All about running. By runners, for runners.

MT Forum » Training » Quads

  1. Rob Hearn
    Posts: 10

    O knowledable runners! I have a question.
    In the 2 marathons that I have done so far (with tremendous help and guidance from M & T) the single limiting factor to a decent finish time has been my quads.
    Pain in the quads has meant I have ended up with an enforced run walk strategy towards the end and there was nothing I could do about it.
    I now have a dilema - June 3 2012 is Comrades, it's a down run and is notoriously terrible on the quads. I've signed up (not that I blame M & T at all.....).
    What do I do to get through it?

    9th December 2011 09:17:37
  2. Paul Rudin
    Posts: 161

    My quads get sore towards the end of marathons too. Not sure what the solution is. More long runs (or more mpw) so that they get used to that kind of use? Weight training to strengthen the quads? Dunno really...

    9th December 2011 10:02:59
  3. John Tougher
    Posts: 392

    Rob, it would be worth going to see a sports physio/podiatrist to see if there is any weakness or mechanical reason why the quads in particular are suffering. Could be that you just need to strengthen them specifically, or maybe they are compensating for a weakness elsewhere.
    good luck with comrades! i might try in 2013

    9th December 2011 10:46:47
  4. Paul Henry
    Posts: 73

    What was the profile like on those two marathons, if there was a lot of downhill then that would explain the condition of your quads.

    Otherwise id start off by following Johns advice about getting some medical advice.

    Then id look at lots of hilly running both up and down to strengthen your quads up... and increasing millage to make them better able to withstand the pounding of longer runs.

    15th December 2011 12:49:13
  5. Isolated muscle discomfort or pain comes from a repetitive overloading. To reduce the load on the quads you should work more on using your pushing muscles to give you your forward momentum i.e. foot, calves, and glutes. You should also try to recruit your hamstrings more, as this will allow for a change in the knee angle, which can help stretch out the quads while running, and also it will create a shorter leg, which is easier to bring forward.

    If the course had a lot of downhills and you had the pain after the downhills you are likely to be overstriding and therefore producing a slight braking effect, which will load your quads.

    21st December 2011 09:28:51
  6. Dan Afshar
    Posts: 19

    Rob, on your hill training, you should concentrate on the downhills as much as the uphills. On almost every hill session I've witnessed, runners run up the hill, and then use the downhill to recover - but in the race itself they charge downhill and mash up their quads.

    For a race with lots of downhills, you should reverse this training. ie, walk up the hill as your recovery, and run hard(ish) down. But concentrate on your style so you are leaning slightly forward and not overstriding and braking (as per advice above from JPH). If you don't put the brakes on, it's surprising how fast you can run - top fell runners can do sub 3 minute miles!! Weirdly it is thus easier on the legs the quicker you go downhill, as you are letting gravity do the work.

    I've run the Comrades down run, and there are plenty of ups there as well, so you can't neglect that aspect. Two other things that will help you:-

    1) If you have access to one, do some long runs with the treadmill at a steep gradient. Eg, 10% incline, with the speed at only 8-10 kph. Will feel slow but will be better for you than banging out long flat miles.
    2) Again if you have access, use a stepping machine for great hill training.

    I've done the UTMB quite a few times as well as many mountain races, and it is the stepper, incline treadmill and reverse hill training that give me as much benefit as bashing out 100 miles a week on the roads.

    Horses for courses I suppose. Good luck.

    21st December 2011 11:43:22
  7. Ed Wallace
    Posts: 48

    I suffered a lot with my quads in Berlin this year. I put it down to too much off road running in my training or not enough road running to get used to the impact. Does this sound a likely cause?

    I have started circuit training, rowing and I hope strength from the XC races over the winter will help for London next year. Will also plan to do at least a couple of my long runs on the road.

    23rd December 2011 01:01:20
  8. It could be a cause Ed, but also the fact that the terrain doesn't change in Berlin and you are repeating the same stride pattern for the complete marathon can really effect some people.

    Doing some single leg quad strengthening exercises will elp this, but also ensuring that your stride is balanced, and that all the running muscles are active.

    3rd January 2012 11:41:28
  9. Rob Hearn
    Posts: 10

    Thanks for the advice guys, very much appreciated.
    Visited a sports physiologist this morning and her adice is pretty similar to what you guys have said - run some more downhills! I don't have any specific weakness, but she has given me a few things to work on which should help core strength and overall pelvic stability.
    As you suggested Dan, she has included stairs!

