After hobbling again over the finish line at my second marathon in 2014, a year after my first, I had to question why I was doing this to my body. My body was still not fully conditioned for running marathons. I had only been running for close to three full years which is nowhere near enough time to gain the ability and experience. I knew that if I was in this sport for the long term, I had to work on my foundation. I wanted to run more long-distance races in the future, but I had to consider my actions realistically before I ended up with persistent injuries. A lot of marathon runners have several years running (or cardio related sport) experience that I didn’t have. I would see a more dramatic change in my fitness and enjoyment of the sport if I slowed things down and go back to basics. I decided that I needed at least a year or two before I got back into long distance running and spend more time building up my experience and working on my strength.
Through a lot of research and help from my physiotherapist, I worked on several key areas of my body in the gym to condition it further. There were a few imbalances to my muscles, core and stabilisation muscles that control the movement of the legs around the hip. I set about using Thera-bands, the TRX trainer, a tennis ball and some key workouts I picked up from my physio and online to align the hips.
The TRX gives you the ability to perform a whole body workout using your body weight and balance that can really target the core. It attaches to an overhead attachment and hangs in the air with two handles and hooks to work on arms, legs, and core. Thera-bands (resistance bands) come in different strengths and can be used for upper body or lower body movements. They allow you to add resistance and target specific directions and movements.
Along with designing my own work-out routine (from my strength training experience as a teenager), I decided to get a personal trainer to push me up an extra notch using his experience working with professional athletes. Over four months, he pushed me to a new level of strength in my legs and core that certainly made a massive difference to my foundation.
Take a further look at http://groundworkathletics.ca/
Most of the exercises he set me were whole body movements that targeted multiple muscles groups all at once. This not only focused on some key muscle groups such as the hamstrings and quadriceps but also the glutes, core, and upper body. The focus was massive resistance and low reps. I would perform three repetitions of a set weight I could handle for roughly ten repetitions. This type of method focuses on muscle strength and not for adding a lot of mass.
Over the two years since my second marathon, I focused on shorter distance races and managed to break some PBs. Racing at shorter distances and running faster made a difference in my running cadence and bodies ability to cope with the turnover. I was also running far more at shorter distances that didn’t force the same load onto my body that the vast distances did during marathon training.
After meeting Peak Performance at a running expo, I took a Vo2 Max and lactate threshold test that gave me a broad spectrum of data about my working abilities. These results provided me specific areas to train, and I saw faster results in my training. I increased the frequency that I went in to have tests in both running and cycling so I could make quick changes to my practice and see how my running economy had improved and where to focus. I’ll talk more about this testing in another post.
I heard a lot surrounding trail running and knew a lot of runners who were enjoying ultras. It was very new to me, and I decided to look into it further. I signed up for a few local short distance races hosted by MEC, 5 Peaks and Coast Mountain Trail Series and loved the experience and change in atmosphere. It also pushed me to focus a lot more on leg strength with significant spikes in elevation on the courses compared to a road race.
Discovering and introducing triathlons into my life in 2014 made a significant impact on my running by having a focus on cross training. Cycling and swimming further improved my performance and body’s strength. I learnt how to train more efficiently using three different sports that benefited each other. There is also something uniquely fun about triathlons that I love. Trying to balance each activity and the transition element had a unique set of challenges. I would encourage anyone to give one a try.
Taking part in my first triathlon was quite a test of my abilities as I sucked at swimming and needed to take lessons. Not only was it the Olympic distance with 1500m of swimming, but it was also in the open ocean. It was an excellent day, and I loved the experience. I’m still not the biggest fan of the swim, but I’ve come along way since I started.
The past two years since my second marathon I’ve experienced a lot of different racing, discovered trail running and triathlons and seen a dramatic improvement in my fitness. I learnt a tremendous amount from the challenges that faced me, but I’ve also realised there are still so many more things I need to learn and experience in this sport. I also had a tremendous amount of fun racing at around 20 smaller events.