Training for a Marathon - The Smart Way

When diving into extreme sports such as marathons, triathlons and crossfit competitions, there always needs to be a cross training plan in place to help prevent injuries - before, during, and after the event. The goal is to create an efficient body so that biomechanics move smoothly and in turn, the body is able to support the optimal shock absorption position which is a neutral pelvis and spine. With the Austin Marathon right around the corner (February 14!) and many extreme sports competitions coming this spring, I’m offering my tips to stay healthy and injury free during the training process.

For marathon running, focus on strengthening the core (shoulder girdle to hip girdle), hips, and knees for best results.



A strong core is the base for all efficient and pain free movement and a plank is a great way to work the entire core (shoulder to pelvic girdle) very effectively and all at once. However, you must perform a plank with perfect form in order to not injure your lower back, neck or shoulders. Start on your hands and knees - shoulders stacked over the wrists with a soft elbow and knees under your hips. Tuck your toes under and extend your legs long while squeezing your glutes and inner thighs and keeping your pubic bone curling towards your belly button (or think curling your tailbone under towards your belly button) all while keeping your neck in line with your body and your shoulder blades laying flat across your ribcage - not collapsing together or pushing up towards the sky. Once you have mastered the perfect plank for a minute, challenge your core by adding props like a big stability ball under your ankles or taking one hand and leg off the floor.



Keeping the muscles that surround the hips and pelvis strong improve the tracking of your legs producing pain free movement. Bridging addresses the glutes, adductors and abductors.

Bridging with a pilates ball or towel at the knees strengthens the inner thighs and glutes. Plus you get the added benefit of working the pelvic floor which aids in a stronger core. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor with arms resting at your sides. Place a pilates ball or towel in between your knees. Press your heels into the floor and lighten your toes as you curl your pelvis into the air. While exhaling, squeeze the ball tight. Maintain that same feeling of your pubic bone curling up towards your belly button as your ribs stay down towards the ground. We want to protect your lower back by avoiding arching and crunching the lumbar spine.

Side Leg Lift & Clamshell

Most of our daily movements in the lower body require a front to back action like walking. The muscles that surround the outside of the hips are important stabilizers and can become very weak because they are not utilized as much in daily activities. This is why exercises like side leg lift and clam shell will stabilize your hip joints for ease in tracking.

Side Leg Lift - Lay on your right side in a straight line. Place your left fingertips in front of your breast bone and roll your hips slightly forward. Exhale and feel the right side of your waistline pull off the floor as you lift your leg to the side of your body. Perform this exercise with control until you can’t perform it with perfect form anymore making sure to keep your knee facing the side of the room, not the ceiling as you lift it. This will work the adductors. Repeat other side.

For Clam Shell - start in the same starting position but bend your knees with your heels in line with your tailbone. Bring your toes up in the air and leave your thighs on the floor. Begin to open and close your top leg without letting your hips roll backwards. You will be working the glute med which is another important stabilizer of the hips.



The way the knees track can make or break a runner. Add this quad and core exercise in (waterski), along with the others to boost knee support. Stand with your feet parallel under your hips and place a pilates ball or towel in between your knees. Hold onto a chair or countertop for balance. Raise up onto your toes as high as you can and bend your knees without letting your heels drop. Curl your pelvis under and hinge your upper body back into a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Dip your knees 1” down and 1” up as you exhale and squeeze the ball. This will strengthen the vasti muscles that help track the patella and help ward off “runner’s knee,” a common injury.

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About the Author

Jennifer McCamish is the owner of Dancers Shape, a Pilates and barre fitness studio in Austin, Texas. A former NYC Radio City Rockette with over 30 years of dance experience and training from legendary institutes around the country, McCamish has worked or performed with many well-known celebrities, television shows and publications. Utilizing her professional knowledge and education, she created Dancers Shape, a unique approach to fitness, incorporating elements of ballet, yoga, Pilates and circuit training to efficiently build strength and muscle tone while maintaining a lean and nimble body. McCamish holds a BA in Dance from the University of Texas in Austin, Athletic Training in Injury Prevention for Dancers from Radio City Entertainment, is a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor including Injuries and Special Populations, Cooper Institute Certified Personal Trainer, IDEA Fitness and Wellness member, and is certified in CPR-First Aid. She is a certified instructor including injuries, special populations and golf conditioning. Read more about Jennifer.