Training for a marathon is an arduous task, even for experienced runners. It takes a lot of time and effort, both mentally and physically, to prepare yourself for a 26.2-mile trek. Unfortunately, a lot of runners may not know the proper way to train, and they end up injuring themselves in the process. Due to the nature of distance running, many marathon-related injuries result from a long process rather than a single event. In many cases, runners have been using poor running technique for a long stretch of time or they’re simply training too hard, too fast.
Ready, Set, Go!
At the beginning of training, particularly for new runners, pain and inflammation are the biggest concerns. The foot, knee, shins, and Achilles tendon are the areas where runners tend to have the most problems; experiencing a few aches and pains in these areas is normal. Muscle cramps, blisters and back pains are also likely to occur. As runners progress into their training, pain around the hip and outside thigh area may become noticeable.
Minor pain and swelling can lead to more serious issues if not addressed early on. Achilles tendonitis (pain and inflammation in the Achilles tendon) can occur if you have weak calves or make sudden increases to your training. Flares of tendonitis can keep you off your feet for a few weeks, and wearing high heels and shoes with minimal support can make the problem worse. Plantar fasciitis is another very common runner’s injury. The tendons in your feet become inflamed or even tear, and it can make running highly painful.
The Downside to Amping Up Your Game
When runners start adding more mileage to their training regimens, stress fractures become more likely to occur. Stress fractures can form in any part of the body, but runners most often experience them in the small bones of the shin and feet. They can take up to eight weeks to heal, during which time you have to refrain from putting weight on the fractured area, and they can really cause a setback in your training. Stress fractures in the hip and pelvis area are also possible, and these take even longer to heal.
Maintaining the proper running technique is crucial to limiting the number of injuries you suffer during marathon training. It’s important to achieve the proper form, but only if you’re having problems with the way you’re currently running.
Here are some tips to maintain good running posture:
1. Keep a short, quick stride. Heavy movements are tougher on your joints. It’s also important to be mindful of the ground beneath your running shoes. When in suburban neighborhoods without traffic, it’s better to run on the black concrete roads than the hard cemented sidewalks. Whenever possible, dirt roads and other smooth natural surfaces are best.
2. Push up and off the ground with your toes. It’s just like your high school coach said: don’t run on your heels.
3. Align your feet with your body correctly when you run. Make sure your foot strikes the ground under your knee to help prevent knee injuries, which are some of the most common injuries runners experience. Runner’s knee, for instance, is one injury that can be alleviated by common techniques such as these exercises recommended sports physical therapists.
4. Stretch properly before and after exercising. Regular stretching will allow you to maintain flexible hips and hamstrings as you age.
5. Stay hydrated. While working out, our bodies lose water through breath and sweat. Your mind and body is unable to effectively complete a workout when dehydrated, so it’s important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
6. Apply ice to injured areas. This can help alleviate many muscle and tendon-related running injuries.
7. See a rehabilitation physician. Many marathon runners have sports medicine practices to address their training concerns. Physiatrists are well-versed in treating running-related injuries, and they can often suggest exercises, stretches and techniques for preventing more serious injuries.
It is extremely important to address any running injuries before they develop into more serious problems. Ignoring an aching knee could lead to an injury that could keep you off your feet and delay your training for long periods of time. Learn proper running technique, don’t push yourself too hard, and have an expert check out any aches and pains you may be suffering from, and you’ll be well on your way to finishing your first — or even tenth — marathon.