5 Ways to Prepare for Marathon Training

Wondering what you should be doing to get ready for fall marathon training? You’re not alone. Here’s how we recommend you fill those precious weeks leading up to the start of your marathon training:

(1) GET HEALTHY. Now’s the time for a little TLC for any extra tightness or nagging pain that’s been creeping it’s way into your spring running. Maybe this means taking a week or two off from running or a couple visits to your favorite therapist. Also, don’t forget the value of a good non-running shoe. Women, with warmer, summer weather comes flat sandals, flip flops and high-heeled sandals. None of these are good for your achilles or your feet. Instead, spend more time in shoes with about a 1-inch lift and some arch support.

(2) SETTLE INTO A ROUTINE. Marathon training must be a priority for it to be successful. So, make sure you’ve figured out a way to fit in at least 3 runs a week including one day a week that will work for your longer runs. If you figure out how to make your schedule work in advance, it’ll be a lot less stressful when training officially begins.

(3) PICK UP THE PACE. Get your body used to the faster paced workouts included in most marathon training plans with at least one run a week that includes speed bursts in the middle or at the end of your run. For example, after a couple miles into your run, pick up the pace 4-6 times for 15 seconds to a couple minutes. You don’t need to sprint, but get out of your easy, regular pace. Alternatively, finish your run with a fast last mile at a comfortably hard pace similar to a tempo pace. This pace should feel challenging, but you should still be able to control your breathing.

(4) LONG RUN PREP. Take a look at the long run distance in week 1 of your training plan. Now make sure you’re ready to tackle that distance by building up over the next couple of weeks to a mile or two below this distance. For example, if the first week of your plan has you running 10 miles, you should be able to run 8 miles before starting week 1. This way you adhere to the 10% rule of only increasing your long run distance by about 10% each week. 

(5) FIND A PLAN! No marathon experience is the same, so we believe no plan should be exactly same. Make sure your training plans works for you – not just your training partner. For a fully customized training approach and a fun, supportive environment, check out our 16-week training plans.  

Raising the Barre

Today, Coach Bex talks about her cross-training and why she has incorporated barre classes into her training. Have questions for her? Email her:

I regularly get asked by clients what they should do on days they aren't running. Cross-training is an essential part of the training process, and should not be neglected. While the answer "anything but running" is true, it's also not very specific. Strength training is important, and I also try to incorporate spin and yoga into my routine, but recently my favorite cross-training activity is barre. A Pure Barre studio opened up in my neighborhood a few months ago. Having never taken a barre class before, I didn't know what to expect. What I found was 55 minutes of tiny, isolated movements focusing on individual parts of the body, and a crazy soreness to follow the next day. I was hooked. I signed up for an unlimited month and fell in love. That was during my off-season. These days, while training, I like to hit a barre class 1-2x/week.

One thing I like about Pure Barre is that it is low-impact. Barre classes combine elements of pilates, ballet, and yoga along with an arm workout with light weights. This means that I can take a class on the same day as a shorter run, as it won't stress my body too much. It's especially good for core work. Runners often neglect the strength aspect of their training. Barre classes are a great way to get in the strength work and feel graceful while doing it. Plus I always like being in a class, the instructors motivate you to push yourself and embrace your strength. I highly recommend looking in your area to see which barre offerings are available to you!

Fleshman's Awesome Abs Routine

With recovery on our minds this month, I (Jessica) committed to "recovering" my pre-pregnancy abs starting this month. It's been almost 9 months since I gave birth and it's time to feel feel strong through my core again. There are no excuses at this point!

While texting my friend every night about my latest core routine triumph has been helping, I got another boost of motivation from the latest ab routine video by Lauren Fleshman, a kickass professional runner, fellow Oregonian and new mom as well, on Runner's World's website last week.  The video is geared towards runners with a special focus on what recovering runner moms need in terms of core strength post-pregnancy.  As with any post-natal abdominal exercises, check with your doctor first before diving into what Runner's World calls a, "Freaking Awesome Ab Workout." Once you're ready, I highly suggest getting on board the Fleshman Ab Train. 



