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Different Marathons, Different Approaches to Strength Training.

This is Part Two of Coach Kylie’s explorations into the strength training that we do and the impact on our running. This blog is her own personal experience of training for two different marathons in 2019 and the strength and mobility training that she did for each. Enjoy!

Race 1: Great Wall of China Marathon // May 2019

In 2018/19, as a new mum, I began my training for the Great Wall of China Marathon. Being somewhat housebound and time challenged, I knew I had to find smart ways to compliment my normal running training. I didn’t have the luxury of ample time to get out on the trails, hills or hit the gym. I now had a sleeping, eating dependant and our house or the local park was going to have to do.

So what did I do?

I would create a little workout space at home or in the garage, often with my daughter on the ground beside me and work through a series of body weight, theraband and light weight workouts to rebuild the strong foundation I knew I would need in order to climb the steep sections of the Great Wall on event day.

I didn’t factor in big weights, just lots of repetitions with light weights and bands. I also did a lot of balance and stability exercises as well as some good old fashioned HIIT training, particularly on days when my scheduled run sessions didn’t go to plan for some reason.

I wanted to get my core and glutes super strong and my muscles used to volume. So I focused in those areas with these regular exercises as part of most of my routines:

Lunges, jump lunges, step back lunge drives

Step ups, squats, medicine ball weighted squats, squat jumps

Curtseys and skaters

Skipping, burpees and more burpees

Mountain climbers

Push-ups, planks, plank shoulder taps, commando push ups

I also did a lot of walking in addition to my running to increase total volume.

Thankfully this approach to regular strength work from home worked! I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about my lack of stair and hill specific training, particularly as I heard many of the other runners boasting about theirs at the start line. Lesson: Don’t compare to others.

Deep down though, despite this insecurity closer to the surface, I knew I had trained the best way I could for my current lifestyle and commitments. My body felt strong, injury free and stable. And this is always what you want to feel at the start line!

Our Coach - Runner partnership worked really well, I thought. Chris focused on getting me running to the best of my ability and we agreed that I would be tasked with designing the best cross training sessions I could, to fit around my new parameters. We were both relaxed and realistic about what life looked like and actively discouraged comparisons to our previous training regimes and races where there was much more time and scope for more running.

You can read more about my actual event day and the race itself here, but needless to say, the wall was tough, but I conquered it! Afterwards I felt very proud of what we had achieved and the role that my own simple strength training had played in that success. I also felt I had proven to myself that it was more than possible to do big events, even when the training situation couldn’t be considered ideal or specific!

Race 2: Four Vines Marathon // November 2019

After the Great Wall of China Marathon, we took a short break but I was soon keen to take on a new challenge. In late 2019, the Four Vines Marathon came into view and I went into it with a goal of a Marathon PB on a flat, but not necessarily conventional course.

I did a lot more running and specific speed work in this preparation and given that we live in the flattest part of Melbourne, a flatter course made for more convenient training. I continued with my stability and mobility sessions that I had used for China, but truth be told I dropped off the focus and intensity a bit. Rather than four sessions with a solid strength component per week I dropped down to two, sometimes three sessions as my sleeping baby became an energetic toddler and maternity leave became part time work.

The Four Vines Marathon was an epic course, gave me to PB I was chasing and also my first podium, was in some way's a tougher race than China. The course had every type of terrain - country road, gravel, dirt, around the vine fields and even through a hay paddock (No path, just the paddock!) As I hit the 27km mark, my legs were almost audibly screaming and only got louder the further I went on. I had held a solid pace up until then and it was obvious that 8km over the rough terrain had worked them harder than I expected!



On reflection, I can see that a better strength training program would have made a difference and that time under heavier loads, especially in lateral movements would have made a difference. A more strength and power based focus would be my focus in future and in addition to my stability work I would be including exercises such as:

Heavy weighted squats

Heavy Deadlifts

Weighted lunges back and lateral

Weighted step ups forward but particularly lateral

Adductor planks

Lateral jump work

Box jumps &

Skipping

Ideally I would include 2-3 strength/ power sessions per week and 1-2 mobility/ stability sessions per week in addition to my 3-4 runs. Just 30-40 mins of efficient work would be totally fine.

Hindsight gives us the power to learn and become better and more knowledgeable.. As a result of these two experiences I learnt a lot and feel even better equipped to train my athletes for similar events in the future. It is also well worth researching the course and terrain when you choose an out of the box event!

If this article rings true for you or if you have further questions, please get in touch! I would love to hear from you!


Kylie