In a way, I consider myself fortunate that my wonky knee ended my very first long run of this marathon training cycle last month. Not only am I happy that it happened so early in the cycle, but it made me acutely aware of the fact that marathon training necessarily involves more attention to the “extras” – not just running.
Sure, you need a solid base fitness when embarking on this kind of high-mileage journey. But no matter how fit you are, the mileage will catch up with you if you’re not proactive about strengthening and maintaining those smaller muscles and connective tissues that hold everything together.
Ever since my IT band acted up on that first run, I’ve included specific strengthening and stretching routines that focus on that region. And I realized that not only did I have to focus on the area that had already become an issue, but I needed to target all of the common weaknesses runners experience, hopefully to forestall injuries in other areas. That meant hips, glutes, knees and shins in addition to the ITB on both legs.
Through a bit of research, I’ve come up with four different routines that focus on different areas. I perform at least one of them each day – some days I do two or three – and none of them take more than about 10 or 15 minutes. The goal is to do each routine at least two times a week. Some of them have exercises that overlap, but I figure a few more reps won’t hurt anything. The workouts:
Strength (targets general running fitness): I cobbled this one together using mainly the exercises in the book “Run Less, Run Faster.” The routine is: standing wall slide (15 reps); single-leg squat (15 each leg); walking lunges (10 steps each direction); calf raises (15 each leg); planks (regular and each side).
ITB rehab: This was put together by Jason Fitzgerald at Strength Running (a great resource for people serious about running, by the way). This is a key regimen for me since my left ITB was the culprit in that first run of this cycle, and because I’ve also dealt with it previously. It’s proven to be a weakness for me in the past and I want to be aggressive about treating it and preventing it this time around. See Jason demonstrate the routine here.
Foam rolling: I got a roller for Christmas and have been very happy with the results. When I first used it on my left ITB it was so intensely painful that I could hardly put any weight on it while rolling. But that and other areas have progressively gotten less painful after more sessions. It’s a great way to loosen up after a long and/or hard workout, or any time I feel like my legs need a little attention. I’m essentially using the routine found here.
Lunges: This is a short routine that I’ve added before all of my hard workouts and whenever I run on a cold day. It’s a great warmup that gets the legs and hips nice and loose. It’s called the Lunge Matrix, and I also heard about this from Strength Running, although I believe original credit may go to coach Jay Johnson. See a video demonstration of the Lunge Matrix here.
As long-distance runners know all too well, stuff is going to hurt when you’re training for a marathon. My goal is to make sure that those minor aches and pains don’t become something more.
Swim: 0 m/0 m
Bike: 19.4/57.6 miles
Run: 24.5/48.5 miles