I am fortunate enough to love everything about my job but possibly my favourite time of year is the next six months. This is because it is marathon season! Ever since childhood I have had an intense fascination with the marathon. The average athlete taking on such an epic challenge and pushing your body to such limits of endurance that it would never have experienced. All of this for fun!!
I was fortunate enough to finally complete my lifetime goal in April and it ranks right up there with marriage and child birth with favourite lifetime events. However, for me it wasn't just the race, but the whole six month period. The highs and lows, the smiles and pain and all for one mornings hard work!
However, sadly in our line of work we have seen that not everyone gets to complete that dream (including myself in 2008). Thankfully it is less than 5% of runners that we have treated but it is fair to say nearly everyone has struggled along the way. So over the years we believe we have built up a few tips that we feel are fundamental to a successful marathon campaign. As a result we wanted to share these with you and hopefully help your campaign!
- Start early. To train efficiently for a marathon we believe it takes six months. So start now! This doesn't have to be intense long runs at this stage but start building a cardiovascular base that you can develop. So many people we have seen in clinic had the mindset 'get Christmas out the way, then I'll start'. We believe this to be a mistake and requires a dramatic weekly increase in mileage that commonly brings on injury.
- Train smart. You are going to be running an excessive amount of miles. You need a huge aerobic energy system. We won't go into lots of detail on this, but this means you use oxygen to produce energy. If you run too quickly you will using your anaerobic energy system (not using oxygen to produce energy). The down side to this is you will produce lactic acid and as a result you will fatigue and stop a long way before 26.2 miles. There is countless amounts of information on the aerobic system and how to measure this. We would be happy to discuss this with you further but an easy rule of thumb is you should be able to hold a conversation whilst running when training your aerobic system. If you can't, you are running too fast. Whilst quicker training sessions (intervals, circuits etc) are vital at least one run a week (your long run) must work and improve the correct energy system.
- Some investment. Whilst literally thousands of pounds could be spent on your marathon campaign, we do not believe this is necessary. However we do feel a few small investments are vital at the start of your journey. Firstly, running shoes. So many people we see in clinic have tried to pound the streets in shoes that are either old or not defined specifically for running. Not only do we recommend running shoes but also that you have these correctly selected for you by a specialist running shop. We are also happy to complete foot assessments for you in clinic. Secondly, a heart rate monitor. As discussed in the previous point, being aware of your heart rate is a fantastic way of making sure you are training in the correct zone. There are countless ones on the market at varying costs. It really depends on how much data you would like, but we believe heart rate information is a fantastic training tool. Thirdly, a foam roller or lacrosse ball. These are excellent tools to help with self massage. Whilst you won't enjoy this, you will be glad you did compared to the pain that not doing it can create! Finally, maybe a little money aside for sports injury treatment!! Correcting little niggles before they become bigger problems can be the difference between success and failure. Remember pain is your body speaking to you so,listen! The site of pain isn't usually the problem just the effect. Cure the problem not the symptoms. There are common injuries that occur, we can happily discuss these with you and how to prevent. For good sports injury treatment we know a place...
- Reach out to others. If you know someone running, talk to them, train together. Sometimes those longer runs can feel a very long way. It helps to have a friend and not forgetting that having a chat will keep you using your aerobic energy system.
- Finally, love every second. We like to remind our clients that no one will be on the start line following a pain free campaign. It just doesn't happen. However, if it did it wouldn't be the challenge it is. Those long runs, foam rolling sessions, sore knees are the things that will keep you moving for 26.2 miles and reach that euphoric moment of the finish line!
Remember there will be days where you will think that you can't run a marathon but a lifetime knowing that you have.
If we can be of any more help or you want to discuss personal training programs, niggling injuries please feel free to get in touch...
Jon W Sports Injury