Strength Move of the Week: Squat to Leg Extension

Do you ever have the feeling that your legs are ahead of your upper body when you are running fast? Or, your legs are rotating around your pelvis as if your inner and outer thighs have nothing to do with your stride? One of the reasons for this is due to a lack of hip stabilty and balanced strength between your front muscles and side muscles in the leg.

If you are runner, you need hip stability and would probably also like inreased leg power to help you pick up the pace. One way to increase both of these is to implement squats with a leg extension into your routine. This move involves a slight twist on the regular squat to help strengthen abductors (outer thighs) and adductors (inner thights) as well as the gluteal muscles to promote hip stabilty. Try it out this week! 

Strength Workout of the Week: STAIRS!

Improve your leg power and your running form with stair workouts. The best part is that a stair workout can be combined with a run for a cardio and strength combo workout by hitting up a series of stair climbs midway through your run this week. Portland, Oregon has sets of stairs hidden throughout the city (see above), but other places to look for a good set of stairs include your local high school or hilly parks.  

THE WORKOUT: Find a series of stairs that are regular height. After at least a 10-minute warm up, run hard up the stairs and jog slowly back down. You should be breathing hard at the top, but not keeling over. Next time up, skip a stair each stride. Alternate running up single steps and skipping a step for 10-20 minutes. If you want to get fancy, add in hopping up on one foot and then the other to your series.  

*Concentrate on pumping your arms, keeping your head up, picking up your knees, landing lightly and pushing off with your calves as you run up the stairs.  Use your core to stabliize your upper body as you bound upwards.

And remember . . . you OWN those stairs! 

Strength Move of the Week: Pyrolates at Firebrand Sports

Holy cow! Last night I took one of the harder strength classes I have ever been to. It's called Pyrolates at Firebrand Sports in Portland, OR. The name actually explains it all. It felt like my entire body was burning most of the time, but in a controlled, Pilates-like fashion that's safe, effective and insanely hard! Normally, I am not a fan of burn until you die workouts, but this class is an exception. 

Picture from Firebrand Sports' website of its Pyrolates class

Portlanders, if you're looking for a strength class that gets results, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Firebrand's Pyrolates class. Like most Pilates workouts, this class is especially great for runners because it targets hip stabilizers and abdominals in a way that will seriously benefit your running form and running strenght. Not to mention, a glute, hamstring and quad workout that crushed me the second half of class. Legs and core are happy, but very spent.

When you do show up for your first class, don't be shy about modifications - the instructor in my class was amazing at providing them on both ends of the spectrum.  Here's the machine that you use for this class. It reminds me of a reformer on steroids.

A word of caution for any runner: don't plan a hard running workout for the day after one of these classes. You're going to need a recovery run day.  


Strength Move of the Week: Bridges

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Bridge Lifts and Bridge Walk
Why we love these? Bridges strengthen the glutes and stabilize the core which reduces the risk of injury to the hips and knees. Feel this exercise primarily in the glutes and abdominals, not the lower back. If you are new to bridges, start with bridge lifts for the first week and then add in bridge walks. Otherwise, do both of these - one after the other. No matter what, make these are part of regular weekly routine! 

To get into proper bridge position lie on your back with your hands at your sides and bend your knees to bring your feet flat on the ground about hands length away from your butt. Raise your hips by firing your glutes (squeezing your butt cheeks) and using your hamstrings and glutes to drive your heels into the ground. Lift up until you create a straight line from your hips to the knees without arching your lower back. Keep your abdominals contracted the entire time and avoid rocking your hips from side to side during the lifts or walks. 

Move of the Week - Bicycle Crunches

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Bicycle Crunches
Why we love these? Get back to the basics - nothing fancy - with bicycle crunches. This simple move stengthens the oblique muscles necessary in maintaining a stable upright position during your runs. As you do these make sure your lower back stays pressed to the ground.  Start out slowly going through a bicycle pedal motion altnerately touching your elbows to the opposite knee as you twist back and forth.  Concentrate on control, not speed.  Perform for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.  


