasties (this includes pasta and bread!).
The Big Picture
Last up, listen to your body. If you head out for a run and feel a twinge then don’t ever be afraid to stop, head home for a good foam roll, stretch and rest. Then the next day you can hopefully get back out there and nail it! If not then accept it and bide your time, missing a week is always better than running through pain and missing the main event.
We have trained hundreds of marathon runners over the years, if you’d like some more in-depth guidance get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to help you out with a bespoke training and nutrition plan.
So for those of you running London 2015 have a great last few weeks of training, enjoy the tapering, remember less is more and I’ll be at the 7 mile marker to cheer you all on!