Going The Distance: Marathon Running Training Tips

Going The Distance: Marathon Running Training Tips

Developing a Training Strategy to Help Prevent Injury

Training for a marathon is a commitment that yields many health benefits, as well as a great sense of accomplishment.  However, training that is performed incorrectly may result in injury.  Running too many miles before your body is ready causes 80% of injuries.  Waiting too long to initiate your training can also result in injury due to lack of flexibility, strength, stability or endurance.  This can be avoided by doing some research online and investigating various training regimes.  Compare each training schedule and choose the one that aligns with your particular needs and abilities.

Always remember to listen to your body! Rest and seek help when needed. Gradual and complete preparation is one of the best defenses against injury – which in the long run can ensure many more races in your future!  

The Truth About Stretching

Static stretching before a big race has gotten a bad rap lately in terms of diminishing overall performance.  Research has been trending towards a “dynamic stretch”, in which you warm and stretch your muscles by going through active movements (for example, “butt kicks” to stretch the quadriceps) in order to maintain or even improve performance.  Dynamic stretches do a great job of increasing blood flow and oxygenation to the muscles, which is important for increasing endurance.

It is, however, important to understand the purpose of static or “hold” stretches.  Let’s say, for example, you have Achilles pain, and your therapist decides it is due to a short Gastrocnemius or calf muscle.  Static stretches can be performed in order to actually make the muscle longer.  These static stretches, should be held at least 30 seconds to make the muscle gain length.  Dynamic stretches will not improve muscle length.

Overall, we recommend a very short warm up before a race. This can consist of 5 to 10 minutes of a dynamic warm up to prime the muscles and a short jog at 60%-70% of your maximal effort.  After activity, spend a little time stretching those muscles that are particularly tight.  Remember, to time these stretches with a watch.  Holding a stretch 30 seconds is a lot longer that what you might think.  

Finding the Right Running Shoe for Your Foot Type

What type of foot do you have?  The three basic categories are flat/pronated, high- arched/supinated, or neutral.  Running shoes can provide more or less support for each foot type.  When training for a marathon or other long-distance running event it is important to have a supportive shoe that is appropriate for your type of foot.  There are many specialty athletic and shoe stores that can evaluate your foot type and recommend the most appropriate footwear to help you achieve your running goals.

Tips for Recovery

Even if you have followed all of the training guidelines, injuries can still happen.  It is important to recognize what pain is normal and what is not.  It is normal to have muscle soreness and stiffness when training to run, but muscle soreness should not last more than 24 hours.  Stiffness should improve within 5-10 minutes of beginning activity.  Pain that persists and wakes you up at night or worsens with activity may require a change in your training schedule and/or medical attention.  The use of rest, ice, and elevation may be needed to improve pain.  Modifying your training schedule by decreasing your exercise intensity or by incorporating cross-training may also help.  Finally, you may need to see a physical therapist for evaluation and treatment of your pain.

If you experience pain or injury while training for a race, the therapists at Missouri Baptist Outpatient Rehabilitation are available to help.  Everyone’s needs are different, so an individualized program would go a long way towards improving your race day performance.

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