Have you ever heard someone say the following? “I would love to train [for a marathon, to Boston Qualify, harder, etc.], but I can’t run more than X number of miles a week without getting injured.”
I have already described how high average weekly mileage translates to faster running, if done correctly. This is a fact. Yet, the anecdotal evidence we hear is also often factual. The more miles we run per week, the higher our risk of injury. Not only this, but as we add those speed-building sessions, such as tempo runs and intervals, we increase our injury risk even more.
Today, however, I will submit to you that problems arise when we try to run more miles than our body can support. In other words, the problem is not necessarily the mileage or type of mileage we are running, but the weaknesses we naturally carry in our body which distance-running only exacerbates. I am talking about muscle imbalances, which, if left unaddressed, will inevitably lead to injury.
It is my belief that if you want to Boston Qualify, you must make time for a specific, correctly-executed strength training program, preferably one based off a professional assessment of your muscle weaknesses.
Sure, there may be people out there (some whom you know), who never strength train and easily Boston Qualify time and again. I am pretty sure those people though, are not the ones reading this blog. Furthermore, those same individuals would likely be even more successful if they incorporated strength training into their training regimen.
Some runners believe that strength training will cause them to “bulk up,” and gain weight, therefore negatively effecting performance. This should not be a concern. First of all, bulk leading to negative performance is actually pretty difficult to achieve. According to the Hansen’s Method, “. . . It is fairly difficult to add any significant muscle mass onto your body weight. If the right exercises are done in the correct volumes, the average runner won’t have to worry about putting on extra pounds.”  Lifting programs with the goal of increasing pure muscle mass should not be part of the marathoner’s training regimen. Rather, the focus should be on relatively low weight and high repetition.
Second, the chances of your Boston Qualifying dream coming derailed because you “bulked up” are inconsequentially small, but the chance you may not meet your goals because of injury are infinitely greater. Strength training will help shoulder some of that injury risk.
I was not given a great deal of natural muscle in my genetic makeup. Experience has proved that for me, strength training is a must or I will inevitably end up injured. Even when strength training, I have to pay special attention to my hip and glute muscles.
I recently saw a highly regarded Sports Medicine Doctor for an injury that had become somewhat chronic for me. After a few tests, he easily identified weaknesses in the hip and glute areas. He told me most runners are weak in these areas. Besides my regular strength training, I also do “clam shell” type exercises with a resistance band and CORRECTLY PERFORMED one-legged squats to specifically address these weaknesses.
Core work has also been a must. In fact, core work is so important in my mind, that I will likely address that topic in another post.
Whatever you do in terms of strength training, find a class or trainer that will get you results. For a long time, I used to the go to the gym, no plan in mind and kind of saunter between exercise machines. This wasn’t very beneficial. Now, I do a high-intensity, low-weight guided program which helps me get the results I need. I am 100% certain that strength training helped me meet my ultimate goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
 Luke Humphrey, Keith Hanson, and Kevin Hanson, Hansons marathon method : a renegade path to your fastest marathon, Kindle Edition (Boulder, Colorado: Velo Press, 2012, location 2034)