The key is balance. Smart organization of strength training, cross-training, and rest into your week will allow you to increase weekly mileage and successfully and healthily complete 13.1 miles. The number of days you run versus cross-train will vary, but a day of recovery is vital for injury prevention. Active rest should include focusing on foam rolling, stretching, or doing self-massage. Tools such as a stick roller are essential to target those harder-to-reach areas. Gentle yoga is also smart to integrate into cross-training or active rest days.
Cross-training can be a combination of aerobic (easy) and anaerobic (hard) exercise. Utilizing the elliptical, swimming, rowing machine, biking, and/or spinning are great ways to build endurance, increase lung capacity, and train the body to exercise for extended periods while reducing the pounding of running day after day. Another option is the Alter-G, an anti-gravity treadmill that allows for a high level of fitness work with the feel of running. Cross-training will still allow integration of interval workouts into the program for increasing your speed.
Here’s a sample plan: run 3-4 days a week, cross-train 2-3 days, and take off 1 day. One cross- training day can be a long aerobic effort (45-60 minutes) while the other can be multiple sprints (30-45 seconds) to help improve performance and turnover. Additionally, strength training and corrective exercises should be included into your weekly training program. Emphasis should be placed on core, gluteal, and hip strengthening exercises which can positively affect running mechanics, help avoid muscle imbalances, and improve efficiency. Examples of some strengthening exercises would be planks, bridges, and side-planks with leg lifts. Taking a Pilates class would be a great way to rest from impact activities, too.
Train smarter, not harder!
Jennifer Lister is a licensed athletic trainer and physician extender in the Women's Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery. She has extensive experience with runners and their injuries while working with the athletic teams at Princeton University and the University of Miami (FL). Over the years, she's given multiple professional presentations on lateral hip and gluteal strengthening for runners. She is a graduate of the University of Miami and the University of Pittsburgh.