How to Stop Your Marathon Training from Ending in Disaster
Many people preparing for marathons rely on training programmes that they’ve found online. No matter how trustworthy these programmes may seem and no matter how many endorsements they receive, following a training programme which isn’t tailored specifically for you isn’t just less effective, it can be dangerous.
Here’s my advice on how to safely complete your marathon training and achieve your goals on the big day.
Should I see a physiotherapist before I start training for a marathon?
The best way to approach marathon preparation is to see a physiotherapist or qualified trainer who can tailor a programme specifically to your morphology, fitness level and injury history.
This begins with a physiotherapist carrying out a complete, full-body evaluation of your strength and range of movement through a range of tests. You will then be aware of any vulnerabilities and be able to address them through individualised training. This information can be passed on to any trainers you work with so they can refine their programme.
Training without any knowledge of your body puts you at high risk of sustaining an injury which will stop you from making it to the starting line of the marathon, let alone the finish.
For example, a slight inwards tilt of the knee may not cause you any pain over a 5k or even 10k run, but the repetitive strain of a 40k+ marathon can cause even minor biomechanical issues to develop into a dangerous injury.
Early intervention would allow this tilt of the knee to be addressed through strengthening exercises which rebalance the leg muscles and restore the joint to its ideal function before any symptoms arise.
Even physiotherapists need to see physiotherapists. I know I have a history of injury with my ITB (thick connective tissue running from the outside of the hip to the knee), so I have to pay extra attention to this part of my body through exercise and manual therapy. And this injury flared up after just a 5k run, let alone a marathon!
I recently had the opportunity to assist an experienced long-distance runner who was complaining of hip pain during their run. He was entirely unaware of weakness in his gluteus medius, a muscle which is vital for providing hip strength and stability but can easily be left out during training as it requires specific exercises to target.
This was a young man with a high level of physical fitness who most people wouldn’t expect to have any weaknesses, which allowed it to go undiscovered for so long. No matter how athletic you are, you still need physiotherapy to anticipate and prevent injury.
How do I reduce risk of injury during marathon training?
Noticing when your body is at its limit and allowing it to recover is crucial to safe and sustainable marathon training.
While feelings of aching or burning in your muscles are expected during long distance running, any sudden pain is a sign that you should stop immediately. Powering through pain to hit an abstract distance target is more likely to stop your progress with an injury than bring you closer to your goal.
Likewise, if you are feeling considerable discomfort and stiffness after a run, you shouldn’t increase your distance on your next run. It’s always better to remain at your current load until you can complete the run comfortably instead of trying to go beyond what your body is capable of doing safely.
You should also bear in mind that your tendons – which come under particular strain during long distance running – adapt to new loads far slower than your muscles or cardiovascular systems. Even though you might have enough strength and breath to push yourself further, it doesn’t mean that your tendons are capable of taking the load.
If you feel significant discomfort and/or restriction after running, you either need to adjust your biomechanics through specific exercises or reduce your distance. Physiotherapists like to play a bit with both: reducing distance to ease the pressure on your body while providing prescribed exercises to correct biomechanical problems and increase your performance.
One of the biggest benefits of seeing a physiotherapist isn’t just having your existing injuries treated, but learning about your body so you can identify early warning signs and prevent injuries from developing in the future.
If you’re planning to run in this year’s marathon, this is the time to see us for help and advice.
To book your appointment, contact us now by calling 0207 093 3499 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.