With the fall season rapidly approaching, marathon training is currently in full force. And for runners trying to build up to 26 mile runs, so are the injuries. A friend of mine training for a half-marathon recently discovered he has Plantar Fasciitis, an inflammatory injury of the medial arch of the foot causing heel pain, and sadly was forced to stop training. In fact, training injuries are so prevalent that 50-70 percent of first time marathon runners dropout before their races, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
But there are some easy ways to avoid common marathon training pitfalls that will help you cross the finish line injury-free. Training errors are the leading causes to injury for runners. Too much too fast and not properly training your body can lead to stress fractures, knee injuries, muscle injury, lower back pain and fatigue. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, studies show lower extremity injury rates range from 19.4 percent to 79.3 percent for long distance runners.
Simply put, as you up your mileage, you increase your chance for injury. Don’t let training mishaps prevent you from reaching your fitness goals and rocking your marathon. By following a few of these marathon training guidelines, you should be able to get laced up and geared up for race day. Even if you’re not aiming for 26 miles, these easy injury prevention strategies will help with day to day training.
Start Training On The Right Foot
If you think you may have an injury or health problem, seek medical care before beginning your training. It’s important to make sure you have been cleared by a health care provider to prevent any further risk of injury.
Listen To Your Body
Follow a training schedule and plan out your runs up until race day. Going too hard to quickly will contribute to injury and burnout. Your body needs to adapt to the physical demands running places on it. Listen to your body and gradually increase your mileage. If you have to take a week off, take a week off. You can jump right back into it when you’re ready.
This is one of the most important parts of any training regime. Stay hydrated throughout your training schedule. When you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes that need to be replenished in order to prevent muscle injury and fatigue.
Eat Well, Eat Balanced, Eat Often
As your energy demands increase with your mileage, make sure you are nourishing your body with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy and lean meats. Complex carbohydrates will power your body and mind with the fuel to keep your training going strong. Eat balanced meals and snacks throughout the day to boost your metabolism and give you the energy to keep on trekking!
Invest In Orthotics
When was the last time you bought a fresh pair of running kicks? Running shoes only last about 300-500 miles. When you start pounding the pavement harder each week, you are placing stress on your joints. Make sure you have a good running shoe and proper orthotics (shoe inserts) to provide shock absorption and prevent injury. A good orthotic shouldn’t cost you more than $20. That’s well worth the price for prevention.
Get Your Stretch On
Stretching is so important after your long run. Make sure to stretch every muscle group for 20-30 seconds. This will help prevent muscle injury and fatigue so you can stick to your training schedule. Invest in a foam roller and roll out your IT band to release any muscle tension and prevent knee pain.
Overuse and over-training are common reason for marathon training injuries. In fact, overuse, over-training and re-occurrence injuries account for about 20-70 percent of running injuries according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Properly strength training in between your running days is important to ensure your musculature is strengthened and toned to support the stress running puts on your body. Weight training will supplement your running. Focus on core strength and stability exercises and lower body balance/strength training. Yoga is also an excellent workout to help stretch and strengthen your larger muscle groups.
Marathon training has cumulative effects on your body. As training load increases, your body may undergo stress and fatigue. Treat yourself to relaxing therapeutic massages or sports massages during your training to alleviate muscle tension and stress. At home, you can soak in warm water after a long run to help ease muscle fatigue. Lastly, always give yourself a day of rest for your body to recover.