Training for the Marathon? Don’t Miss These Training Tips
As a physiotherapist, I’m not going to give you a one-size-fits-all running programme that guarantees success. No two bodies are the same, which means that no two running programmes should be the same either. I can, however, give you a few tips that can help anyone be at their best by the time they’re at the start line.
Start by Increasing the Time You Run, Not the Distance
If person A takes 25 minutes to run 5km, while person 5 takes 50 minutes, the training loads that the two of them experience will be vastly different – with person B almost certainly taking on far more. That’s why, if you’re starting to run, you should measure your progress by time rather than distance. Your first objective isn’t to run 5k, it’s to safely and gradually condition your body so that it’s used to running. Only after that should you start pushing up your distance.
For example, your initial milestone might be to build up to 30 minutes of uninterrupted running, starting with an alternating mix of 2 minute runs and 3 minute walks, then gradually increasing the run to walk ratio until it’s a continuous run. By the time you’re at a solid 30 minute run, your body should be conditioned enough for you to start increasing your distance – though continue to do so gradually.
Don’t Just Run
Practicing your running technique and increasing your endurance may be objective number one in marathon training, but you can squeeze in even more training and significantly reduce your risk of injury if you include more than just running in your routine.
Let’s say you’re running every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – which is a pretty standard and well-paced routine. You might be tempted to increase the number of days per week, but then you’d lose those vital periods where your muscles, tendons and ligaments rest and recover, putting you at high risk of overloading injuries.
However, you could add swimming or cycling into your routine fairly safely, or use them to replace one of your running days if you’re feeling overloaded. This way you’re still conditioning your cardiovascular system and muscles, but you’re not putting as much stress through the parts of your body that are impacted when you run, such as your ankles, knees and slow-to-heal tendons and bones.
It’s Better to be a Morning Person
If you’re running to stay fit, it really doesn’t matter when you do it, but if you’re training for a marathon, it’s better to get into the habit of running in the mornings.
The reason is simple: marathons start in the morning, and if you only ever run in the evenings, your body won’t be adapted to the early start, making your marathon run more difficult. It won’t ruin your chances of finishing by any means, but anything that makes a marathon a bit easier is worth doing and it might make a substantial difference if you’re chasing your best time.
Of course, running at dawn is easier said than done for people who need to commute to work first thing in the morning. While some people will happily spring out of bed for a 6am run, it’s safe to say that they’re a minority. For everyone else, I recommend at least using your weekend run as an opportunity to run in the mornings to break up your routine and stop your body being too firmly adapted for evening activity – especially in the last few weeks before the big day.
If you need help preparing for the marathon, whether you want a one-off check-up or a detailed training programme, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7093 3499 and we’ll get you ready for the finish line.
Jody Chappell, MSc BSc MCSP HCPC