Anyone who pursues marathon running knows that sometimes the race itself isn’t necessarily the hardest part; it’s the training that delivers ongoing challenges. If you skimp on the training, it’s unlikely that you’ll do well during the 26.2-mile ordeal; which can make for a much longer race than anticipated.
Of course, marathon training requires that you put the miles. A lot of them. There are tons of marathon running plans that offer guidance as to scheduling short runs, tempo runs, speed intervals and long distance runs. What training regimen you follow will be dictated by your initial running experience and fitness level, if you work with a running group and your own preferences. There isn’t simply one absolutely right way to train beyond some basic principles of work and recovery.
But today’s marathoners do more than just running. While running certainly is the core of the training program, increasing evidence points to the value of cross training in enhancing running performance. Cross training can address weaker links, and result in a stronger body that is less susceptible to overuse injuries.
It can take a variety of formats, but cross training ideally should incorporate strength work and flexibility exercises that complement cardio-intense running. Research has shown that proper strength training doesn’t necessarily mean bulky muscles, but instead translates to improved endurance, stronger joints and leaner body composition.
Recommendations vary, but runners should consider adding muscular endurance workouts one-three times weekly. Some experts suggest running and strength training on separate days, while others say to lift weights after a run. Ultimately the training schedule is up to you, as long as you do the work.
As for flexibility, stretching helps to relieve muscle tension and tightness that occurs due to repeated running. It can help work out scar tissue adhesions and simply feels good. Ideally, runners should stretch after runs, and concentrate on the quads, glutes, hamstrings, hips/piriformis/IT band, hip flexors, calves and lower back.
Cross training is the new way to prepare best for marathon running. With proper cross training, you’ll be fitter, stronger and better able succeed in going the distance.