A Physio's Guide To A Spring Marathon - by Anna Boniface
Spring marathons are fast approaching bringing an influx of runners to a physiotherapists case load. From an Achilles Tendinopathy of the overly keen runner who’s overcooked the miles before Christmas to the case of runners knee from doing 20 miles around the athletics track. It might just be an athlete wanting a pre marathon build up check up. Regardless, most marathon mishaps come from training errors or lack of planning. As both a physio and a marathon runner, I have probably done and told off patients for most of them!
Here are a few of my tips for getting to your marathon start line in one piece:
1. Get yourself a training plan
"Fail to prepare, prepare to fail"
Establish your training budget around your commitments leading up to the marathon (e.g. don’t plan your 24 mile run when you’re on a skiing holiday) and be realistic with how regularly you can train. Having a plan helps you get into a routine and avoid ramping up the mileage too quickly.
There are various plans online and in books, but I prefer plans to be set out by coach to make it specific to each individual. Whenever it's an online template or set by a coach, remember it's not set in stone. It’s important to be flexible with your training.
A Few Recommendations:
a.) Runners World Online Training Plans
b.) How to Run: From run runs to marathons and everything in between - by Paula Radcliffe
c.) Online coaching with 'Running With Us'
2.) Sort your kit out
Legs included! Make sure you’re all set before getting into your marathon training block. Book in with your physiotherapist to make sure your legs are in check. Consider some gait analysis to see where your key areas of weaknesses are to guide your strength work. Get yourself warm kit to get you through the winter months, particularly good socks and a decent jacket. Do some workouts in the trainers you’re going to race in.
Some of my faves are:
a.) Saucony Kinvara's
b.) Stance Socks
3.) Nail your key sessions and marathon pace
You need to ensure you are training specifically to get the adaptions essential for the marathon. A lot of your sessions should be targeted at that all important marathon pace, which come race day should feel like second nature.
Threshold running improves your lactate threshold, which is essential for improving your marathon time. This is 80-85% of your maximum heart rate or “comfortably hard”. You should still be able to utter a few words but be fairly out of breath. My favourite threshold workout is 6 x 6 mins off 90 seconds float recovery.
Wednesdays are my easy running days. Lots of runners make the mistake of still hammering their runs between their key sessions and long runs, leaving them fatigued. Running slower essential for adaptions and recovery. Mine can be up to 2-3 minutes slower per mile than my marathon pace!
The long run should progressively increasing in mileage over the weeks of your build up. How far you run, will depend on the runner. In marathon preparation they will vary between being “time on feet” at conversational pace and some long runs that should include blocks at marathon or even threshold pace.
Have a listen to Nick Anderson's Podcasts for more information on training tips!
4.) Get Fitter With Recovery
Training provides the stimulus but believe it or not you adapt to training during your recovery. This means you need to be sensible in your training e.g. keeping easy days easy, having cutback weeks to allow acclimatisation to training and having complete rest days. Nutrition is essential to maintain your energy balance and never underestimate the power of consistent 8 hours sleep.
Recovery is often neglected which can impact hormonal health, preventing adaption and leaving you vulnerable to illness and injury.
5.) Don't Skip Leg Day - Strength and Conditioning
Distance runners are renowned for not doing strength work. Getting in the gym is vital for running economy, running form, and injury prevention. Strength and conditioning doesn ’t just include resistance training, but also mobility, activation work and running drills:
My Favourite Lower Limb Exercises are:
a.) Bulgarian Split Squat
b.) Posterior Lunges with Leg Drive
c.) Step Ups
d.) Deadlifts (double and single leg)
e.) Hip Thrusts
6.) Don't Let a Niggle Turn into an Injury
If you get a niggle during your build up, get on top of it straight away. Don’t be scared to take a few days off or switch to cross training to let something settle. It’s better to take a few days off rather than plough on resulting in a month off further down the line. If something is festering, book in with your physio to get on top of it sooner than later.
"Its better to be under cooked pasta, because over cooked pasta falls apart" - Alexi Pappas
The hardest part of a marathon is reaching the start line healthy, injury free, and as fully prepared as you can be without peaking too soon.
Control the controllable, enjoy the process and adapt your goals if needed as you'll be sure to have a good race.
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