Any athlete taking part in long-distance, endurance events can suffer from late race fatigue, but runners in particular can suffer from late race fatigue. Part of what makes this type of fatigue different to hitting the wall (when the glycogen stores in your muscles are depleted and results in sudden fatigue before physiological adaptations kick in and you get your ‘second wind’) is that it is caused by a lack of muscular endurance and causes your running form to decline.
This loss of form turns out to be an important aspect of late race fatigue. In a study at Northumbria University in England which tested what causes late race fatigue, one set of athletes ran at a constant pace for several kilometres, and another set ran the same number of kilometres but with a burst of speed in the middle. The second set of athletes battled to maintain their form in the second half of their run.
When form fails, running economy suffers. Running economy is how efficiently your muscles are able to use oxygen to function. So in late race fatigue, when form fails, weaker muscles have to pick up the slack for those muscles that are no longer firing properly. So considering this, the best way to overcome late race fatigue is to strength train the muscles which are most needed during running:
- Lower back
Glutes are the most important muscle for running, say the researchers. Strengthening these muscles will improve endurance but also improve core strength and posture which help to maintain running form.
Try these exercises for stronger muscles:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
- You can straighten one leg out in front of you as you get stronger.
- Engage your glutes and lower back muscles and lift your hips off the floor until your body makes a straight line from knee to shoulder.
- Hold the lifted position for two breaths and then lower.
- Repeat 15 times.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Put your arms in front of your body or behind your head.
- As you get stronger you can use a barbell or sandbag to increase intensity.
- Bend at the knees and lower yourself as though sitting in a chair. Pause when your thighs are parallel to the floor and hold for one breath.
- Lift and repeat 15 times.
- Stand up straight with your feet together and your hands on your hips.
- As you get stronger you can carry dumbbells to increase intensity.
- Step forward with one leg, keeping your hips stable and lower until your front thigh is parallel with floor. Be sure to keep your front knee in line with your toe.
- Lift up and draw the back leg toward the front leg and repeat 15 times.
- On all fours, position your hands below your shoulders and your knees directly below your knees.
- Slowly lift one arm and the opposite leg at the same time until they are parallel to the floor.
- Lower and repeat on the other side. Repeat 15 times.