Strength training, like sleeping for eight hours or more every night and eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables and vaguely unpronounceable superfoods, sounded like something that, in theory, I should incorporate into my marathon training, but in practice doesn’t often happen. I knew strength training could help prevent muscle imbalances and aid in improving my overall health, but I had no idea where to start or how to fit strength exercises into my schedule on top of all the running I already needed to do to prepare for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
This year, I’ve partnered with Greg Peters, a Tier 3+ personal trainer at Equinox Lincoln Park and a master instructor for the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, to see what impact strength training has on marathon training. Working with Greg gives me guidance when it comes to ways to strength train and holds me accountable. I know from experience that telling myself, “Today I will absolutely strength train!” more often than not turns into, “Today I will absolutely strength train…after I check my e-mail, and then check Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram….” Having a trainer waiting for me at the gym (and my phone locked away in a different room!) keeps me from making excuses.
In my first three sessions, I’ve worked on building strength in my arms, shoulders, core, hips, and hamstrings through supersets, which involve performing two exercises with no rest in between. Though lifting weights may seem far removed from running a marathon, supersets in particular can push your muscles to exhaustion. Though the exhaustion differs from that I experienced running a marathon, it has helped me learn how to continue working even when I’m tired: an invaluable skill for endurance sports.
The exercises themselves have also already started to help my running. Increased core strength helps me maintain my posture, which has always been a struggle of mine. A lot of the exercises during my training sessions have involved maintaining a strong and stable core. Core strength often comes up in cross training discussions, but I treated core work as another nice-in-theory, unlikely-in-practice idea. Working on stabilizing those muscles has given me a greater awareness of them, which in turn has complemented my running.
Greg and I will continue working together through the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 12, so keep checking back! I’ll be documenting my progress right here on www.mychicagoathlete.com, and I hope that my experiment with strength training will motivate you to try something different as you train for your next event.