A combination of exercises such as swimming, cycling and yoga is an effective way to improve your running. You not only give your joints a break but you also get to build endurance, plus strengthen the major muscles that power you through a race: core, quads, hamstrings, hips, back and shoulders.
Here are some great cross-training exercises to incorporate into your routine.
Cycling primarily works the quadriceps, a big muscle group that running alone will not awaken. In fact, having weak quads can lead to knee problems like runner's knee.
Join a spinning class or hit the roads with your bicycle. Do a 30 to 60-minute session once or twice a week, then gradually increase the frequency and distance as your marathon draws near.
Relieve your joints from the stress and strain of running by taking a dip. Being a full-body workout, swimming lets you work the neglected but important muscles - such as your lower back and shoulders - that will enhance your running performance, while continuing to build your aerobic fitness.
Opt for cool water where possible; swimming in under-26 deg C conditions provides an anti-inflammatory therapy for sore muscles.
Swim at a relaxed pace weekly, clocking the same duration in the pool as you would at a training run.
Done in a heated room of 38 to 42 deg C, hot yoga helps your body acclimatise to high humidity - every runner's pet peeve in Singapore.
Besides being a great calorie burner and metabolism booster, yoga improves flexibility by loosening your muscles and joints.
The strength and flexibility you stand to gain - specifically in the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors - will help you run more efficiently and stay injury-free.
Sign up for hot yoga or Bikram yoga classes at a studio near you.
A strong core provides the stability and endurance you will need to maintain a good running form during a long-distance race, plus the power to sprint to the finish. So it is worth dedicating some time to do core-strengthening exercises.
Lying on your back, do basic crunches or leg lifts, increasing the number of reps and holding time as you get stronger.
A great supplement to a runner's roadwork, strength training will improve your race time and reduce the risk of injuries. Your focus should be on building muscular endurance instead of strength, particularly in the hips, legs and core.
It is best to engage a personal trainer who can tailor a strength-training regimen to your fitness level and goals. Typically, the workout involves using external weights (like dumbbells and kettlebells) as well as your body weight.
- This article first appeared on www.shape.com.sg, Singapore's leading fitness and wellness site for women.