On Tuesday, March 10th, I did a 22 mile training run in preparation for the Paris Marathon in April. I wrote a Facebook post shortly after. See below:
Truth is, people think I am crazy when I take my marathon training long runs up to 24 miles or more in prep for a marathon, and when I mention that I only run 2 to 3 times a week, they think I am really crazy. Here are some of the things that people say:
“Won’t you get injured?”
“You know, most marathon training plans don’t go past 20 miles.”
“Most marathon training plans average over 40 miles per week.”
“Most marathon training programs have you running 4-6 times per week.”
The response: “No, I likely won’t get injured….and yes, I know they do.”
I am NOT saying that other marathon plans are stupid and that I know everything and that everyone should train like I do.
Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That
Here’s the deal: I’ve got a lot of things going on. Twin girls, running a business, teaching PiYo and Insanity classes, doing kid’s music ministry at church, making my wife fall in love with me all over again every day, training for marathons/triathlons, training other people for marathons/triathlons, etc. I also have lots of interests. I like to play guitar, do fun stuff with my kids, there are a couple of shows I like to watch, I like to ski, I want to eventually restore a car in my shop (and really need to organize it), I write this blog and maintain other websites, I have friends to hang out with, and so on. Truth is…I want to run marathons but I don’t want to run 4-6 days a week. I just don’t. So what? Call me crazy but I have other things to do too!
So, What AM I Saying?
When I am not looking to hit a Personal Record (like I was in 2012 at Eugene), I like to train a different way. But, there are two VERY IMPORTANT things that have to be right for it to be possible. You cannot run 22 miles on the weekend with only 1 or 2 other runs during the week and NOT expect to get injured UNLESS you have these things in hand, in my professional opinion (I promise have a couple of relevant certifications).
The Dynamic Duo
Here they are, the two things I focus primarily on in running ESPECIALLY when I am running minimal mileage for long distance racing:
1. An Obsessive Focus on Efficient Running Form
Unfortunately, this blog is not long enough to give you every detail of what efficient running form looks like. It seriously would be impossible. Also, to give you a cursory overview of it would do you a disservice…because some of you would never look further than what I put in this blog and would never reach the “Obsessive” part but try this anyway.
If you want to learn to do this, you need to study running form…alignment, foot strike, toe-off, swing through, core engagement…all of it. AND…once you have the principles, you have to obsessively practice it during your running…with VERY mindful focus. This gets harder and harder the longer the run distance, but it’s also how you make it through a 22 mile run injury free. When you are at mile 19, and form is starting to fall apart, the only way to make it to 22 is to concentrate on the elements of good form and hold that together.
I won’t leave you completely hanging on this though. Here are two ways to begin your study into proper running form:
Option 1: If you are local to me here in Bremerton, WA, I do form clinics one on one or in groups upon request. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set one up. They are not my primary business and the prices are reasonable (especially in groups).
Option 2: If you don’t want to do a clinic or aren’t local, you can start exactly where I started. Chi Running. It’s the simplest explanation of running form that I know of. You can go to www.chirunning.com and buy the DVD or the book or both, or you can find an instructor local to your area.
[important]I am not affiliated with Chi Running in any way and make no commission from any sales of their products.[/important]I
I PROMISE you that if you take the time to learn and practice good running form, you will not regret it.
2. A “Strong” Focus on Particular Areas of Strength and Flexibility
As someone pointed out in the comments to my Facebook post, the PiYo program is how I accomplish this focus. It doesn’t have to be how you accomplish this focus, but it’s an important focus. Here are the main areas where runner’s really have issues and need to focus:
– CORE STRENGTH: When most people think of core, they think of abs. So, I will just go with that even though I think the real definition includes a lot more than abs. Either way, having a strong midsection is essential for runners. You can do just about any 10 min core routine, 3 times a week to take care of this.
– HIP and GLUTE STRENGTH: This is probably the biggest culprit for injury and yet is talked about the least. Why? Because the injuries that result from weak hips and glutes usually happen elsewhere. For instance, a weak hip causes the knee to buckle a little in toward the center on each supporting stance and that causes the foot to overpronate and that causes tendinitis or ITB…as an example. Many people end up getting motion control shoes to stop the pronation when the real issue is a weak hip way up the kinetic chain. Strong hips and glutes are a very important part of the lower body kinetic chain that keep you from getting injured on longer runs. They have to be strong to maintain the proper alignment even at mile 20.
– FLEXIBILITY – PRIMARILY HIP FLEXORS, CALVES, and HAMSTRINGS: Many runners have seriously flexibility issues in those three areas. The hip flexors being tight limits your stride length (and therefore you primary means of going faster). The calves being tight can cause achilles and plantar fascia issues over long runs and the hamstrings can cause low back issues and stride length issues.
As I mentioned, I deal with all of these issues by doing PiYo. I don’t do the DVD program because I teach it live. I get 2 hours of PiYo in on Thursdays by teaching classes (that’s probably excessive for one day) and I practice the routines for class on my own 1 or 2 other times during the week. So, I do a total of about 3 hours of PiYo per week. With my integrated training programs that I have for PiYo, the average using the DVD programs is about 2.5 hours of PiYo mixed into the running. You can request access to the plans HERE.
As I mentioned though, you don’t have to work on these things through PiYo. There are other options out there.
In fact, I found a few good resources out there for you:
– Core work for runners with hip and glute focus section: CLICK HERE
– Stretching for runners: CLICK HERE
I would also add a bent knee calf stretch to get the other part of the calf. CLICK HERE
So, why these two things? Because when the right muscles are strong and flexible (focus 2) AND you learn to use the correct muscles efficiently (focus 1), you can go longer with less injury and with less energy. Strength and efficiency changes the whole running game.
In closing, I have to be clear. There are only two focuses here…but they are not easy, and unless you really enjoy the mechanics of how things work and are a real student of it, they won’t be fun either. Being an engineer (not a typical one in all senses…but an engineer nonetheless), I tend to enjoy running mechanics and form. I love to experiment with it and perfect it. You may not. But, even a short time of very focused attention on it will change how you run in a very good way.
I hope that helped and please feel free to leave comments and ask questions.