Running on the same path can make for a mundane marathon training routine. Break up the monotony by changing the scenery and the terrain of your running. Good news, not only will this help keep your motivation up for your runs, it will help build your leg, foot, and ankle muscles. The uneven surface forces you to use muscles that don’t usually get too much of a workout on even surfaces. Running on trails or sand causes you to run slower, so don’t plan a lot of miles on these surfaces. Be careful with trail running, however, it is easy to twist an ankle if you aren’t careful where you step. If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, hit the sand a couple times in the next few weeks. If you plan to do some beach runs, stay in the firm wet sand, and try to avoid sloped surfaces.

While we’re talking about terrain, if you’ve been doing much of your running on a treadmill to avoid the heat, be sure to get some miles on the pavement. You want to train your body to run on the race surface, and for most marathons, this means concrete. If you do all your training on a treadmill or on trails, your legs will suffer on race day from the shock of a hard surface. The treadmill and trails have a lot more cushion and absorption of the shock of impact, so you suffer from less joint issues. If this is you, start slowly building your running time on the concrete now. Be sure you do a couple long runs on the pavement before race day. Your knees and hips will thank you come mile 26 at Twin Cities.

Next week: Finish Fast!

Happy running,

After a long run, I just want to come home, have a huge glass of ice cold water, and sit. It’s sometimes hard for me to get motivated to do some quick core work before I relax. But, a strong core is one of the most important things for a runner to have (right up there with good running shoes and a stick of Body Glide!).

The muscles in your abs and lower back make up your core. A strong core allows you to maintain good form, charge up hills, and push your pace at the finish. It can also prevent injuries – strong ab muscles can prevent the low back pain that some runners feel. A strong core also prevents unnecessary strain on the hips, knees, and other joints. It doesn’t require tons of time – just 15 minutes or so three time per week.

There are several ways to work out your core, from the stability ball to yoga. There are a variety of DVDs and workout plans in magazines, like Runner’s World or Shape. One of my favorite moves is the plank – it works your abs and back. Remember to change it up frequently to continue to get results and to take your time with each move to truly use your muscles.

Don’t neglect your core – it can help you when you need it most!

Next week – the runner’s runs.

Happy running!

So, I have to confess, I do not practice what I preach, at least not always. I haven’t done plyometrics since my high school track days. But in my research for this post, I have decided I will start them up again. There really is no reason other than laziness that I haven’t been doing them, so from here on out, I plan to skip, hop, and jump through my marathon trainings.

If you aren’t familiar with plyometrics, they are essentially different ways to jump or leap, for more speed, strength, and running economy. If you played football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, really any sport in high school or college, you most likely did some form of plyometrics during your drill workouts. Plyometrics teach your body to push off the ground with more force, building more lower body strength, balance, and flexibility. This in turn, increases your running economy, or reduces the energy you use while running. This can result in less fatigue and a faster run time. Some studies have even shown plyometric training to have better results for runners than traditional strength training.

Use caution when adding plyometrics to your workout routine. You will want to gradually increase the amount of these drills that you add to your training. They are generally high-impact, so there is a risk of injury if you overdue it, or land in the wrong way. Trying to explain the different jumps over a blog seems a little daunting, so I have included some links to sites describing different plyometric drills and moves. I plan to add a plyometric session to my speed days, or if you’re lucky and have P90X workout videos, you can do the plyometrics video (the P90X one is a killer workout!!!) on a cross-training day.

For detailed plyometric drills or more information check these links out:

Next Week: Hit the Trails

Happy Running,

Something all runners go through at some point in their running lives is injury. It could be something fairly benign, like shin splits, or more severe, like a stress fracture. I have experienced hip problems in the past and know how frustrating it feels. You know you shouldn’t run, but all you can think about it is how you need to and should be running. But, if you deny the injury, you potentially make it worse by continuing to run on it or compensate with poor form that leads to another injury. Here are some ways to prevent injuries from occurring.

  1. Don’t try to do too much too fast. There is a reason marathon training plans take 16 weeks and slowly increase mileage over time. One often used rule is increasing mileage by no more than 10% per week.
  2. Listen to your body. It sounds self-explanatory, but as runners, we get so focused on the distance we are supposed to run, we ignore everything else.
  3. Do some form of strength training and include your hip muscles. Many knee problems can be fixed with increased hip strength.
  4. Stretch!
  5. Cross training is a great way to get exercise in and give joints a break. Things like swimming or cycling are great options for runners.
  6. Get good shoes that are right for your foot strike and fit well.

Remember RICE if you do get injured: rest, ice, compression, and elevation for immediate treatment.

Next week: core work.

Happy and injury-free running!

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As always,
Happy running,