If you are training for a fall marathon or half marathon, you may be concerned about injury. This is a valid concern, as injuries are common when runners train for a longer race, especially for the first time.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize your chances of getting hurt.
1. Build a solid foundation. Follow a professional program that ramps your mileage slowly and methodically to a marathon training workload. Find a running program online that you can tailor to your needs or work with a certified running coach to have a customized program created just for you. Follow a program that:
- Starts from your current fitness level
- Ramps your workload gradually – no more than 10% mileage increase per week or per session
- Includes slow, methodical increase of your long runs to a longer run of approximately 20 miles (possibly 21 or 22 if you have previously run the marathon race distance)
- Includes runs of different length, speed and terrain – variety is important to prevent injury
Also, be realistic. If you are a new runner, build your running and run regularly for at least a year before attempting your first marathon.
2. Be consistent. Now that you have your training plan, follow it closely. Consistency is one of the keys to preventing injury. This doesn’t mean you can’t miss a workout occasionally, but if you find yourself missing a week of runs, this can be a recipe for injury. Try to stay consistent with your training plan, keeping the number of runs and miles per week close to your plan. If you miss a week, ease back into the plan or work with your running coach to get back on track safely.
3. Develop good running form. It is difficult to “force” yourself into perfect running form and it can be dangerous, especially if your muscles aren’t prepared for that method of running. However, in order to prevent undue force on the body, landing with each foot underneath your body – instead of in front of your body on your heel – is usually associated with lower ground forces on the body resulting in lower injury rate. The easiest way to achieve this is to shorten and quicken your stride. If you find you are an overstrider, practice the shorter strides with feet landing underneath you on a regular basis.
4. Strength train. Running is a very repetitive sport. As a result, it creates a high probability of overuse injuries. In order to prevent these injuries, strengthening and mobilizing key areas of the body are important preventive measures. Focus on these areas:
- Core: Strengthen the lateral and anterior core with exercises such as plank and side plank variations.
- Hips/Glutes: Strengthen the legs, glutes and stabilizers with exercises such as lunge variations, deadlift and glute bridge variations and hip abduction work (such as clams). Also, keep the hips and hamstrings mobile with key stretches for those areas.
- Ankles and calves: Strengthen the ankles and calves with exercises such as calf raises, jumping/plyometrics and banded ankle work. Also, keep the calves mobile with calf stretching. Try doing some of this foot and ankle work barefoot for added benefit.
A strength training program for runners, such as RunSMART, can help you work on all of these areas.
5. Pace.While training, most of your running should be at a slow, conversational pace. Many people overtrain on their easy days and carry fatigue into their hard runs. Make sure you keep your easy days easy, even if you are a veteran runner. Following the pacing of your running program, as well as the distances, helps keep injury at bay.
These suggestions will help you avoid injury this summer and have a great fall marathon or half marathon.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Centers