On my bucket list – somewhere down the middle – was ‘complete a marathon before I turn 30’!
So in 2010 I began my marathon training and in 2011 I completed the Brighton Marathon. My time left me frustrated and for weeks afterwards my muscles were sore and I was exhausted. Why? Because I did it all wrong! I was on my training journey before I became a sports massage therapist and personal trainer, and consequently I was lost as to the best course of action to take. My training consisted of running – no strength training past my thighs, a sports massage was something athletes had as far as I was concerned and I ate whatever I wanted, until a week before the marathon, where I ate vast bowls of pasta to ‘carb load’!
WHEN I do it again – because I’m determined to beat my time – I will be following the processes in this blog. DON’T JUST RUN….
Runners need to do more than just run. To avoid injury and increase your stride you need to be strong and athletic. Without strength training and even with good running technique and stretching, injury statistics put the yearly injury rate for runners at a crazy 66%. That’s higher than professional footballers. This can be easily avoided by simply doing 10 – 20 minutes or more of strength training each day.
Using specific strength exercises will increase structural fitness and assist your bones, tendons, and muscles to withstand the impact of running. While most forms of strength training can help improve your running performance, adding heavy resistance exercises can make you faster during the final sprint of a race.
When using strength training as a part of your running programme, you want to train movements rather than muscles. This is the difference between isolating one set of muscles, such as a bicep curl or using many muscles like a deadlift. You want to train functional movements that we use in everyday life. It is essential that you keep proper and effective form, otherwise you will train your body in an ineffective way possibly creating a detrimental effect. So be sure to have someone who knows what they are talking about, check you over! Effective exercises include squats, pull-ups, bench presses and step-ups as well as the deadlift.
If you don’t have access to equipment then bodyweight exercises are a fantastic way to build strength which will enhance your stamina. Doing a few bodyweight exercises after a lighter run is a perfect accompaniment. Effective exercises include lunges, planks, side planks and side leg lifts.
A lot of runners will experience Iliotibial band syndrome – otherwise known as ITBS. This occurs when the IT band, which runs down the outside of the thigh, becomes tight or inflamed. It will often feel as though you have a knee problem and this is due to the IT band attaching to the knee. The IT band would normally help to stabilise and move the joint but when it isn’t working properly movement of the knee can become painful. A common way to identify ITB Syndrome is swelling or pain on the outside of the knee. But be sure to seek advice from an expert rather than self diagnosing! Resting and reducing your mileage is advised if the symptoms become significant. Also sports massage is an excellent aid to recovery for this syndrome and many others….
Massage And Recovery
There are many benefits of sports massage for supporting your marathon training. It can assist in your recovery between training sessions and especially after those long run days. With regular massage you decrease the likelihood of any injuries occurring. By helping to keep the muscles flexible, sports massage will allow proper function when running with little to no compensation measures. With muscles being more pliable and with less tension in your muscles, your running performance can be enhanced.
It is not advisable to have your first ever sports massage right before your first long, organised race. Everyone responds and reacts differently to massage and you can never be quite sure the first effects it will have on you! In fact don’t do anything ‘new’ in the weeks leading up to your marathon – a new training technique or a new pair of trainers for example! Be sure to have worn your shoes – and your sports bra – in first. Obviously not so much that the support has gone though!
For those who are training for a half or full marathon a weekly massage can be a fantastic enhancement to their training and especially in the month leading up to the final event. During training try having your massage on lighter training days or following a long run. Try and give yourself 24 hours after if possible for your next training session to allow the body to respond and recover fully.
Is Carb Loading The Answer?
‘Hitting The Wall’ – this is what every runner is told they will experience when running a marathon or something of that measure. This is basically muscle glycogen depletion. Glycogen is a fuel derived from dietary carbohydrates. It is stored in small amounts in the muscles and liver and is delivered to muscles via the bloodstream in the form of glucose.
Most people would have enough glycogen in their bodies to run a half marathon at a steady pace. Beyond that is another matter however. Consequently pacing yourself is essential. If you run at a steady pace you are more likely to burn through your glycogen stores more slowly than if your pace is erratic. Most people find they ‘hit the wall’ somewhere between 20 miles and the finish line! If you have done the Brighton Marathon you will be aware of the ‘wall’ they erect near Shoreham power station to, I assume, make light of hitting the wall as you can literally hit it as you sprint, jog or stagger by!
Energy gels are often advised during a marathon to replace those glycogen stores and maintain your endurance. If you are going to take them it is advisable to take them actually 45-60 minutes into the race to allow them to take effect at the later stages when you will need them.
You do need carbohydrates to run an effective race but what to eat and how much? Steer clear of too much fibre on marathon day as this can cause tummy troubles mid race! So if you are eating fruits or potatoes make sure you peel them to reduce the fibre and make them easier to digest. On race day steer clear of too much fat and protein, not something I would normally encourage, but as these are more filling and take longer to digest this will not help your technique and so affect your time detrimentally.
You don’t need to carb load weeks before your marathon…2 or 3 days is adequate. This will allow time for glycogen stores to accumulate in your muscles. 4 grams of carbohydrates per pound of your own body weight is advised in those couple of days leading up to the marathon and should take up about 85% of your calorie intake. Don’t be surprised if you see a small increase on the scales…this will only consist of water weight which will ensure you are fully hydrated for your race too!
Try a practice run (excuse the pun) by carb loading 2 days before your long runs. This gives you the opportunity to see what agrees and disagrees with you as everyone is different. Also it will give you a clear idea of the time to aim for.
Above all be prepared and organised; don’t run around in the morning searching for safety pins, clean socks, energy gels and that ever stylish accessory, the bum bag! Yes, this was me on marathon morning and it definitely had a knock-on detrimental effect on my day!
After the race keep moving, whatever you do don’t go and lie down immediately as you may need to seek assistance to get up again! But you will have a funny story to tell…I look forward to hearing all your marathon experiences!