Saturday, May 05, 2012

Improve your Marathon Time- Change your Training!

The other day I was sitting in the hot tub at Talisman and was listening to a conversation about training for a marathon. Before I begin, I want to say that I think it is great that so many people are taking up fitness to complete marathons and ironman distance events. However, I do strongly believe that once an individual has succeeded down this path the next step should be to get better at these events and not just finishing. Time and time again, I hear about people either hammering through training or just putting in way too many kilometers of training. I would like to offer up some suggestions on ways to get stronger and faster without hammering and adding kilometers.

Owen Anderson (who I believe is one of the most knowledgeable individuals on running) suggests increasing leg-muscle power during pre-marathon preparations, rather than by focusing on long, slow runs. I agree with Anderson and this was the key to how I trained and how I train people today.

Here is what Anderson has to offer. If you take 180 steps per minute when you run, and it takes you about 3 hrs and 30 min to run a marathon, then you are taking a total of 37,800 steps for the race. By increasing leg power you will spend less time on the ground with each foot strike as you contract your muscles more explosively. In addition, you will increase your stride length meaning that you cover more ground between steps as your muscle contractions become more forceful.

Let's follow what Anderson says further. He states that if you improve power and this results in .02 seconds less time on the ground per foot strike, then this equates to 756 second improvement in your marathon time (37,800 times .02 seconds). This is an improvement in time from 3:30 to 3:17:24.

Anderson goes on to suggest that if the improved power also gives you an extra half-inch of distance between foot strikes, then you save about 500 meters (37,800 steps X .5 inches). This means that you would shave two minutes off your time. Your time would now be down to 3:15.

Strength is the pre-requisite to becoming more powerful. Hill running and running-specific strengthening movements help to increase your strength. After increasing strength it is important to add plyometric drills such as hops, bounds, one-leg hops in place, step-ups, split squats, etc.

Another important component of training for a marathon is to incorporate marathon pace runs. Instead of plugging through and doing a long 20 to 22 mile run every weekend, try incorporating marathon pace runs every other weekend. Start with 3 miles and gradually increase to 10 miles. For example, run 6 miles at an easy pace, then run 3 miles at marathon pace, follow this up with 6 miles at an easy pace. Eventually, increase the 3 miles to 10 miles over the period of training toward the marathon.

Of course, incorporating various types of intervals during the week is another important element to improving times. However, just by changing things up through the addition of what is suggested above, huge improvements can be made.


Kyle Marcotte said...

another way to increase relative leg power (strength to weight ratio) is to lay off the donuts... something that I am still learning.

Kyle Marcotte said...

Just to note... losing weight can also cause mroe harm than good if not done properly as you could lose muscle instead of molson muscle. Bests to just eat healthy rather than going on a "diet." Especially for a sport when strength is involved (cross-country running, cycling, swimming, etc.)