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Marathon training

Marathon training physiotherapy and osteopathy advice ​

Specialist marathon training tips whether you are running your first marathon or intending to smash your PB….

1) Choosing a training programme : Dont just run! Go for a programme that builds distance and time steadily and reflects your running and marathon experience, as well as aiming for a realistic time. Increasing too quickly will overload the body causing injury. Cross training, recovery, rest days and varied running sessions are all key elements. Consider getting your running technique and alignment assessed early on to prevent problems later on.

2) Intervals and hills: Dont focus too much on longer runs, most of your training should be interval running combined with some hill running. Interval training is very efficient because it puts most strain on your heart and lungs, getting you fitter quicker. Therefore only do it if you are medically fit and make sure you enable recovery – see rest and nutrition.

3) Training timeframes: These depend on how fit you are and your goals, but in general aim to work on strength, general fitness and running alignment 6 months before the marathon. By 3 months pre-race you are then strong enough to cope with more intense running and strength work can take lower priority than running. Alignment work and cross training must continue all the way through to race day.

4) Stretching: Important to help prevent muscle imbalances developing which can cause injury. Dynamic stretching is best before you train to warm up muscles and loosen your joints ready for activity. Static stretching should only be done at the very end of your exercise sessions, never before.

5) Core training: Training the deep stability muscles that support your spine and pelvis will make you biomechanically efficient and prevent injury. Pilates type exercises focusing on pelvic floor and lower abdominal contraction with diaphragmatic breathing are best, combined with variations of the plank. Sit ups and crunches can harm your back.

6) Proprioception : This is the bodys positional sense and is an important indicator of risk of injury. Balance work with the eyes closed must be incorporated into your training with appropriate safety considerations!

7) Strength and Power: This should be built up in the 6-12 months before the marathon to enable your muscles to cope with the forces running exerts on your body and to protect your joints. Quads and gluts are particularly important e.g. squats, splits squats, knee dips. Start with high rep low weight and move onto high weight low reps with 2 days rest in between sessions to maximise muscle recovery and growth.

8) Trainers: Invest in decent running shoes. The key components are a slightly raised and cushioned heel, a supportive heel cup and foot arch and flexibility over the big toe joint. You need at least 2 pairs of trainers over a 6 month marathon training programme – more if training in wet conditions.

9) REST! Sleep and rest are vital for repair and are an essential part of training. Overtraining causes injury and a lowered immune system. Aim for 2 rest or low impact recovery days a week and get enough sleep. Never train if you are feeling ill or to “catch up” when returning to your programme after being ill.

10) Nutrition: A well balanced diet with complex carbohydrates, lean protein, iron and plenty of fruit and vegetables for vitamins/minerals will maximise energy levels and ensure optimal repair. Avoid processed foods and alcohol to minimise inflammation and of course, dont smoke! Experiment with gels and sport drinks on long runs to find what works for you to keep your energy levels up on race day.

11) Hydration: This is about getting enough water AND hydration salts into your body before, during and after training so that your urine is a pale straw colour. Drinking too much water is very dangerous, as is dehydration so make sure you have this aspect nailed by race day. Energy drinks come in a variety of flavours so try a few to work out which suits you. Avoid caffeine and alcohol because these will dehydrate you.

12) Massage and icing: A good sports massage releases tight muscles and increases circulation, thereby clearing out waste products and enabling healing agents to reach the muscles. This should be every 3-4 weeks, increasing to every 1-2 weeks in the last few months of training. Self-massage and ice baths can also be helpful in encouraging muscle recovery.

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