As the marathon season quickly approaches this year, runners everywhere are once again lacing up their trainers, strapping on their watches, and hitting the asphalt, trails, or tracks in masses to begin their training. This season, however, consider several tips that will help make your experience more enjoyable (soreness is never fun) and keep you healthy in the process so you can enjoy a successful half-marathon or marathon.
To prevent injury, the most critical thing a runner must do is progress gradually. This makes it essential (especially for marathoners) to begin training early so there is sufficient time to build a proper base, allowing adequate running strength and endurance to develop by progressing mileage steadily. A general rule of thumb is no greater than a 10 to -20 percent mileage increase per week. Once a good foundation is achieved, speed workouts can be sprinkled in early enough to be effective for your race.
Our muscles and nerves are subject to repetitive motions when running for miles, so they tend to shorten from the repeated contraction. If you’re out on a long run, it’s a good idea to do static stretching (prolonged holds) when you finish. If it’s a speed workout you’re after, consider some dynamic stretching (movement-based, controlled, gentle lengthening of the muscles) before you begin. This can serve as both a warm-up and a stretch to get your tissues lengthened to prevent injury. It is still advisable to statically stretch after these workouts.
Mix it up a bit
Be sure to vary your training. Our bodies tend to break down quicker if they are subject to the same stresses over and over again. While building a base, find different routes to take with different distances (a change of scenery is always nice anyway). Different terrains can help prevent you from constantly pounding asphalt, and different hill locations will challenge your body differently each time you’re out. Once you’re ready for speed workouts, mix one or two of these in each week to change your cadence of runs; finishing early for a change can be enjoyable. Consider cross-training opportunities, such as swimming in a pool or weight training at a gym.
Let your body guide you
Most distance runners like to have a plan and stick with it, but sometimes it’s just not in the cards. If your body feels sluggish on a given day that you planned on a 10 miler, one of the worst things to do is push through. The body tells us when something is not quite right and rest is just as important as exercise. So if you still want to run that day, there is no shame in shutting it down early.
Use ice/ice baths
Undoubtedly, there will be days when you are sore no matter how perfect your training is. Ice or ice baths can help soothe sore muscles and joints by decreasing inflammation.
Choose proper footwear
No two pairs of feet are the same, so be sure to consult with a professional if you have concerns about proper footwear. A good place to start is with a physical therapist or a well-trained shoe professional who can assess your gait pattern and foot mechanics to determine your best options.