    13th January 2012 03:01:59
  10. Ben Heller
    Posts: 37

    Just ran my first marathon and got quad pain at about 30km which got worse and worse as the run progressed (although it probably only cost me 10-15 s/km). Once I finished and the adrenaline stopped I was in such pain I had to lie down and it took half an hour before I could move again. I've run further than this in training, including lots of up and down hills, and never experienced this type of pain. It was a relatively flat marathon, so maybe it was the repetitive nature of every step that led to the problem. Has anyone had any success with strengthening quads (or other muscles) or changing gait to avoid this problem?

    26th March 2012 21:53:39
  11. Hi Ben, if you are used to running on an undulating course and then run a flat marathon course you will have an overload on the quads, as you are consistantly loading the same muscles through the same movements. You can eveluate this on a flat course by doing sections where you shorten your stride nad raise your heels higher, as this will give the quads a chance to lengthen and relax a little.
    Of course doing strength training will help your muscular endurance increase.
    Also in terms of your stride you need to make sure you are not overstriding, as that will put more load in the quads. Therefore, your foot and lower leg should be directly under your knee at Point of Impact.

    27th March 2012 12:21:12
  12. John Tougher
    Posts: 392

    "you will have an overload on the quads, as you are consistantly loading the same muscles through the same movements."

    Will this not apply to all the muscle groups as well? ( hamstrings, hip flecked, gastrocnemious). Why only the quads? There still must be a reason why it's the quads and not somewhere else.


    27th March 2012 22:13:56
  13. John Tougher
    Posts: 392

    That should say hip flexors, not hip flecked!!
    Damn iPhone!


    27th March 2012 22:15:27
  14. It is mainly due to the impact of landing that is largely absorbed in our quads. The more neutral the landing the more effecient the running and the less stress that goes through the muscle.

    The calves and Tibilias Anterior (shin muscle) also absorb some of this energy, but because the majority of runners do not use their calf muscles as much, and no where near as much load goes through the TA they either don't fatigue as much or it is not as noticable.

    Sometimes in the marathons they show great slow motion shots of the runners from in front and you can watch the muscle ripple and move as they hit the ground and then move forward. This initial impact is extra work that the quads have to do. As I said earlier on an up and down course the quads get a little break when we are changing the gradient we run on. For example when we run downhill correctly we use the Hamstrings more and this loosens up the quads a little.

    The are a few studies where they measured the muscles in use during running and their load, and when they measured good runners every muscle was active, but the quads played a larger part.

    In terms of the hip flexors and the hamstrings that is another solution to reducing quad pain. If the Hamstrings are more active we can increase our stride ride which can help prevent overstriding, as we tend to take shorter strides at a higher rate to maintain the speed. Our hip flexors should also be active, but because generally we are not driving our knees up they are not doing the same volume of work as the other muscles. If you had to run up a 3km with a 12% gradient using a lot of knee lift then you would notice pain and fatigue in the hipflexors, but in running they are making a smaller lift.

    I hope I explained this ok, but it would be easier if it was visual, so maybe I should do some more videos to put up on my site to explain it.

    28th March 2012 08:52:07
  15. Jimmy Johns
    Posts: 4

    Sport Motion GraphicsnnMy right forhand wrist has been getting strained during sessions of a clinic I'm taking. I've had to leave early twice. I even sat out for two weeks to rest it, to no avail. I didn't go so far as to make it a severe strain. The reason for it is a combination of things.nn1) I played without a vibe damp when I should have been using one.n2) I have been on the computer and mousing a lot.n3) I had to shovel a lot of snow while it was aggravated.n4) I'm learning a new grip and I may be a little too wristy.n

    20th October 2013 05:11:00
  16. Amy Petrotta
    Posts: 24

    This is a very interesting thread to me. I just ran my first marathon two weeks ago and my limiting factor was really bad quad pain that started about 8 miles from the end. I didn't know what to do about it since I'd never had it happen before. I didn't know what would happen if I kept pushing for my goal finish time. So I slowed down to finish as comfortably as possible. Missed by goal by 3 minutes, Post-marathon I was not at all sore, except for my quads for about 3 or 4 days. I'd really like to prevent this in the future. Thanks for the tips in this thread.

    27th October 2013 01:38:44