How to Improve Your Marathon Time Safely

How to Improve Your Marathon Time Safely

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Let’s face it, running has become a growing community over the past 10 years. New ways to get individuals up and active is key to why this sport is now so popular. For some people, running is an occasional activity that is completed to incorporate cardiovascular health into their lives; but for others running is much more than that, it’s a way of life. Being a marathoner is a strange addiction. The love of fatiguing your body to push yourself to new limits is what many enjoy about the “runner’s high” they receive when completing a race. So why is it so tough to break the barrier of speed? Why is it that your body reaches a peak race time that seems impossible to improve? The answer…lack of cross-training.

Seems pretty simple to some who already incorporate this into weekly schedules but for many runners, cross-training doesn’t exist. Runners can sometimes be confused by the misconception that if they are a marathoner, they should only run (usually 5-7x a week) in order to be better at running. We will address the importance of building endurance, but the secret to improving speed is incorporating a cross-training workout which target the accessory muscles in your lower body.

What are the primary muscles in running?

The larger muscles for running include the quadricep muscles, calf muscles, hamstring muscles and gluteal muscles. All of these combined help runners propel and power themselves towards the finish line. Without the proper function of one muscle group, your lower body misses out on functioning properly as a whole. Strong gluteal muscles for example aid in a faster running time overall.

What are accessory (assisting) running muscles?

Muscles such as the IT band (along the side of the outside thigh), adductors (muscles that move the leg inwards), and abductors (muscles that move the leg out to the side). These smaller muscle groups play a large role in assisting primary muscle groups with the repetitive motion of moving a runner forward quickly. These are the necessary muscle groups that benefit from cross-training.

What is endurance?

Endurance is an important tool needed to be built up for runners during training (especially marathoners) for a few reasons. To put it simply, when new potential marathon runners first begin to train longer distances, endurance is necessary to assist with fatigue and breathing. A new runner is more likely to become fatigued after longer training runs (compared to a multi-marathoner who already has proper endurance for running). The runners heart rate is increased significantly because they are simply not used to completing a distance this length. But once the runner is persistent and continues to work up to the higher mileage, their heart rate over time will decrease and stay lower than someone running long distance for the first time. This is what we refer to as endurance in an athlete. Endurance comes with practice and many know that, “practice makes perfect”. But just because a runner has endurance doesn’t mean a PR race will happen every time.

How to gain speed in racing?

Many still believe that training runs 6 days a week will be the key to speed. Endurance yes, speed no. On average even if you are training for a marathon, 3 to 4 days a week should be reserved for running time. Speed runs for 1 to 2 miles of a training run once a week is sufficient enough to fatigue the muscles and improve them. Cross-training with strength workouts are necessary to see results for speed. Once you begin to build up core, glutes, and accessory muscle strength, you will have a stronger momentum of the primary running muscles which in turn will improve overall running time.

It seems simple, but yet isn’t addressed enough. Many marathon coaches, personal trainers or doctors of all kinds do not educate runners on the benefits of adding strength into a weekly routine. Full functional body workouts that consist of body weight, kettle bells, and resistance bands are all perfect tools to set any runner up for speedy success.


  1. Cross training accessory muscles is a must to improve speed and will propel you forward.
  2. Run 3-4x per week to avoid injury with 2-3 cross train strength sessions.
  3. Listen to your body and know when a rest day is needed.
  4. Utilize sports chiropractic to better improve injuries quicker or prevent them from occurring all together.

Dr. Alexa Veeder is a chiropractic physician and is a graduate of New York Chiropractic College. She is co-owner of Back to Motion and the lower extremity specialist in the office. She specializes in runners including cross-training, chiropractic, rehab and marathon training. Dr. Veeder is also a certified personal trainer and marathon coach. Being a 11-year marathoner herself, she saw a vision of creating a chiropractic and fitness integrated practice and followed her dreams. Dr. Bradley Visconti is the other co-owner in Back to Motion and is also a New York Chiropractic College graduate. Dr. Visconti brings a large rehabilitative and chiropractic combination to their practice. Together they have created a place where chiropractic does not just mean a single adjustment. It is a combination of tools utilized from other manual medicines such as rehab, fitness, massage therapy AND adjustments to assist in the quick recovery and discharge of patients. Back to Motion also has a run/walk club that is free to join. Free training plans and group runs are held every Saturday by Dr. Lex and Dr. Brad at 7am at Back to Motion. From 5k/10k/half/full races, these chiropractic physicians will aide in getting your running career “back to motion”. To join the running club email: To schedule a free chiropractic/rehabilitation consultation that includes a complimentary gait analysis and one 30-minute cross-training personal session call (860) 665-0826 or visit the website at: