Are you running a marathon half marathon this year? In the hopes of improving your physical fitness, crossing off that big-ticket item from your summer bucket list, and/or cravenly pursuing those elusive social media plaudits? if so, you’re probably doing a physically uncomfortable amount of running (and hopefully drinking a physically uncomfortable amount of water) right now, but the most effective training regimens include a robust strength training component, too. We’ve created a simple but effective plan to help you build the perfect run time.
The method to the madness. Running develops strength, but only in one direction—on the forward, or sagittal, plane of motion. Marathoners who limit themselves to this type of training often find themselves unprepared for the intensity of the full 26.2 miles and may lack the lateral strength necessary to run alongside hundreds or even thousands of huffing, jostling, fresh-visor-wearing contestants. Strength training helps ensure that you can tackle a marathon under race conditions, and not just when you’re the only runner in sight.
A little goes a long way. Hit the weights twice a week, and do it on days when you won’t otherwise be running. Since many training plans are structured around two short runs and one longer one per week, you could, for example, run on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and then lift on Tuesday and Thursday.
Lift with the run in mind. Your goal while training for a distance race is to develop muscle endurance and explosive power—not, say, getting huge biceps. Thus, your regimen of choice should work the entire body, and should, at a minimum, include one upper-body push, one upper-body pull, and separate hip hinge and knee hinge movements. (Now is not the time for you to skip legs.)
Get started. Kicking off your weight training with this five-exercise workout—we recommend doing ten reps of each movement as a circuit, for time, and completing four rounds. Rest as needed.
1. Uni snatch. Squat holding a dumbbell in hand with your arm straight. Thrust your hips forward, pulling the dumbbell straight up, and extend your arm at the top while dipping from the hips and knees. Guide the dumbbell down and repeat.
2. Swing. Squat holding a dumbbell in both hands between your legs with your arms straight. Thrust your hips forward, swinging the dumbbell out and up overhead with your arms straight. Again, slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position and repeat.
3. TRX mountain climbers. Strap your feet into the TRX machine and, in push-up position, bring one knee to your chest. Switch knees, shooting your front leg to push-up position and bringing the back leg to the front This exercise is particularly important because it duplicates the pathway that your legs follow when you run, and by developing strength in the hip flexors, it helps to counteract the training fatigue that causes many runners to shorten their stride—and lengthen their run times.
4. Incline power push-off. Support your body on your toes and hands, with your elbows bent and your hands up on a step. Push up off the step and then land on the step on your hands, lowering your chest down into a push-up. At the bottom of the motion, explode immediately into the next repetition.
5. Turkish get-up. Lay on the floor with a dumbbell straight up over your chest and one leg raised, bent at the hip and at the knee. Thrust your bent leg forward, raising your upper body off the floor and placing your non-dumbbell hand flat on the floor to the side. Continue up onto one knee, maintaining the straight arm holding the dumbbell overhead, and then carry that motion until you’re standing all the way up. Backtrack until you’ve resumed the starting position, and repeat.