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Four Tips to Master Your Marathon - by Tom Goom, Running Physio

17 Jan 2020

You’ve barely finished taking down the Christmas decorations and already you’ve slipped into marathon season! The 16 week training programmes for Spring marathons like London, Brighton and Paris are now well underway. Are you ready? This blog will take you through 4 top tips to keep you fit, injury free and ready to go come race day.

Tip 1 - Plan like a pro! The most important thing for completing a marathon injury free is how you train for it. Now is the time to plan your training to achieve your goals. When planning training there are a number of things to consider. First up, what level of training are you doing now? What is you weekly mileage and longest run? These should be similar to the early weeks of your training programme. If, for example, you’re currently only running 10 to 12 miles a week with a long run of 4 or 5 miles then a training programme that starts at 30 miles per week with a 10 mile long run is clearly too much! You might think that’s obvious but you’ll be amazed how many people start at a level far above where they are currently then really struggle. Secondly it’s important to plan so your training progresses gradually. This is key. The total weekly mileage should increase by roughly 10% per week. This isn’t set in stone but increases of 30% or more per week have been linked to increased injury risk in research. Thirdly, plan recovery into your schedule including recovery days within your week and a recovery week roughly every fourth week where mileage is reduced to manage fatigue. This brings us to tip 2...

Tip 2 - Sleep to win. There’s a simple equation for training; Performance = Fitness - Fatigue. Our training builds fitness but it’s recovery that reduces fatigue. We need both! If you train too much with too little recovery your fatigue levels will be too high and impair your performance. The best recovery method is sleep. It’s very effective and totally free but many people neglect it. Ironically if it was a snazzy, expensive machine people would pay the earth to get it! The harder we train the more we need to recover. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night and be prepared to increase this if needed when training more. Sleep quality is important too so try to create a cool, dark and quiet sleeping environment and avoid screen time, caffeine and alcohol in the evenings. See our sleep tips below for more information.

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Tip 3 - Prepare to perform. You can learn from my mistakes here. I once ran a marathon with a fuelling strategy I’d never tested and a running belt purchased at the expo the day before! It didn’t go well. The belt kept slipping down and I got cramps that turned the last 6 miles into a painful slog! Anything you want to use in the marathon should be tested in advance in your training. This includes pre-run fuelling (e.g. your race day breakfast), gels and fluids, shoes, running kit and GPS watches. If you want to use it on race day, use it first in training!

Tip 4 - Treat yourself. A key risk factor for running injury is having had a previous injury. As training builds up these old issues can flare up and stop you in your tracks. If you’re carrying an injury or nursing a niggle see Colin, Gary or the team for expert advice. If you get on top of it now it won’t hamper your training or stop you on race day. One area where guidance is really helpful is deciding whether to continue running or rest when injured. In many cases we can continue providing we modify the training to a manageable level where there isn’t lasting aggravation in symptoms. However, every case is different so seeing an experienced physio can be extremely valuable.

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