4 ways to prepare for a race or marathon
June 07, 2018 at 9:24 AM
Every year, I receive countless emails, pop-up ads, and phone calls promoting and requesting me to join either the Auckland Marathon or Auckland Half-marathon. In addition, several other race event companies also request my attendance, signature and money. If you have signed up for any of these races, I applaud you. I truly believe that the money will be a great investment in your future health.
However, for that investment to be successful, I advise that you train properly. For some people, it seems they think just signing up for the race and going on a few runs beforehand will somehow magically transform them into a superstar runner. But denying yourself proper training only leads to poor performance, and in many cases, multiple trips to the physiotherapist, chiropractor, or osteopath to address various running-related injuries. Often, these can be prevented with proper assessment and training. The following are a few ways to best prepare you for the event:
1. Get assessed by a professional
Have you ever wondered if you could run faster, farther, or with more ease? Are you constantly in pain or getting injured when you run? If any of these are the case, it is highly beneficial to get your biomechanics checked with a professional running assessment. As the assessor, I am able to obtain so much information from these assessments. First and foremost, I get to see the mechanics of how you run. Once I have that information, it becomes easy to problem solve and give instruction on small adjustments (or queues) to help improve your running. I can advise on the tissues of your body that will be most vulnerable depending on your running style and give you specific exercises to strengthen those specific areas. The assessments and treatment are customised for, and specific to, you and your needs.
2. Start now.
Not next week, not in 1 month. Start now. The key principle we use in the physio and training world is the idea of progressive overload. If you “load” your body with workouts in small incremental amounts, your body responds to that stress and makes it stronger. That is true for so many of your body’s systems. Muscles, tendons, bones. They all strengthen if you load them properly. However, if you load improperly, you can start to break down those same tissues, leading to pain and injury. 90% of running injuries that we see in the clinic are due to improper loading. So start now, start slow, and be kind with yourself by taking breaks and allowing for rest and repair.
3. Communicate with your body.
It may come as a surprise, but often our brain and body do not communicate well though they are so closely related. I encourage you to listen to what your body is telling you. Those tissues that we discussed above, the ligaments, tendons, muscles, etc. will tell you if you are loading too much. How will that message come? Not by Twitter, Facebook, or imessage; No, your body will tell you directly with a pain or an ache. Or by feeling burnt-out or exhausted. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s ok – even advisable - to turn down the exercise dial. That doesn’t mean you have to stop completely. You can replace a 5 km run with 5 km walk. Turn a 1 hr run into 5 x 10 minute runs with some walking in between. As I discussed above, small amounts of consistent loading is the key to creating strength and stamina.
4. Strengthen lower limbs and pelvis.
Achilles tendonitis, gluteus medius tendonopathy, ITB friction syndrome, shin splints… these are all examples of common running injuries that we see in the clinic. And though we can help you to recover from them as quickly as possible, they can all be prevented. Those tissues need to be strong to be able to cope with the loading that comes with regular running. In addition to being strong, they also need to have enough coordination and range of movement to handle the training in the first place. Alternating some runs with lower limb strengthening exercises can help you both prevent injury and recover from it, so you can get on with your running programme. Here is an example of a short, 5-minute exercise circuit designed specifically to help with runners, click here to download.