We catch up with Marni Sumbal on this edition of The Kona Edge and find out how she managed to overcome the Ironman run with being plagued by injury. Coming from a strong swimming background, we discover what she has been working on to find her land legs. We also find out how she tackles her strength and conditioning regime.
BRAD BROWN: Welcome back to this edition of The Kona Edge and we’re going to be chatting some running today and we welcome returning guest, Marni Sumbal onto the podcast. Marni, thanks for joining us today. As far as the run goes, you mentioned that your land legs, when we spoke about your swimming, needed to be developed, it’s something you have developed over the last decade?
Finding your land legs
MARNI SUMBAL: Yeah, I think it’s funny because a lot of people, they talk about how they feel uncomfortable in the water, that feeling of, I don’t know how to hold myself in the water. Well, I think for a very long time, and I even find myself now, just thinking, I don’t know how to hold myself when I’m running, what am I supposed to feel like? Sometimes it just doesn’t feel natural for me.
BRAD BROWN: We spoke about the technique and the mechanics of swimming, but when it comes to the run, that’s pretty important too. It’s something that you’ve worked really hard on, particularly because you’ve been really injury plagued and it’s something you’ve had to work really hard on to sort those injuries out?
MARNI SUMBAL: Yeah, it has been a tough journey. I think it’s been tough because it’s probably the times when I think about quitting the sport the most, when I was injured, but now seeing that I’ve been injury-free for about 3.5 years, I’m really glad that I didn’t give up and there are a few things that I really focused on to keep myself healthy and progressing as a triathlete.
BRAD BROWN: What were those areas that you worked on and really fixed?
Stop trying to get faster
MARNI SUMBAL: I think the first one and it’s a simple fix for anybody, anybody who is listening right now, is I stopped trying to get faster. I think that was such a big mistake for me that I was always so focused on speed, I need to be faster and just relatively speaking, I need to run this time in the marathon or to be good or to qualify for Kona I need to be this time and while it may be true for many athletes and it may be true for myself, having that thinking really put me into situations with my run training where I was ignoring the body signals when my body was breaking down and that risked injury for me. I think with running being such a destructive, corrosive sport on the body, you have to be very smart with your execution. I stopped trying to get faster and just focused on being more resilient. I started to do more hill work, I started to do walking on an incline with the weight vest. I do strength training before I run sometimes. I love running off the bike, I feel so much better when I have a load on me and then I run.
It’s not so much about trying to be fast, but being resilient when I run and I learnt, through these years, and my husband, having somebody look over you is great because even if you’re a great coach, every coach needs a coach and so sometimes our friends, our best friends and our spouses are great because they give us the honest feedback and I’d always tell him: I want to be faster. He’s like: Listen, you’re great at not slowing down and I always tell my athletes that. To be a great Ironman athlete, you don’t really need to be fast, you just have to be really good at not slowing down on the marathon.
BRAD BROWN: You talk about that resilience and it’s strength and you touched on the strength work before, that’s an area that a lot of triathletes neglect.
MARNI SUMBAL: Absolutely and what’s interesting, it’s not just the obvious, the core, the hips, the quads, the hamstrings and calves, it’s your upper body and that can help you out as well with running and it’s also your feet and making sure that you have good, strong feet as well.
BRAD BROWN: What’s some of the stuff that you do, out of running, that helps your running? Let’s talk strength and conditioning and that sort of stuff, what do you think is it that you do that helps your run?
Make your feet stronger
MARNI SUMBAL: The strength training is a huge component and I think a lot of that is just cause of my background, I’ve been strength training since I started swimming, so I was 10/11 years old and I was strength training. The strength training now though is very functional, so I’m very limited in terms of lifting weights or trying to strength train just for the sake of getting stronger and so it’s a lot of body weight or maybe holding a load, so maybe squats where you’re holding a bar above you, that may be something where you are holding a weight, but doing exercises like on a box, where you’re stepping up and focusing on mobility and stability and nailing these isolated movements before you get to more explosive, dynamic, plyometric movements.
BRAD BROWN: How often would you suggest someone does strength and conditioning work as part of their training regime?
MARNI SUMBAL: That’s a great question. The first thing I would say is make sure your strength training isn’t super long, it doesn’t need to be an hour or 90 minutes. I think 45 minutes is a nice cap, but you can get a lot done in 15-20 minutes three to four times per week. I would encourage athletes to develop some kind of strength training routine and what’s really helpful is if you incorporate it into your cardio. If you have an easy bike or an easy run, do strength training before you do the cardio because you know that the workout is designed to be easy, but if you do the workout with a little bit of a tired body, so the strength fatiguing you a little bit, you can actually adapt really well from that easy workout and you get two physiological gains from it than just the aerobic benefits.
BRAD BROWN: Marni, as always, great to catch up, thank you so much for your time. If you want to find out more about Marni and what she does, from a coaching perspective, the website to get to is trimarnicoach.com and we’ll pop that link into the show notes of this episode as well.
We look forward to touching base about your nutrition next time out because you’ve got a slightly different approach to things and I’m looking forward to chatting about that. Marni, thanks for your time today, much appreciated.
MARNI SUMBAL: Thank you.
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