As we start nearing spring (finally) you may be thinking about entering some longer distance races such as a half or full marathon. Old school runners consider these an old school test of running prowess and for many runners, completing a marathon is a lifelong goal. As well as a serious time commitment, marathon training involves so much more than just running. As well as the recommend extra stretching sessions, yoga, swimming, speed sessions and plyometrics, cross training is an important part of any marathon routine. This article is going to explain what exactly circuit sessions are and how they can benefit your marathon training.
What is a Circuits Session?
A circuits session is the name given to a series of exercises that are repeated several times. Traditionally a gym or studio would be set up with a variety of so called stations, with each station involving one particular kind of exercise such as prssups, crunches, running or other. The size and duration of the circuit as well as the type of exercises on offer differ between every circuits session, meaning that you would be hard pressed to find exactly the same combination of exercises, intensity and duration even if you visited hundreds of gyms. Those people attending the circuits session are split between the stations and there are usually a number of people undertaking the same exercise on each station at a time. The duration that you usually spend on each station differs from session to session but is usually in the region of two minutes. At the end of each two minutes you then move from one station to the next until you have completed exercises at each station in the ‘circuit’
Circuits sessions are meant to be a very intense aerobic exercise session that increases your heart rate to close to 80% (or as high as you wish) and so is a great substitute for running. As well as being a great cardio activity, the resistance aspect of the exercises that you undertake at each station means that you are working your core muscles as well as increasing your over all body strength. Undertaking core exercises such as sit-ups, planks and other such exercises (depending on the imagination of the circuits instructor at the time) are hugely beneficial to marathon runners, who often neglect core exercises in favor of higher mileage running.
Core strength plays a huge part in the efficiency of a marathon runner as having a strong core improves running form and ultimately running efficiency. Greater running efficiency translates into a healthier way to run as you are not only expending less energy for the same speed but you are maintaining a more natural way of running without putting undue stress on venerable joints, tendons and muscles. Circuit training also improves the strength and tone of important tendons and muscles that you may not normally use when you run. These important yet underutilized muscles can become weakened with continual marathon training and it is only the varied and challenging nature of something like a circuits session that can fire these muscles back to optimum performance.
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