Interview with a Fitness Professional

This week we bring you Megan Caldwell, proud owner of FIT4MOM Cedar Mill, offering amazing pre- and post-natal fitness classes in the northwest. Originally from Connecticut (we love our east coast transplants!), Megan currently resides just outside Portland, OR.  As a former educator, and now a mom to two young boys, running fitness classes for women allows her to combine three of her greatest passions: her passion for fitness, her passion for teaching and her passion for being able to spend time with my children.  Megan currently offers Stroller Strides, a bootcamp style workout for moms to do with their stroller aged children, and Body Back, a results-based program without the kiddos that includes small group training, nutritional guidance and accountability, pre and post assessments and individualized goal setting.  We met Megan last fall when Jessica and her daughter fell in love with her Stroller Strides classes and her overall training philosophy!

Why do you like working with runners?
I have always said that getting out for a run is my “drug of choice.” Running is one of the best medicines, and being able to share this with others has been great. I’ve had the opportunity to work with all levels of runners – from those who have literally never run, to those who have run competitively. I love that running can be a common thread between any two people, no matter what their level is, what other interests they may have, their age, etc. I also love seeing the impact that strength and conditioning can have on runner’s results, no matter what level the runner begins at. One of my favorite clients, a mom to now 3-year-old twins, used to say, “I’m not a runner,” and would casually push her kiddos behind the group. When given the tools to make herself stronger, and the encouragement to give it a shot, I’d now classify her not only as a runner, but also a sprinter. She truly rocks it, and often leads the group in running! Seeing transformations such as this is truly inspiring.

If you could tell a runner one piece of advice, what would it be?
Allow running to be FUN. Although this may seem like a “duh” to those who have always enjoyed running, for those who have not, it’s a great reminder. For the competitive runner (whom I used to be, and I guess still sometimes am!), it is important realize that running is more than just a time or a pace or a result. Finding a compatible running buddy or group WILL keep running fun. I’ve learned running can be a common thread to develop lifelong friendships.

Lastly, I think being able to have fun with running stems from making sure you are in a pair of shoes that works for your body and training purpose. I got fitted for a pair of trainers my first year of college and have been running in the same shoe model since (pain and injury free!)

What is your go-to fitness activity and why? 
Although I still love just “getting out the door” for a run, that’s harder these days with two small children. I’ve come to really enjoy both at home and group HIIT workouts (high intensity interval training). Combining spurts of cardio, strength and core, incorporating both body weight exercises and those with free weights or resistance bands, it’s been a great way to gain strength and keep fit. Not only can I get a great workout in in a half hour or less but as a runner strength training has not only helped make me a stronger, faster runner, but also assists in injury prevention.

What is your favorite post workout meal?
I LOVE a good smoothie! I’ve found smoothies to be a great, easy way to get some protein in after a workout, as well as sneak in some other great nutrients! My smoothies always include non-fat plain Greek yogurt and frozen fruit, either coconut water or low fat milk and a handful of leafy greens (either spinach or kale usually). I then like to switch it up, sometimes adding in oatmeal, chia seeds, avocado, you name it, I’ve probably given it a shot! If I’ve been out on an exceptionally long run or completed a tough workout I may throw in a scoop of protein powder.

When did you start running?
If you were to ask my parents, they’d probably say I began running around the age of one, and haven’t stopped! As an avid soccer player and basketball player from a young age, I joined track in middle school merely as a means to stay in shape for my team sports. Fast forward a few years, after a successful high school career as a three-sport athlete, I went on to compete in soccer and track in college. Primarily as a sprinter and jumper, after one season of collegiate soccer, I decided to focus my energies on track and field where I competed four years at Tufts University in Boston as a heptathlete (think decathlon, but for women.) College track is really where I think I found my love for running. Post college I decided to give long distance running a shot (something I swore I’d never do!) Over the past 10 years I’ve run two full marathons, a few halfs and many, many 5ks and 10ks. I’m looking forward to my first race post-baby #2 – Portland’s famous Shamrock run in March!

Strength Move of the Week - Walkouts

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Walkouts
Why we love these? Walkouts stengthen hamstrings, shoulders, abdominals, lower back and promote hip stablity in runners. Strong shoulders, core and stable hips are all things every runner needs to ward off injury and improve speed! As you do these focus on keeping your hips stable and using your core to push yourself back to the start position - NO rocking back and forth! If you have trouble get back to standing without rocking, don't go down and far. Also, if you can't touch the ground without bending your knees, then bend your knees at the beginning to get your hands to the ground and then straighten them as you walk your hands out.