Marathon Training: Prevention Is Better Than Cure [Part 1]


Running is a challenge, a challenge against ourselves. 

Like many runners, I started training for fun, without any planning or goals. 

I made a few mistakes over the past years, like running a half marathon without any training and paid the consequences. 

After running a few half marathons (and thinking I would never run 13.1 miles again after each of them) I ended up signing up for the London Marathon with some of my colleagues. Running 26 miles is a challenge for the body, but even more for the mind. 

Running should be enjoyable, injury can happen, but with the right training plan you can minimise the risk of it. 

As the weeks are passing and the event day is drawing closer, we thought to put together a few lines to help novice runners to prevent injuries and enjoy the run.

Modify your training gradually

The training has many variables; the mistake that first comes to mind is excessive mileage. Usually, it is suggested to increase the mileage by 10% per week. But we must not forget the speed, the frequency, the climbs, the training surface.

Each factor must be introduced gradually: for example, new shoes or a different running technique. Our body has an incredible capacity to adapting to different load and stimuli, however a basic rule to follow is that you need to give your body the time to adjust and adapt to the new changes. 

Doing too much too soon is one of the most frequent mistakes I see almost every day in our clinic, mainly in new runners. Try to build your weekly mileage over a period of time, aiming to run 3 to 5 times x week; and do a long run every 7-10 days so your body has time to adjust to the long distance. 

Incorporate strength working into your training

Other common mistakes I see in the clinic is the absence of strength training. Many runners think running is enough for their legs, however a strength session a week can help to improve running economy and reduce the risk of injuries. 

I usually encourage my patients to lift medium-high weights with an emphasis on single leg exercises considering for example one-leg lunges, split squats and single leg deadlifts that will stimulate significantly more pelvic and hip stabilisers. 

Also, let’s not forget plyometric exercises, a valid tool for preventing injuries and increasing the ability to generate power in runners. Often injuries are caused due to the inability to control the joints in the landing and braking phases. Studies have shown that runners who incorporate strength and plyometric exercises into their training programs, significantly improve running economy, meaning the use of less oxygen and energy to complete the same demands. What these studies showed was the improvement of strength and power and the ability to use the elastic energy of muscles and tendons. 

Rest & recovery

Our body needs sufficient rest periods to recover and repair tissue damage caused by training. This is something I had to learn, and I am still struggling with it.

Rest is essential even if many runners hate it. If you want to do something more active during your rest-day, doing some cross-training is a good option. This can include cycling, walking, yoga, swimming; basically, anything with low impact. 

Listen to your body and if you find that you start compensating (limping) during or after your run, your body is telling you to stop.

Food & nutrition

Hydrate and eat well before, during and after the race. Particularly, attention should be paid on drinking the correct amount of liquids.

Try to increase your total carbohydrate intake by adding in more pastas and starches to your diet throughout the week, before the race. This doesn’t mean overeating; it means making sure more of your daily calories are coming from carbohydrates.

If you suffer from a running injury, please seek care from your doctor or physiotherapist.

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