When to stop strength training before a marathon...and a Liebster Q&A

BodyPump strength training It was treadmill again for me this week as RVA got about 7" of snow on Wednesday night.   Thankfully most of it melted pretty quickly and despite frigid temps again this morning I was able to get outside today do my 18-miler.  But since I'm over the snow and the cold, let's talk about something else:  Strength Training!  My strength training of choice is Les Mills BodyPump.   A while back I received my BodyPump (group weightlifting) certification.  This month I've been doing some more teaching at the YMCA as I fill in for an instructor that is out.  It's been an interesting experience for sure.  I'm not used to being an instructor in front of a big group and I've been very nervous to teach the classes.  Thankfully I've used my time stuck on the treadmill to listen to the tracks and memorize the choreography so that I feel more comfortable presenting it in class.  Of course I've had a few mistakes and my classes have been treated to my face turning bright red, but on the whole I think it has gone okay and I'm working to improve each time I teach.

I've been either teaching or taking the class 2-3 times a week for quite a while but as I enter the taper, I began to wonder what I needed to do in terms of scaling back/stopping the weight training before my race.

When Should You Stop Strength Training Before a Goal Race? 

If you've been consistently (1-3 times a week) strength training during your marathon buildup, you'll want to consider stopping right around the time you start your 2-week taper.  Studies have shown that when you stop strength training, a couple of important things happen:

Week 1:  Recovery:  During the first week off, your body begins responding to the training load you've been subjecting it to by repairing your muscles and replacing your energy stores.  You may feel a bit weaker this week as your body uses its energy to heal itself and repair all the small muscle fiber tears.

Week 2: Supercompensation:  This is the exciting part.  After about a week off from strength training, your body switches from recovery mode to supercompensation mode.  What does this mean?  Strength training suppresses fast-twitch muscle fibers to some degree, but when you stop training, they overcompensate to a higher-than-initial level.  This means that during this week your body's muscle fibers hit an optimal state - allowing you to generate more power.  Sounds like a great time to race!!

Long story short?  8-14 days before your race is the best time to discontinue strength training to let your body rebound and strengthen before the big day.

I plan to take a break from teaching (and taking) BodyPump after next week since the race is rapidly approaching.  I'm planning on Friday, March 6th to be my last day. (9 days before my race) I'm hoping that it'll help me on race day and I'll feel the benefits of the extra power in my muscles!

In other news, the super-speedy Marci has nominated me for a Liebster award (bloggers nominate each other and give out questions to answer) and she has given me a few questions.  So without further ado, let's get to it!


What is your "go to" running route?   I've got a few standard loops around my house but my favorite is probably a 5-mile out-and-back that goes out to what I fondly refer to as the "Road to Nowhere" - nicknamed as such because right now there's nothing being built off that road.  It's quite peaceful and while it's got some hills to get there and back, the actual stretch of road on the Road to Nowhere is probably the flattest area around my house.  So I head out there for speed work and anytime I want to run a route that a bit easier on the legs.

What is your favorite blog to follow? Oof.  This is a tough one.  I have so many running blogs I like! (RunnerMarci, KrisLawrence, ArkansasRunnerMom, Camille Heron, MilesToTheTrials, RunnerUnderPressure, SaltyRunning)  Since I feel like I can't single out one particular running blog, I'll give you my favorite non-running blog:  WaitButWhy    If you haven't had a chance to check this out - GO NOW AND CHECK IT OUT.  But (fair warning) it may keep you busy for hours as you read through all of the posts.  It's fascinating stuff and it's perfect fodder for those super long runs with friends (trust me - bringing up something discussed on WaitButWhy (like artificial intelligence, or what makes you YOU) will make the miles fly by).

What is the best advice you have ever received? My parents have always given me the advice that "the harder you work, the luckier you get".  Thus far in my life, I've found that to be true.

Who is/are your favorite training partner(s)? In life or in running?

LB and I post-Shamrock Marathon in 2013 - new PRs for us both!

In life, my favorite partners are my husband, kids and best friends.  I'm lucky to have one of my favorite people in the world (my friend LB) as a running partner as well!  She lives in NY so I don't get to see her often, but we've done several races together over the years and when we do get to meet up we always make sure to schedule at least one long run together.  On a more local basis, I love my training partners on my MegaRunners team.

What is your dream job? As weird as it sounds, I'd love to be a running coach and training-partner-for-hire.   One of my favorite things to do is to help others with running - with their plans, their goals, and their workouts!  I really enjoy pacing people in races, running workouts with friends as their pacer/motivator, or just keeping someone company on a long run if they need a little extra boost.  It's so much fun to run other people's workouts with them and be an encouraging voice. If I could turn that into a job I would do it in a heartbeat.

What is your favorite local race/event? why? While I have to give a shout-out to our amazing Richmond Marathon, my favorite local race I love to hate is the Patrick Henry Half Marathon.  It's a tough course and it's held in August - and (as luck has it) usually in terrible weather.  We've run in extreme heat, pouring rain, and even a hurricane over the years and somehow I still keep running the darn thing.  I've got a streak going now though, so I'm planning to run it again each year for as long as I can.  Since it's local, my parents often run it too which makes for a really fun race day no matter how miserable the conditions are.

What music/songs are on your workout playlist? Since I often use my treadmill time to listen to and memorize by BodyPump tracks, I've got quite a few songs from that on my playlist.  But here's a couple of others I've been listening to lately:

- Get Over It (OK Go) - Fast paced and fun! - Bad News (Bastille) - This one has a great beat for practicing your running cadence. - Kiss You (One Direction) - Yes, I know, I know.  It's a cheesy boy band song.  BUT the up-tempo beat and fun sound never fails to make me pick up the pace. - The Phoenix (Fall Out Boy) - This one is also a BodyPump song but it's so fun. - Shut Up and Dance (Walk The Moon) - This is on my "tempo run" playlist.  A great fast paced, catchy song. - Suddenly I See (KT Tunstall) -  Lynn Jennings used this song in the background of a montage of her running career that she showed to us at running camp in Craftsbury, VT.  It gave me goosebumps to see footage of all of the amazing races she'd run in and I'll forever associate this song with her, and her hard work and dedication.

What food/drink/habit/item/etc. could you never give up? It would be a sad, sad day if I had to give up coffee.  Or wine.

What inspires you most to keep running and training? I'm constantly inspired by other speedy runners who have worked hard and made big improvements in their times.  I'm also in awe of the masters runners out there who continue to run well into their 70s and 80s.  I really, really hope that I'm them one day.   I love running, but I sometimes question why I train - why I push myself and log all these miles when really, I'm nowhere near as fast the elites.   But at the end of the day, it comes down to this:  I believe God gave me a talent to run, and I want to do whatever I can to make the very most of this talent while I'm here on this Earth.   For me, that means training hard, helping others become better runners and enjoying the journey along the way.

Thanks so much, Marci, for the questions!!  I especially love the last one and want to put it out there to anyone reading:

What inspires you most to keep running and training?