DEAR JEFF: What is XT? I hear about it everywhere.
JEFF: XT means cross training. On non-running days, XT can give the attitude boost we need while it bestows additional conditioning. The best programs are those which are fun, and therefore draw you back to them again and again.
As in any form of conditioning, the best exercises to get in shape as "back-ups" for the running muscles are those which best use the leg muscles in the running way. Water running has produced the best effect for large numbers of marathoners. Cross country ski machines have also produced a high level of running conditioning. Exercises which elevate the body temperature, keep it up, and use lots of muscle cells are best. Cross country ski machines, rowing machines and then cycling and other indoor machines can help increase the fat-burning effect. Beware of the Stair machines: they use many of the same muscles used in running. The means they aren't the best choice for alternative exercise on a rest day from running.
DEAR JEFF: I walk almost daily, but have avoided running because I hear so much about knee problems. Does running lead to knee replacement later in life? - Kathy J.
JEFF: According to the joint doctors I've talked with (some of the best in the US), running produces positive effects on the joints. While there are many folks (including doctors who are irrationally prejudiced against running) who will tell you not to run, the long term studies on runners (40-50 years) show that runners have healthier joints than non runners. The key is to insert short jogs into your walk, and see how you feel. It is the continuous running, without walking, that causes aggravation. Even so, there's no evidence that running produces more negative wear than the regular aging process, unless there is pre-existing structural damage (very rare). Many orthopedists have told me that running makes the joints more efficient, stronger, and better irrigated with blood.
My book Running: Getting Started has lots of info on the benefits and a six-month program to get into running at your pace. It is available, autographed, from our website and you can email questions as you read. You'd also get a lot out of my one day schools and retreats: highly motivating with individualized information.
DEAR JEFF: What is a realistic goal for me?
JEFF: Run several 5K races throughout the training program on non-long-run weekends. Look at the Predicting Race Performance Chart http://jeffgalloway.com/resources/predict_performance.html and then see what your 5K time equivalent is in the marathon. Add 10-20 minutes because this prediction assumes that 1) the course is perfectly flat, 2) the temperature is below 51 degrees F, 3) there is less then 25 percent humidity, 4) there is no wind, and 5) there are no turns on the course.
If it's your first marathon, add an hour to the adjusted predicted time. If you have run a marathon before and want to finish feeling good, add 30-90 minutes to that adjusted time. But everyone, including trained competitive athletes, should add at least 10 minutes of adjustment to the predicted time.