Marathon Training Part 1: It's All About The Butt

By Chuck Finder 

This is the first in a three-part series on training for the Pittsburgh Marathon.

It’s all about the butt. Hey, that’s what the doctor said.

Vonda Wright, M.D. - an author, team physician, UPMC Sports Medicine specialist, and expert in Masters athletics and couch-to-race enthusiasts when she isn’t working as an orthopaedic surgeon - is the one who kicked up the butt fuss Saturday. She knows running. She knows the balance and power and endurance of running such long-distance races as the Dick’s SportingGoods Pittsburgh Marathon and half-marathon all emanates from the posterior’s and lower body’s muscles.

So on Saturday, when she led off the first of three Marathon Seminars sponsored by Sports Medicine, she told the 100 or so runners gathered inside UPMC Montefiore’s LHAS Auditorium that they essentially were sitting upon the most vital running tool in their possession: the caboose.

It’s all about strength starting from the top, where the legs are concerned. It’s all about balance and tone. It’s all about producing force and absorbing shock. Dr. Wright then showed the crowd her video, among several runner-specific snippets archived on the Pittsburgh Marathon website, entitled “A weak butt kills the runner.” 

She called up volunteers from the crowd Saturday, many of them Steel City Road Runners Club members after a 10-mile morning run. And she proceeded to put a few of them through some rear-strengthening exercises.

Vonda Wright, M.D., far right.
There is the “Monster Walk,” where you place an elastic band around the ankles, squat with your knees bent and rump protruding slightly, and either shuffle-stepping 15 yards to each side or forward. There’s the “Runner’s Lunge,” where you take a long stride and push down the back knee, for 10-15 times apiece.  Then there’s the “Split Squat,” where you position your legs in a long stride, push down on the lead leg and into the heel – feeling the muscles tighten all the way up to you know where.

Among other stretches, she recommended that runners perform squats against a wall at work.

“You can do wall squats all day. If you’re talking on the phone, nobody will know you’re doing wall squats. Anything helps you when you’re going up the Birmingham Bridge.

“They’re a little different,” Dr. Wright, a runner herself, said of these exercises. “But they’re all good for your butt.”