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Strength Training: The Secret Weapon for a Successful Marathon Finish

Strength Training: The Secret Weapon for a Successful Marathon Finish

Strength training can increase an athlete’s performance during a marathon and has health benefits far beyond race day, according to a fitness expert at Fort Sanders Health & Fitness Center.

Let’s face it 26.2 miles is a long way. That’s the distances runners and walkers will tackle in the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon on April 2, 2017.

Fitness instructor Stephanie Barker says there’s a secret weapon that will help you go the distance without running out of steam. That secret is strength training.

Maybe you’ve never heard of such a thing – strengthening your muscles when what you really want to do is spend time figuring out how to go fast and go long. Barker, who works with the marathon’s corporate team at Fort Sanders Health and Fitness Center, explains that’s exactly what strength training does.

Fitness instructor Stephanie Barker

Fitness Instructor Stephanie Barker with Fort Sanders Health and Fitness Center

“Strength training helps with agility, coordination, and balance,” Barker says. “All these attributes add up to a faster, stronger run or walk on race day. It also increases bone density, strengthens connective tissue, and increases lean muscles and that decreases your risk of injury.”

There are positive psychological benefits to strength training too, because it will elevate your level of feel-good endorphins, and help you sleep better. That’s a big help when you’re at Mile 10, battling mental fatigue.

If you need another incentive to add weight bearing exercise to your race training regimen, how about weight loss?

Calories are burned during strength training, and the body continues to burn calories after you’re finished with your workout. Strength training can boost your metabolism by 15 percent, and more calories are used to make and maintain muscle than fat.

Strength training comes in many forms, and Barker says you don’t have to pump iron to build muscle. Exercises that use the body as resistance like push-ups, squats, lunges, and crunches build strength, too.

“Resistance tubing, TRX bands, kettle balls, and medicine balls are all options for a great strength training workout,” Barker says. “In our POUND class, we even use drum sticks!”

Barker also recommends classes like Pilates and Body Flow for strength training without heavy weights. To register for the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon, visit, and to learn more about Fort Sanders Health and Fitness Center, visit

Feature Photo: Fort Sanders Health and Fitness Center/iStock

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