Many clients are seeking some clarification as to how to maintain their marathon level fitness over the coming months, whilst waiting for the London and other marathons which have been pushed back until later in the year to come back around again. Why are they seeking clarification from Therapists though? Because of course here at The Reinge Clinic we are much more than therapists also Sports & Exercise Scientists and Exercise Physiologists.
This is a great question too, as it's something that wont affect you so much if you are a casual or regular runner who runs a few miles several times a week. You can still do that under the current government guidelines.
How do you maintain marathon fitness when in lockdown?
Well firstly there are two things we must consider:
1) Can I just keep doing my long runs?
Good question! Why not just keep doing the long runs?
Well, this is becoming a little difficult as people are being asked to stay within a mile or so of their homes and some people are physically stuck in their homes. Although I did read about a French runner, running a marathon on their balcony 🤪
2) You may have already peaked!
Much more importantly: Most training programmes that people will have been following are designed to peak around the time of the event. Peaking is an essential part of a programme and it represents the highest point of training before doing your event and then having a well earned rest period. Take note of that last statement: 'A well earned rest'. Not everybody will be aware that you can't hold that peak for months at a time or you risk injury and overtraining.
So, what can I actually do to maintain that marathon fitness?
Well, to maintain Marathon level fitness we need to follow a simple principle that often gets overlooked. We must not try to progress, we have already peaked, we don't need to do any more. We only need to maintain. To further complicate matters, if we just continue to run at our 'peak' speed or distance and we do avoid injury, then the next thing we will do is adapt. Now that is not as good as it sounds, because once we adapt the body begins to actually detrain despite the continuing runs! The good news about that is that we don't need to do the big runs to hold that maintenance level, we can get away with 50 to 60 min runs and still do the job.
Hopefully things are looking up already 😉
So actually, if you are still able to get out and run then a slight modification of the programme you are following will do the job just fine. A decent and well balanced marathon and half marathon programme will include a recovery run, a tempo run, an active rest day covering non running based exercises, a quality day with sprints, intervals or hills etc. and of course a long steady run. All we need to do is replace just one element!...... that long steady run. We take that and change it into a 60 minute run that is quicker than your normal pace for this run.
How much quicker should that 60 min run be?
Well, not a lot, you should still be able to achieve that age old, but still relevant goal of being able to hold a conversation. If you cant then it's too fast, that kind of speed is what we need on the quality day.
When the event is imminent, then you slow back down a little and re introduce the longer runs in line with whatever was suggested in the final third of your programme
But what if I am stuck at home?
Well there's always that balcony 🤣.
Alternatively, whilst more difficult we can still maintain. In order to do this we need to perform some key exercises to hit the running muscles and maintain an aerobic base too.
For the muscles, you could try:
Single leg mini squats
Skipping is always good (not the two legged jumping, playground version)
Single leg lifts whilst lying on your front
Single leg lifts in a plank position if you want to hit the core too
To maintain an aerobic base, then a step or the bottom stair of the house can be useful.
If you are happy to take the risk (of slipping) then running up and down the stairs is an option.
Better still use the bottom stair or step and basically perform a good old 1980's step class 🤩 :
Try stepping up and down with alternate legs, stepping up with one leg leading and the other always on the floor (then swap). Try side stepping up and down, as before with alternate legs, putting a nifty twist in or as previously with one leg leading and one remaining on the floor.
There are lots more moves too, type in step aerobics to you tube! 🕺
This advice is of course, generic. If you would like some some personal guidance on how you can best maintain your running fitness we can do this remotely if you e mail us your current programme and don't forget we can still do gait analysis remotely during this lockdown period as well as assess and guide you in treating injury 😉
The Reinge Clinic is a Physiotherapy, Sports Therapy, Sports Science clinic based in Kenilworth, Warwickshire and Portishead, Bristol. take a look at our facebook page for our daily videos and exercise advice during this period and learn more about us on our website.