Downhill Training: Dealing with Quad Work

I love to run. I’m pretty good at running. I really, really enjoy cycling. With consistent riding I am a decent biker. I like to swim. If I could work in swimming with regularity I could be an ok swimmer again. But I hate quad work. I dread the idea of having to do squats, lunges and wall sits. And yet, those are the exact things I should be doing if I were going to be preparing as best I can to run two marathons this fall, both of which have significant downhill components. I am well aware that in order to prepare for the beating my quads will take take at both the Big Cottonwood Canyon Marathon and the Steamtown Marathon I absolutely must take cross-training seriously. I do fine with cardio cross-training and am able to work in one to two bike rides a week. Those rides tend to include hills and I do get a decent quad workout on the bike. However, for 6 of my 12 weeks of marathon training, I have managed to avoid strength training as a type of cross-training.



My training and racing partner in crime for the Big Cottonwood has not only warned me about the need to train for downhill racing but she has sent me articles, workouts and provided advice on what I must be doing to be able to sustain the downhill nature of this race. She has told me more than once that I need to do wall sits to strengthen my quads. They’re the “easiest” form of quad work. I can do them while waiting for water to boil, watching the baby eat, watching the baby take a bath, watching TV…there’s endless “opportunity.” Instead of couch sitting, I should be wall sitting. She has also reiterated to me many times the importance of lunges and squats. They will help strengthen my quads and if I do all these things right I should also reap core and glute benefits, both of which will give me strength and stability for 20 miles of descent at the Big Cottonwood 26.2 in Utah.

After 6 weeks of avoidance, and with some really good runs under my belt, I realized I would truly need to take quad work seriously to get my training to the next level. I started with wall sits. I did three in one day (I’m not sure this is a lot or significant in any way.) The first one I made it 1 minute. The second one (hours later) maybe 45 seconds. And then another couple hours later I did two with a 1 minute break in between and was able to hold for 1:10 and 1:15. My goal is to do at least 1 wall sit every day for a minimum of 5 seconds longer than the last one. I will also do at least one day of actual strength training and my plan there is to do 3 sets of 20 squats after 2 minutes of rowing plus core work. I think I will still avoid lunges.

So for the last half of marathon training, a typical week should look like this:

  • Monday: 2 mins rowing, 20 squats x 3 + core work, 1-3 wall sits
  • Tues: speedwork, 1-3 wall sits, core work
  • Wed: beach volleyball, 1-3 wall sits
  • Thursday: tempo run, 1-3 wall sits, core work
  • Friday: rest, 1-3 wall sits
  • Saturday: long run, 1 wall sit, core work
  • Sunday: bike ride, 1-3 wall sits, core work

Best case scenario I will also work in quad work on Wednesday mornings and/or a little bit on Sunday post-ride. And best, best case scenario I would do a bike ride on Friday morning as well.

Ok, I’ve put it out there. Now, time to deliver. And the only way to know if doing this will pay off is to do the race. As the saying goes “plan the work, work the plan.” I now have the plan. Time to really do the work.

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