Q: I'm training for a half marathon. What should I be doing in addition to my running to stay lean and fit and prevent injury?
A: To help prevent injury and potentially improve your performance on race day, there are a four primary things that you should be doing in conjunction with your running:
1. Regular total-body strength training. Make time in your training schedule for two to three total-body strength sessions per week. For the lower body, incorporate at least one unilateral (single leg) movement into each workout--split squats, reverse lunges, or lateral slide board lunges are all great examples. This will guarantee that you are working toward building equal strength and stability on both sides. Unilateral training (training one side of your body at a time) is also a great way to identify any strength or stability imbalances and ultimately helps decrease any deficits that exist on one side.
2. Don't forget your glutes. Try to incorporate at least one exercise that strengthens your glutes into every workout (Romanian deadlifts or hip bridges). A strong rear end helps take some of the pressure off of your hamstrings while running so that they don’t have to do all of the work. This synergistic relationship will help improve your performance and reduce the potential for developing any hamstring issues.
3. Core stability training. Core stability work such as planks, side planks, and/or Swiss Ball rollouts are a crucial piece of the race training puzzle. A strong core is very important in general, but specifically for distance running, it will provide a more stable base for your arms and legs to effectively generate force, as well as enable you to maintain good posture while racing.
4. Recovery and regeneration techniques. With the amount of mileage that you'll be running each week, there's a greater potential for the development of soft tissue injuries, especially in the lower body. Soft tissue refers to structures of the body that connect, envelope, support, and/or move the structures around it such as muscle, tendons, and ligaments. It's best to be proactive about preventing these injuries by doing things like foam rolling, mobility work, and static stretching (post-training). While it can be expensive, massage therapy is another great tool if you can afford it.
Good luck with your race!