Training Tips for Runners

I received a message from a friend on Facebook about training for a half-marathon. Although my answer is relatively generic in response, I thought it would be useful to share on my blog.

Hey Darren!
I’m training for a half-marathon this Nov ( for the charity I work on) and I was wondering if you have any good exercise tips? I’m doing two short runs and one long run a week, and two days of weight training (focusing more on quads, upper body). Any good exercises you suggest for runners? Thanks hope all is well and congrats on the anniversary again!
~ Paul.

Here are my “training tips for runners” response:

First, I’d suggest a running coach (which I’m not) if this is a sport you want to pursue past this marathon. I can look into contacts. Someone to help you with running form.

A yoga class.

A yoga class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second, but maybe more important than the first, stretch. Learn how to stretch if you don’t know how. Hatha Yoga is a good place to start or even a studio advertising yoga for runners. Alternatively, if you want to come and do a stretch session with me for an hour we can make a time for that.

Thirdly, train the entire body. As An example, I’ve worked with a client who runs the Boston Marathon, Berlin and other full marathons. He benefited immensely from training upper body which he had never done before. For example improving chest, back and even arm strength contributes to how the upper body works with the lower body in movement and propulsion.

As for the legs do not neglect the entire leg. Most importantly hamstring and glutes. Hamstrings are exceptionally important for the health of the knee. Some of the best exercises you could do would be traditional deadlifts and squats. Also calves and toe ups (the opposite of doing calves). Both calves and your tibialis anterior help with ankle strength, toeing up and pushing off the ground while running.

Finally, The foam roller and massage will be your friend. Foam rolling is very important for taking down the tension on your IT band, which is commonly tight for runners and is the cause of ‘runner’s knee‘ (the IT band will get tight and pull the knee cap to the outside of the leg, causing incorrect and often painful tracking).

Trust this helps. If you have any further questions please let me know.

I’ve found that a lot of people train only certain parts of the body for a sport, usually because the dominant media markets fitness training in that way. It sells more articles to promote, ‘Strength Training for Runners’ than something less specific.

In truth, of course, you can’t really train for a sport. More importantly you should train your own weaknesses first, and then determine what aspects of your physical preparation you need to improve (Flexibility, Strength, Speed or Endurance). For example, in Paul’s case, let’s pretend that he wants to improve his run time. Without getting into a complicated exercise routine description, I would want to potentially focus on his squats and deadlift strength to improve his power. With squats, we could work on his ability to move the weight quickly and maybe jump squats, if appropriate for his body. I’d also work on his chest and horizontal pulling (like cable rows or bent-over barbell rows) to improve his arm cycle while running. Finally, after an analysis of his flexibility, I would recommend a series of stretches to create more range of motion and reduce injury potential. By increasing his range of motion, he can take a longer stride, thus fewer foot falls over the course of the marathon and therefore a lower energy cost.

Got a question like Paul’s? Feel free to comment below or email me and I will do my best to answer.

© 2012 Darren Stehle. All Rights Reserved.