So far we have covered a couple different ways I am planning on getting from here (returning from knee surgery) to there (my first full marathon) including getting my running back up to speed, figuratively and literally, and getting my weight down.
So next is my body. Yes, this is different than getting my weight down and getting back to regular running. To me this means getting my body in tip-top shape. So let's take a look at what that means.
Core Strength - Runners need a strong core as it is what supports us the most while we are out, especially when we are out for longer and longer distances. Shalane Flanagan, Olympic runner and all around runner bada$$ with a perfect body said in an article for Runner's World/Running Times:
"[This work] keeps my biomechanics correct during extended runs. With intense core stability exercises, I'd like to believe I don't break down in form as much as my competitors."
In other words, having a strong core allows you to maintain proper form, which in turn keeps you protected from injury, allows you to go faster and longer, reduces fatigue and so much more. There's a ton of great information out there about how important having a strong core is in relation to being a strong runner. Google it and see for yourself. I think the picture below is fairly self-explanatory, but a lot of times when you think about "core" you think abs. But it includes your back muscles too so in a strong core program you don't want to neglect those back muscles.
I've been known to not have the best core strength and I think it shows especially in my longer distance runs and when I'm tired. But I did recently surprise myself, and begin to build a stronger core, when I did the abs challenge in June that I talked about here and which played a big part in convincing myself that it was time to take the right turn into Crazyland with a full marathon. But I will confess now that I've seriously slacked on that core strength that I built up in July. I had a great plan about how I was going to keep it going, but you know, when time is ticking away and you have other stuff that needs to be accomplished, like the arms challenge for July, it is all too easy to say "tomorrow" and then tomorrow keeps passing and here it is almost the end of July and I've worked my abs ONE TIME in all of this month. Sheesh...that's pathetic. Okay, so it might not be all bad because I've still been doing a lot of plank, so it's not like I haven't done anything. But it's not enough if I want to finish that marathon strong. So I am going to need to put together a plan to work specifically on my core at least three days each week.
Flexibility - Runners tend to get really tight muscles, so keeping the body limber and flexible is important. When muscles get tight they can cause imbalances that lead to poor form, fatigue and injury. And well, it just doesn't feel all that great either! So in order to stay on top of this I need to set up good habits now with the following:
- Yoga - Just doing a couple simple poses in the morning or evening can make all the difference!
- Foam Rolling - It really isn't all that fun, and it doesn't feel all that great but it really helps to loosen up the knots. So any plan I make needs to include a full foam roll at least once a week.
- Stretching - Yes, I already stretch, but doing a couple minutes pre- and post-run isn't the same as doing focused stretching for 5-10 minutes. I would say that as it stands now, I probably stretch for about 2 minutes following a run. I simply need to do a better job at holding the static stretches for 30 seconds and making sure I cover all the bases and not just the legs...because running really does use your entire body
|Sources: Left, Center, Right|
Overall Strength - As I just mentioned when talking about stretching, running really does use your entire body. You need a strong arm swing to help you increase your speed, run up hills, maintain your form and more. You need leg strength because of the obvious reasons. And I specifically talked about core strength up above. During the summer months I've been doing a challenge with my family where we have focused on a different strength muscle group each month; June was abs, July is upper body, and August is lower body. So in September I need to have a plan back in place that will work all of my muscle groups at least a couple times each week so that my body is strong from top to bottom. That base will help to keep me upright and, hopefully, injury free during training.
At-Home Physical Therapy Exercises - I'm sorry to say that this area has also suffered the past couple of months as I have been adding back in my "regular" exercising. And although I am not suffering ill effects from not doing the exercises, I'm certainly not helping myself either. This is really one of those times where it truly is better to be safe than sorry and if I can stay ahead of the game, I can hopefully keep that knee in tip-top shape. So these need to be back in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Because really, it doesn't hurt to keep strengthening the stabilizing muscles in my leg and knee!
It seems like a lot and I would be lying if I didn't admit that it is overwhelming and intimidating all the work it is going to take to get me from here to there...but that's why it's a journey (and a crazy one at that!)
Well, okay, Ryan - if you insist!!