The sensible approach to your London Marathon training
London Marathon Training can feel like a chore at times. And in attempt to clock up the miles, it is tempting to plough on regardless.
But injuries for runners are often a little like credit card bills for the irresponsible shopper. If you ignore the early warning signs, the long-term costs are far greater.
In the same way that a prudent investor must plan to take care of their assets, a runner must have a plan to look after their number one asset, their body.
Your training plan needs to factor in stretching, warm-ups and cooldowns, strength work and much more besides.
So, let’s take a closer look at things you can do to help prevent injuries.
London Marathon training – Posture
The forces acting on the body whilst running are significant. Any postural imbalances in the body will exacerbate these forces and heighten your risk of injury. Picture what happens to a nail if you hammer away at it without lining it up properly. It soon gets damaged and bent out of shape. It’s the same with the body when subjected to mile after mile of running!
And although you are unlikely to perfect your posture before race day, there are plenty of interventions that can help you redress imbalances before then. The first step you need to take is to have your posture analysed.
After that, a qualified physiotherapist can help you counteract some of these imbalances. But also consider activities such as yoga and Pilates, which can help you develop your core strength and flexibility. Both of which will have a positive impact on your posture.
Your gait is your ‘manner of walking’, but in this case, it refers to the manner in which you run. The key part of the analysis focuses on what happens to your foot as it strikes the floor with each step.
The vast majority of runners ‘overpronate’ as they run. This basically means that the foot rolls excessively inward as it lands. This increases the chance of common injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis and knee problems. Specialist ‘stability’ running shoes can help compensate for this and are instrumental in guarding against injury.
As tempting as it might be to head straight out of the door and get on with your run, you must force yourself not to skip the warm-up. The warm-up is vital in instigating the physiological responses the body needs to cope with the demands of a run.
As the name suggests, a warm-up causes the body’s muscles to heat up, which is important because it allows them to stretch further. In addition, it increases blood flow and thus provides more oxygen to the muscles. And perhaps most vitally, a good warm-up prepares the heart for the more vigorous activity to follow.
As a bare minimum, the warm-up should include at least two or three minutes of faster-paced walking, some slow jogging or striding and some dynamic flexibility exercises.
One of the easiest ways to ensure you cool down properly is to ease off (rather than speed up!) towards the end of your run. Decelerate into a slow jog, then walk for two or three minutes.
This allows your heart rate to normalise gradually and aids venous return, which in turn helps prevent blood pooling. You want to avoid blood pooling at all costs because it can cause havoc with your veins. A gradual cool-down will also help you to restore a normal breathing pattern and help you to avoid faintness or dizziness.
Be sure to include static stretches as part of the cool-down process. These should cover all the most important muscles used in running including, the calves, thighs, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, the IT band and the adductors. If you are inexperienced in stretching these muscles, seek out expert advice.
Finally, a great addition to your London Marathon training is massage.
You will probably be familiar by now with a phenomenon that occurs as you train. That feeling you have when your muscles feel sorer the day after the run. This has been given a technical name and is referred to as DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) within the scientific community.
Important research from late 2017 has shown that massage can play an important part in ‘alleviating DOMS and improving muscle performance’. This is great news, as massage offers you a way to speed up recovery and allows you to run pain-free more quickly.
Additional research shows that people who receive massage ‘experience measurable changes in their body’s immune and endocrine response’. This is central to guard against infection and the breakdown of muscle tissue that can be caused by viruses.