Bull Circle 3: A Marathon Ready Body

These are my notes from last year’s 3rd Bull Circle.  I’m reposting them today with some additions from last night’s lecture.

It was a full house for the third Bull Circle held in St. Luke’s Medical Center at BGC.  The topic was A Marathon Ready Body: Strength and Conditioning, Balance and Core (Structural Integrity / Stability) by Coach Jim Saret.

Coach Jim asked, “Is your body ready for 42K?  Will it survive running without injury?” He emphasized the importance of balance for runners because the joints carry three to four times the body weight while running. Imagine running imbalanced for 42 kilometers.

I wasn’t able to take photos of the exercises last night as I did them myself, so I asked my son to demonstrate.  These were taken early this morning before school hence the sleepy face. 🙂

The stability test:
With hands on waist, stand on one leg.  Slightly bend your knee.  Close your eyes.
Notice what’s happening to your ankles, knees, and hip.
Do the same for the other leg.

right knee should be slightly bent

Related video: Balance

Is one leg stronger than the other?  When running, the stronger leg will always compensate for the weaker leg. Imagine the load the stronger leg carries for 42K.  That is why it’s the leg that usually gets injured.  So we need to strengthen and balance both legs by stabilization exercises.

First exercise:
Sit on the edge of a chair.
Raise both hands above your head.
Lift left foot an inch above the floor.
Stand with the right leg. Hold for 30 seconds.
Slowly sit back.
Do the same for the other leg.

right knee should be slightly bent

Do the same exercise, this time, when you stand, do a tiptoe.  Try to balance for 30 seconds.  We do a tiptoe because when we run, we tiptoe when we push off.

Which leg is stronger?  Did you struggle?  Did you fall?

  • Learn to lift your bodyweight.
  • The lighter you are, the less stress for your legs.  Lose excess weight. Your legs will thank you for it.
  • Muscular strength is directly proportional to muscular endurance.  If you’re stronger, you can run longer.

Second exercise:
Hands on waist.
Stand on slightly bent right leg.
Left foot should be one inch above the floor. (first position)

Slowly bring left leg to 12 o’clock position.  Go as far as you can while maintaining balance.  The body should remain straight.  Hold for 30 seconds.
Bring left leg back to first position.

Slowly bring left leg to 11 o’clock position.  Go as far as you can while maintaining balance.  The body should remain straight.  Hold for 30 seconds.
Bring back leg to first position.

Balance exercises
Torso should remain straight.  Do not tip over to the opposite direction.

Do the same for ten, nine, eight, seven and six o’clock positions.

Now switch legs.
Stand on slightly bent left leg.  Do above exercise for twelve, one, two, three, four, five, six o’clock positions.

Try the exercises with eyes closed.  Why? Because when we run, we don’t really watch our legs, do we?  We look ahead so we are not actually aware of what our legs are doing.  Hence the closed eye exercise.  You rely on feelings.  It’s called proprioception where the joint send signals to the brain where its position is, so the brain will help you stabilize to prevent falling.

Do as many reps as you can.  Keep in mind that if our legs are balanced, wobbling will be lessened.

Core training:
Planking is not a core exercise when the core isn’t activated.  How do we activate the core?  “By sucking it in.” Pull your navel towards your spine and hold.  At the same time, squeeze your butt cheeks.  That’s how you activate your core.  Hold for 30 seconds.  Repeat.

Related video: Planks

Do exercises one and two while activating your core.  Notice the difference.

A strong core will help you keep your running form and prevent injuries.

  • When doing these exercises, wear the running shoes you are going to use on marathon day.
  • Whenever you can, do the stability test.  You don’t have to make a spectacle out of it, while standing, just raise one foot for about an inch from the floor and stand on one leg for as long as you can.
  • Activate your core as often as you can: while sitting, walking, and running.

Q and A

Q: How many reps/sets should we do the stability exercises?

A: As many as you can, moving steadily and slowly into each clock position.  Do not just rush or jerk the movements and don’t forget to breathe.

Q: You said that when we run, we should activate our core.  How can it go hand in hand with Chi Running’s “needle in a cotton” (alignment and relaxation) principle?

A (Jaymie): Your core should be engaged in Chi Running. Related links:

Q: Should we do heavy squats in the gym? Won’t we bulk up?

A: As runners, you don’t need to lift heavy weights.  I encourage you to do bodyweight exercises.  Focus on the achilles, calves, hamstrings, butt, and lower back muscles because they propel the body forward. Balance your exercises (front and back muscles).

Related videos:

Q: How can we stand from a sitting position with one leg? And how can we stand for a longer time without falling? It’s so hard!

A: When you stand up, do not let your knee go over your foot.

If you’re standing on one leg and you wobble, try to hold on to a back of a chair. As your leg and knee get stronger (over time) you can let go of the chair.

Q: What can you say about cross training?

A: It has been said that the heart doesn’t really know what exercise it’s doing, just that it’s being asked to work harder.  Swimming is good for runners.


Balance and core training, right shoes, right apparel, maintenance runs, long runs, hydration, and nutrition, are bits and pieces of a big puzzle needed for an enjoyable marathon.  We need each piece.

*Notes were taken from TBR 3rd Bull Circle as I understood the lecture and not verbatim by the speaker.

Coach Jim Saret

Coach Jim answers more questions even after the lecture.



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