I’m a firm believer that while running itself is the best way to become a faster runner, it is important to supplement training with flexibility and strength exercises. During Ironman training I supplemented my swimming, biking and running with weekly yoga and at least weekly Ab Ripper X. Since finishing the Ironman I have discovered a love for Dailey Method (Carlsbad), which I have found is the perfect supplement to my marathon training. I believe Dailey Method has helped my running in three ways – 1) strengthening of my core, 2) increased my flexibility and 3) improved leg strength.
Of utmost importance is strengthening the core, which is where all human movement originates. A strong core will hold you up on mile 20 when your body is tired and no longer wants to stand upright or lift your legs. A strong core protects the spine and creates a bio mechanically efficient position to create efficient movement. Basically, the stronger the core, the less energy you will waste when you run and the faster you’ll go!
I’ve written about the Almighty Plank, one of the most fundamental moves in Dailey Method, but that is just one of the many ways that Dailey Method works your core. The entire class is a core workout since all moves involve engagement, but there are four more portions of the class that are dedicated solely to core strengthening. There is work in the “High C” position, the “Low C” position, “Round Back” and “Flat Back.” Every time I’m in any of these positions I have to mentally coach myself not to give up. There is very little scheduled rest in Dailey Method – once your abs are contracted, they never get a break.
To compliment the strength training aspect of Dailey Method is plenty of stretching. I don’t need to explain the benefits of a flexible body, particularly in the hip flexors, hamstrings and quadriceps, for runners. Between every move there is stretching, but the two longest sets of stretching are the floor stretch and the bar stretch.
The floor stretch begins in a lunge and progresses through various hip, hamstring and quadricep stretches until it finishes in the “Dailey Method Splits.” I can’t say I’m anywhere near getting my pelvis to the floor during my splits, but I can definitely feel the amazing stretch while I try! Key to Dailey Method stretches is maintaining proper form, so I focus on keeping my hips square rather than seeing how far I can get to the ground.
The bar stretch begins with one leg on the bar and both hands pulling the strap toward your body. We bend forward with our backs straight and then round our backs and reach as far forward as possible, grasping the bar with our hands if we can. The bar stretch moves into various other stretches, including an IT band stretch (this one is VERY necessary for runners!).
Each muscle group in Dailey Method is worked for 8 minutes at a time. During this time, the muscles are contracted constantly and there are no breaks. During upper body work and even seat (glutes) work, I’m able to keep my composure through most of the set. Sometimes I don’t even have to rest. Thigh work, however, is a different story.
Dailey Method thigh work changes each class (as do all the moves really – no class is ever the same), but there are several key moves. The most painful of which are the lunge (not much in terms of repetitions here – just keep your legs in a lunge position and slightly move up and down or in and out) and the squat. The squat worse than a wall squat – there is no wall. You grab the bar and get back into a squat position and are expected to stay there as you slightly move up and down or squeeze a ball between your legs. My legs radiate heat during this portion of class and I have never made it through the set without stopping several times.
Although I only incorporate Dailey Method into my training regime about 1-2 times a week, I have found that I am getting stronger and more flexible as I continue to attend. There are certain days when I barely get through 30 seconds of thigh work without a break due to a long run or interval workout that morning or the night before, but I still think that it does my body good.
What kind of cross training or strength training do you do during half marathon or marathon training? Do you focus more on flexibility or strength?