Tips for Marathon Training and Injury Prevention
Soon it will be that time of year where thousands of people will pause before the starting line, ready to run the 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. Congratulations if you are one of them! Marathons are no easy feat and take a lot mental and physical preparation. So, if you are training for this marathon or one in the future, here are our tips for training and injury prevention:
Eating right is one of the key factors in making sure your body is prepped for a marathon. It is important to make sure you are eating healthy whole foods while you are training. This includes keeping protein and carbohydrates in your diet to maintain your energy levels while you are exercising 3-4 times a week. The extra training is not an excuse to start carb loading early! As with any exercise, a healthy diet is important for your physical health but allowing yourself the occasional treat is a nice way to keep motivated. For more information, talk to a nutritionist or dietician to help figure out the best way forward for you.
Ticking over the miles when you run means that you are burning more calories over time. As a result, you might want to replenish some of this as the marathon progresses. There are plenty of simple nutritious sources to use when you run like gels, energy bars or sports drinks. It is important to make sure that you practice eating your chosen nutrition source while on your longer runs before race day so your body is used to digesting it. It can be disastrous and unsettling to start eating something new for the first time on race day. Finally, it is important to have a good carbohydrate meal the night
before the race to replenish your energy stores. I recommend a nice home cooked Spaghetti Bolognese!
Core Strength, Stretching and Injury Prevention
Completing a marathon is not just about training for the mileage. Your body needs to be prepared and strong enough for the amount of work it is going to complete. Often, the muscles in our hips, pelvis and ankles are not strong enough for the number of miles you need to put down to train for a marathon. Starting a core strengthening program including gluteal, calf and balance exercises can help prevent overuse injuries including tendinopathies, help minimise the risk of stress fractures and help reduce problems with muscle imbalance leading to muscle over-activity, altered biomechanics and resulting pain.
It comes without saying that a thorough warm up and cool down can also help reduce to risk of injury during training. A good warm up includes a light cardio drill and dynamic stretches to increase blood flow, body temperature and improve circulation to your muscles. A cool down should include a light cardio drill like a walk to reduce your heart rate and static 30-second stretches to aid muscle flexibility and recovery.
The most important thing when running a marathon is to not over-hydrate. Drinking too much can dilute your electrolytes and lead to fatigue, dizziness and cramping. Often during your first marathon, the constant stream of drink stations can attract you to drink more than you normally would. Don’t fall into the trap of drinking at each one if you never normally drink that much when train. The best idea when running is to drink to thirst. When you are thirsty, have a few sips of water or your sports drink to keep you hydrated. Make sure you practice drinking on the go so you are used to it come race time. It is normal to feel just slightly dehydrated when you finish the race.
Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!
Shoes can make or break your marathon experience. Running is a relatively inexpensive sport so don’t be afraid to spend some money on shoes that fit you and are comfortable. The best way to choose the right pair for you is to go to a running store that has a walking platform to analyse your walk pattern and running style. This way the store assistant can recommend what shoe model will best support your feet. Make sure you wear in your new running shoes and get used to them well before race day. Old running shoes will lose their support over time, so it is important to make sure you change your running shoes as required to prevent injury. Generally, running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles or when the bottom tread is worn away.
It can be very exciting standing amongst all the other runners bobbing up and down, ready to go. Adrenaline can kick in and you can often find yourself getting swept up into a faster pace than you had set yourself. Make sure you figure out a race plan beforehand and stick to it! It can be a hard slog when you start out too fast and find yourself struggling to complete the last 8 miles like you never have before. Make sure you also take time to look at the course before the race. This will help prepare you for what’s to come and stop you from coming up on any surprise hills or descents. It is also great to prep your gear the night before, so everything is ready to go for the early morning start and aim to have your morning meal at least two hours before the race. Make sure to stop at the loo before you get to the starting line too to get rid of any nerves!
Post-training and race day recovery are essential in making sure your body stays healthy. When starting your training program, you don’t want to go too hard to fast. This can lead to overuse injuries or leave you feeling mentally drained and unmotivated from overtraining. The best way forward is to make sure you set your training schedule to include rest days for recovery. Replenishing your energy stores with some carbohydrates and protein within two hours post run is also important to help you recover quicker and help with any lethargy.
Your body is literally your tool for the marathon so make sure you take care of it and recover well. This might mean occasionally getting a sports massage to get rid of any muscle tension or asking your physiotherapist for advice on any complaints, niggles or restrictions you might be having. A physiotherapy assessment can be a great way to assess your running technique and find out any areas you might need to stretch or strengthen to prevent injury. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Make sure you get enough good sleep during your training program and the night before the race to really help with your mentality and physical capacity when running.
It’s A Marathon!
Last but not least, the most important thing is to have fun! It is normal to get jitters on occasion (especially pre-race) but when following a program, know that you’ve prepared yourself well. This is a huge achievement and you should enjoy it. Be proud of your accomplishments whether you walk, run or jog. You are on your way to completing a marathon!