In light of the upcoming NYC marathon on Nov 3, we will be posting Q&As with medical, fitness & wellness experts to support runners before — and after — the big day. Kinected co-director Matt McCulloch kicks us off with some great exercises to keep your body in line & tips on how to stay balanced in your cross-training.
Q: What is an effective warm up for the marathon runner?
MM: Many runners use a slow jog to warm up. In all of my experience in working with runners — and as a runner myself — I find that there are 3 areas of the body that could benefit from a brief warm-up: the core, hip extensors and shoulder girdle. Most runners do not have time to invest in a long warm up so these exercises are short, sweet and to the point.
Exercise 1: Quadruped Plank
The “core” is comprised of TVA/Pelvic floor, Internal and External Obliques and Multifidi. Many lower extremity injuries have been directly related to a weak core. Due to this fact, I often encourage my clients to incorporate one simple exercise to get the core firing before they run. In hopes of increased firing of the core during their run and injury prevention as well.
Set up: Come to a quadruped.
Move: Hover knees and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
Exercise 2: Standing hip extension
Runners are often very quad- and hip flexor-dominant due to a short stride and lack of hip extension. This imbalance can often cause knee tracking issues and knee pain. Strengthening your hip extensors, hamstrings & glutes can help with this imbalance.
Set up: Stand on one leg on a step or yoga block, holding onto a wall or rail.
Move: Maintaining a neutral pelvis, extend one leg to the back. Hold that extension without bending your knee. Try to contract your glues and your hamstrings in this static position.
Exercise 3: Side plank
Most runners focus on their lower extremity and avoid their upper extremity. Lack of stability in your shoulder girdle (Serratus, Pec major/minor and rotator cuff), paired with the impact of running, can lead a significant amount of tension or potential development of rotator cuff issues.
Set up: Lay on your side with forearm on floor. Legs can be bent or straight depending on the level of strength.
Move: Plank by lifting hips and holding them in a hovering position for 5 counts.
**As a general rule, all of three of these exercises are intended to increase stamina in a muscle to prevent injury. Aim to perform 2 sets of 8 reps, holding each exercise for 5-8 counts.
Q: Is there one area of the body that is most commonly undertrained in marathon prep?
MM: I would say the lower leg or calf area. Runners often avoid this area and as a result end with tight and weak calves which may lead to plantar faciitis or achilles tendon issues. A simple remedy for prevention? Stretch and strengthen. Balance out the biomechanics by incorporating this exercise:
Wrap a thera-band around your foot and point and flex your foot, articulating through your ankle. You can add circles as well
Q: How important is the core to the marathon runner?
MM: Very. Many runners do not give the core the attention it needs in terms of conditioning. A weak core can effect everything from your lower extremity biomechanics to your head alignment. The core may not lower your time significantly or directly increase your distance but it can help prevent injury to the lower extremity and back which will keep you running injury free! The strength of your core can help your overall running posture and make it more efficient.
Q: (part I) Is the foam roller useful to the marathon runner?
MM: The foam roller can be useful to the runner up to a certain point. The foam roller can help reduce fascial (connective tissue) tension enough to help with overall biomechanics. The up side of the foam roller is that it is easily accessible (there are shorter foam rollers that are easily portable) and inexpensive.
The down side is the lasting results are very temporary. For a more significant treatment of fascia restrictions, the runner would benefit with a semi-regular treatment from a massage therapist trained in sports massage — specifically focusing on myofascial release — or seeing a rolfer.
Q: (Part II) How often should it be used?
MM: The foam roller can really can be used as often as tolerated. Many runners find rolling out on a foam roller very uncomfortable. I do find that with regularity the intensity of rolling out can dissipate in some capacity. The foam roller can also be used as a great prop to facilitate a deeper core response. Your pilates instructor at Kinected or at any pilates studio or gym can show you how to utilize this prop in a very effective way to wake up that core!
Want more? Join us for our pre & post marathon masterclasses here at Kinected:
Wed, 10/23: 7-8:15pm with Bennalldra Williams
Sun, 11/10: 2-3:15pm with Matt McCulloch & Elliot Fishbein, PT
Also be sure to check out our in-store Pilates for (post) Marathoners series at Jack Rabbit Sports: Saturday, 11/16 at 8:30-9:30am — FREE! (JRS’s Union Square location, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org)