When I looked ahead on the calendar at the start of my training for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, it sure looked far away. That was back in June when I wasn’t sure if my legs remembered how to run that far and my diet had wandered from that of an athlete.
But here I am just a few short days away from the starting line and once again, the training did its job. I’m in peak shape, my legs feel strong, and I’ve become a lean runner once more. This will be my ninth marathon and I feel as ready as I can get. Interestingly enough, I feel I got ready to run 26.2 miles by doing many other activities than running.
Cycling: If you came to my home you’d notice two distinct things in my office. One, I have some of my most treasured running paraphernalia framed on the wall. And two, I have a bicycle sitting in the middle of the room. For me, my beloved Boston Marathon bibs, that are in a shadow box frame, wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my bike. Cycling makes me a better runner.
As much as I can, I like to include cycling into my marathon training. For years I attended an indoor cycling or spinning class twice a week instead of running on certain days. When the weather is nice, I throw on a helmet and head out on my bike. When the weather‚ is not nice, I hop on my indoor trainer and get a fantastic workout that is intense enough for my cardiovascular system, yet easy on the impact. This is what I feel allows me to pound the pavement for miles on end and to increase my performance every season.
Yoga: Though I love cycling during marathon prep, there are other fantastic workouts to help improve one’s running. Yoga is a common favorite because it helps promote recovery from the damage that muscles incur during long runs. One of the best benefits a runner will get from yoga is the flexibility it provides. A flexible runner is a happy and fast runner.
Low Impact Exercise: While training for a distance run — or simply shaping up to begin a new running routine, there are a number of low-impact workouts that will help strengthen your joints for running. Swimming, pilates, elliptical machines, stair climbers — even pool running — will help improve physical fitness. The body takes a beating from, quite literally, pounding the pavement, so low-impact activities help offset those effects.
Whether you’re like me and rely on your bike to take you to the finish line, the bottom line is that it’s important to physically and mentally prepare for a race.