If there's ever a time to invest in specific strength training as a runner, it's when you are preparing for the Marathon des Sables. It's not just cardio work that you need to do.
You are on your feet for longer so you need strong(er) legs and core to keep you going for that extra distance.
Strength training improves running economy - how efficiently your body uses oxygen. If your body is using oxygen better, it means you can also run faster and for longer too.
It will help keep running injuries at bay, particularly knee and ITB issues - which can become a problem with all that extra mileage you will be doing.
MDS has plenty of hills and dunes to scale up and down and strong legs will help prevent you becoming a sobbing heap of wretchedness at the bottom of the umpteenth one.
Exercises don't have to be complicated or tedious either. I just introduced these easy leg routines into my gym sessions. 20 minutes. Done!
1) Single leg squats.
4) Single-legged jumps.
5) The clam and side lying hip abduction.
I started off with 2 sets of 10 and built up to 3 sets of 15. Once I could do this comfortably, I added the harder element to each exercise by either adding weight or resistance from a theraband or freeweight, or doing the exercise onto an uneven surface.
I definitely noticed the difference, and I enjoyed doing the routine, as it was a bit of a welcome break from running all the time!
Don't forget hill training sessions also count as strengthening workouts too. More on that next week.