Having lived in California for a long time (and Los Angeles in particular), I am, to be charitable, ambivalent about personal trainers. I think a lot of personal trainers are just going through the motions at best, or trying to ensure you remain dependent on them at worst.
But as the fall and winter approached, I felt like I was caught in a rut – I was doing almost exclusively running, with some other cardio, and some use of weight machines. But I didn’t feel like my fitness level was really improving. And really, who wants to run 26.2 miles if they’re out of shape, even just a little?
My brother, who’s a cynic, went to see a trainer at his gym and said she really seemed to know what she was doing. So, I decided to give it a try.
I have to say: if you have a good trainer, like I do, who seems to know your physiology and strengths and weaknesses (for instance, due to being hunched over all day, I had weak mid-back muscles; and my gluteal muscles were doing no work whatsoever), it can make a big difference. When I ran a half marathon even three months ago, my quadriceps and hamstrings were doing almost all of the work, and would be strained the next day.
Now, after my longest run so far (23.2 miles), I barely felt it on my quadriceps or hamstrings. My gluteals certainly felt it, but it was likely due to a combination of doing significant strength training while expanding my mileage base. And my running form changed significantly, too: my newfound back strength enabled me to run upright, rather than leaning/crunched over (which not only strains your shoulders and legs, but constricts your air sources)! This helped tremendously with speed and efficiency.
And during the whole training period, I’ve never even come close to suffering an injury. *knocks on wood* Sure, I was stiff at the end of my really long runs, but it’s almost the same as I felt while running the 10 mile-ish distance last year. And my recovery time was a lot shorter, even though the distances were longer.
A lot of women are concerned that they’ll “bulk up” if they do strength training, but that’s never been a problem for me. If anything, the increased muscle has made me seem leaner, has also made it easier to burn more calories, and has allowed me to have decent posture so I can emphasize those parts of my body I want to emphasize. 🙂
So, my suggestion to those aspiring marathoners out there: consider either personal training (with someone who knows what he/she is doing), or figure out your weak areas and try to work on them through some other way!