Despite the wintery mix of weather we’ve been having, we are prisoners of hope that summer trail season is just a couple of months away! The Gorge 100k had less-than ideal-weather conditions, but kudos to all the athletes that braved the elements and put their winter training to the test. As distance runners, our psychological fortitude is our superhero strength – but durability may be something lacking for more than a few of us that are battling age-related changes.
The durability of runners has been studied extensively, and one area that has shown tremendous benefits is combining resistance training with endurance training. So how does one incorporate the world of dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells into an already packed marathon training schedule? The safe answer is to start slowly and gradually increase the load and frequency of your routine, incorporating your resistance training after your harder speed and tempo sessions to allow for maximal recovery between faster workouts. Key areas to target are the ones most commonly aggravated when you increase your mileage volume such as glutes, hamstrings, and ankle plantar flexors – muscles commonly referred to as the posterior chain.
There are numerous strength-based activities that can accomplish the goal of improving durability, but here is a group of single-leg activities that can be performed nearly anywhere.
Multidirectional Lunges – Forward, Reverse, Side to Side. My preference is to alternate legs and go slow, as the benefit lies in the total amount of time under tension.
Single leg step ups – these are especially helpful for those running in races with a large amount of vertical such as trail marathons and ultramarathons. Focus on keeping one foot on the platform while driving the opposite knee up to 90 degrees.
Single leg calf raises – when comparing young versus old, the strength of the ankle plantar flexors takes the biggest hit. To avoid achilles and plantar fascia issues, make this a staple of your master’s strength regiment. Feel free to progress the heel lift from the ground to off of a step for greater ankle motion.
Single leg glute bridges – to increase the effectiveness of this exercise, elevate your leg on a platform to increase the total excursion of your hip. Keep your foot close to your hips, bring your toes up, and press through your heel.
Start with 2-3 rounds of 10-15 repetitions using body weight for resistance and increasing the weight as you adapt and develop strength. It is to be expected that you may experience some soreness the first couple of times of going through this routine, but trust the process and embrace your newfound path to durability!
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