Training for a Marathon
Recreational long distance running is becoming increasingly popular and more people are training for half or full marathons. I am in the process of training for my first marathon at the end of May so thought I would break down some of the things that I have found beneficial for clients and myself.
Given the associated increase in training load that comes with training for a marathon, long distance runners are at risk of developing injuries. It is often due to a steep change in training load that causes these overload injuries. Often we see the “too much too soon” approach. Keep in mind this can occur from a change in distance or pace.
The force generated when running can be up to 8 times one’s body weight through the knee joint and up to 5 times body weight at the hip. This is why it is so common to see irritation and overload at these joints when one increases their training load.
It is recommended that you allow between 14-20 weeks to train for a full marathon. Training split is up to individual preference and schedules however aiming to complete 3-4 runs weekly is a good guide. These runs should be complemented by 2-3 strength sessions and 1-2 rest days a week.
Here is an example of a weekly training split:
- 2 x strength days focusing predominantly on core and lower body
- 4 x run days including an easy run, interval run, tempo run and long run
- 1 x rest day
Strength training is often the first component of training that gets dropped when one starts increasing their running volume. This however can be detrimental and can lead to injuries.
From my experience, completing strength training 2-3 times per week should remain a focus throughout the entire training period.
When training for a long distance running event, muscles, tendons or bones can naturally become overloaded. Some common long distance running injuries that we see in clinic include Patellofemoral Knee Pain, Achilles Tendinopathy, ITBS, Patella Tendinopathy or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints).
For injury prevention, the focus should be placed on building strength and endurance in the glutes, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and core muscles. Alongside strength-based exercises, you should also incorporate power and plyometric movements in your program.
Examples of strength exercises to incorporate in your gym sessions:
- Barbell hip thrusts
- Unilateral farmers carry
- Creeper walks
- Single Leg RDL
Warm up and cool down:
One factor that is almost as crucial as running is the warm-up you complete prior. The focus has shifted from ‘stretching’ before a run to ‘activating’. It is important to prime the key muscles that are used in running to make sure they are activated and hence will cover their load. If these muscles aren’t primed, the load can shift to tendons or bones.
Some of my go-to activation exercises are:
- SL bent knee calf raises
- Elevated single leg hamstring bridges
Completing the same activation exercises post run is also beneficial. It is particularly important if you feel any niggles post run as re-activating these muscles can take the load off the irritated structure.
Rest and recovery should become a priority during this intense training period. Aim to incorporate 1-2 rest days into your weekly schedule.
Sleep is crucial for recovery. Same goes with pre race day – it is important to get as much sleep as possible in the week leading up to the race.
Other methods to try to stimulate recovery are infrared sauna’s, ice baths, dry needling therapy or normatec compression boots.
Footwear can be a controversial conversation amongst runners. Many are Hoka fans whilst others have remained loyal to Asics. Personally, I have found Brooks to be the best for long distance running as they are light weight and supportive. However, like anything this is up to personal preference.
Given the high energy expenditure associated with distance running, you need to ensure you’re not in a calorie deficit. This means that your energy intake must be greater than your energy expenditure. A calorie deficit can be detrimental to recovery and building muscle.
Make sure to incorporate a mix of carbohydrates, protein and fats into your diet. An example of this split is 55% carbs, 30% protein and 15% fat.
For nutrition pre-run, I would recommend something like porridge or peanut butter and banana on toast. If your runs are longer than 60 minutes, it is recommended to use energy gels or lollies to refuel every 30-45mins throughout. Ensure to hydrate well pre, during and post each run. For professional advice on nutrition, it is best to discuss this further with a dietitian or nutritionist.
As you can see, training for a marathon is very multi-factorial. If you have recently signed up to a half or full marathon, BOOK IN HERE for a session with one of our physiotherapists to discuss all things injury prevention and optimising performance.