Training courses benefiting runners preparing for Pittsburgh Marathon

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Eight women worked hard at different activities at a recent training session in Club One in the East End.

At 10 stations in the basketball gymnasium, they skipped rope, did pushups, lunged, spread their arms on one leg in an “airplane” pose and did half-squats with an eight-pound kettle bell, among other exercises. After 45 seconds at an activity, they switched to one of the other stations.

All eight planned to run in one of the Pittsburgh Marathon events May 5. They signed up for the eight-week class designed to cross-train them for the running events by working and strengthening their entire bodies, not just their legs.

“Runners think, ‘I run, so I don't have to do resistance training,' ” said supervising Club One trainer Eric Lugg, who holds a master's degree in exercise physiology. “You need to balance your (running) training with resistance training. A weak butt and weak core leads to pelvic (problems), which leads to hip and interior knee pain.”

The training sessions, at one of five venues around the city, were the brainchild of Dr. Vonda Wright, orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor of sports medicine at UPMC; and Pittsburgh Marathon race director Patrice Matamoros.

Matamoros, a former elite runner at Northern Arizona University, had seen Wright for a chronic hip problem that had ended her running career. The two discussed cross-training that would make runners less susceptible to injury.

This year, officials expect 30,000 runners in the marathon, half-marathon, marathon relay and 5K at the Pittsburgh Marathon. Because of cold, snowy Pittsburgh weather that often prevents runners from running outside, Matamoros wanted to have runners cross-train inside during the winter “so they wouldn't lose anything; they would gain something.

“Our goal is not to have the most registrants; it's to have the most finishers,” Matamoros said.

Surgeon Wright, a former dancer who now runs, designed the cross-training program, which “has gained so much momentum” this year, Matamoros said.

“We need to have ‘total-body athletes,' ” Wright said. “Unless they concentrate on their butts and their core, they get recurrent, ugly injuries.”

According to, also increasing upper-body strength helps runners to process oxygen more efficiently and maintain form late in the race when their bodies deteriorate. Wright said upper-body strength is important to runners because they must use their arms to pump as they run each step, 52,000 for a full marathon.

Lugg started the session he supervised with a “dynamic warm up” that Wright designed to activate every joint. The runners walked, turning out their knees and feet, then skipped, walked on their heels, lunged, and walked their feet up to their hands on the floor to stretch their hamstrings. Some of the activities changed in intensity as the eight-week session continued.

After three of the weekly sessions, “I think I am getting stronger,” said Kimberly Henderson, 44, of Stanton Heights, who is training for the half-marathon. “Over the past few weeks, I have been able to run at my goal pace,” which she said is now 8 to 8.5 minutes a mile. “That is new; that is a change,” she said.

Her previous average pace was a full minute longer.

“It's helped me with my endurance; it's made me a little stronger,” said Madeline Adamczyk, 17, of Hampton. She said she was able to increase her usual training run of 1-1.5 miles to 3 miles. “I can definitely do more now.”

The high school student signed up for the 5K with her mother, Pittsburgh attorney Mary Adamczyk, 47, who also is in the training class. The mother-daughter duo also ran in the marathon's previous two 5K events.

“I was not as winded after my run Sunday. I definitely saw an improvement,” Mary Adamczyk said. Two years ago in her first Pittsburgh Marathon 5K, Mary Adamczyk hurt a heel, prompting her to want to get stronger and improve her performance. She said the cross-training class attracted her because it was designed by a female physician and runner.

The cross-training sessions for Pittsburgh Marathon runners are taking place at the Rivers Club, Oxford Club, Club One South and the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, the last of which Wright supervises.

As Wright said, “Running makes us endure; it doesn't make us strong.”

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.


Show commenting policy