With the new year in full swing, many of us turn our thoughts to our health and wellbeing, setting new fitness goals, such as joining the gym, walking more and sticking to a weekly program. Will Kenton, Head Of Physiotherapy at Teladoc Health UK has some top tips for running a successful marathon:
For lots of us, it might be losing a few kilograms, improving strength, mobility, or just simply to feel better in ourselves. If there’s anything we do know about exercise, it’s the huge benefits in reducing the risk of disease (up to 30% reduction in the risk of early death) and a whole host of other physical and mental health benefits.
For others, some of you will be in the thick of your London Marathon training, putting in the miles to prepare your body for a staggering 26.2 mile run around some of the most iconic parts of the capital.
What I love most about the London marathon, is we typically all know somebody who has done it, whether it’s family member, colleague at work or a neighbour across the road. They may have been one of those who ran the entire race in a costume! It never ceases to amaze me. Plus, an incredible amount of money is raised every year for so many great causes.
Training for a marathon may seem an impossible task at first, especially if this is your first one, or you are relatively new to running.
As a Physiotherapist, you can probably imagine this time of year can be a busy time for us Physio’s, helping those who have picked up injuries or a niggle, as they progress through their training program.
What I will say however, with the right preparation and attitude, running a marathon is more attainable than you might think. I’m going to share some of my top tips to keep you on track, help stay injury free, and be the best prepared you can be, prior to the 23rd April.
Although this might seem like a an obvious one, it is an area where many runners fall short. Typically, marathon training can vary between 12-20 weeks. A beginner for example will need in the range of 16-20 weeks to prepare. The process of slowly building cardiovascular fitness and stamina is key in peaking for the marathon, avoiding injury, and giving you the best possible chance of success on the day. Most marathon plans tend to follow a three-week taper. While this can vary from runner to runner, you’ll want to be sure you’re running less and recovering more during those final 21 days, so your legs are fresh on race day.
I’d be lying if I said runners and those training for a marathon don’t get injured, as they certainly can and often do. This links in nicely with preparation – if you leave your training too late and aim to build up your volume too quickly, it is quite possible you may sustain an injury. If you have picked up a bit of niggle, don’t ignore it. Often with the right advice and discussing your concerns with a Physiotherapist, we can help get you back on track. It is never advisable to continue to run through the pain, which may complicate your potential recovery and potentially hinder your chances of competing.
Typically it’s best to stick to what you know here. Don’t look to swap out your trainers the week before race day. Your feet has grown quite used to your regular runners, and big changes here can result in pain in the knees, feet, shins – you name it! If of course, your footwear has fallen apart, replace them with a pair that are suitable for your foot type. Always try on new running footwear before purchasing, and if possible go to a specialist running shop. They’ll often let you try a few different pairs on a treadmill. If you do have to change footwear in the middle of your training plan, try to do a few shorter runs to begin with and allow yourself time to become accustomed to the new trainers.
The more you exert yourself, the more time and rest your body requires to function at its best. Try not to neglect sleep during your training as this is paramount. Reduce your alcohol intake if you possible can, as drinking can compromise sleep and temporarily reduce your body’s ability to store glycogen, which is key for endurance.You’ll notice rest days on your training program, don’t ignore these as they are just as important as your running days – especially as you start to build up your milage. Incorporate other activities into your program aside from running – often low impact exercise such as cross training, swimming and rowing can be effective means of building your fitness. Most good marathon training plans will highlight this.
On the day
The London Marathon 2023 has arrived! A mixture of nervous energy and excitement will be the overriding emotion, but remember all the hard work you’ve put in to get to this point.
Aim to have breakfast at least 1-2 hours before running. Most people opt for a lighter option such as oatmeal or low fibre cereals, bananas, yogurt, and juice.
Nobody can predict how certain conditions may impact you on the day of the marathon, but be prepared that warmer humid weather will feel quite different to running in cool weather. You may need to adjust your pace if the weather is hotter that you anticipated on the day. Ensure hydration is not overlooked – even if you don’t feel that thirsty. If you’ve used gels or energy tablets in your training, make plans to utilise these on race day.
Last but not least – good luck! You never know – if it’s your first time you may just get the marathon running bug!