As mentioned in other sections of this site, the greatest challenge of the marathon is not finishing the race but making it to the starting line uninjured and rested. Highlighted here are several concepts that when infused into your running program, will greatly reduce your chances of incurring an injury. Topics such as stretching, weight training, cross-training, shoes, all components of injury prevention strategies, will be discussed in greater detail in their own sections.
Without question, training errors are the greatest single cause of injuries that prevent runners from participating in their chosen target events. These particular runners can be categorized into two major groups. The first type adopts the philosophy that "more is better" and builds their mileage too rapidly and thus suffers breakdown and/or injury. The second group of runners is very inconsistent in their training and misses several workouts in a row, for example. Then, recognizing that they are behind in their training, pour on the miles in an effort to catch up. Several of these mistakes are listed below. By training wisely, you can avoid becoming a "marathon training fatality".
Injury Prevention Strategies
Consistent training is one of the major keys to running improvement. Conversely, inconsistent training can lead to a variety of injuries. It is vital that you do not miss several days in a row of running and then jump right back into your training program. Doing so greatly increases your risk of injury, as you must build your mileage gradually (see below).
- Building Mileage Too Rapidly
Always adhere to the 10 percent rule. This two-part rule specifies: (1) do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent nor (2) increase the distance of your long run by more than 10 percent per week.
- Not Following the Hard-Easy Concept of Training
Hard workouts include long runs, races, speedwork, hill repeats, and/or any other stressful workout. Do not run two hard workouts back to back. For example, if you complete a long run on Sunday, do not plan to go to the track to do a speedwork session on Monday. Similarly, if you run a 10K road-race on Saturday, avoid doing a long run on Sunday.
- Not Listening to Your Body
This training error is referred to as "being a slave to your training schedule". While it's very important to be as consistent as possible regarding your training, it is vital to listen to what your legs are communicating to you throughout your marathon training period. Instead of running five or six easy miles during the middle of the week when your muscles feel fatigued or sore, take an extra day off and save your legs for the weekend long run. Above all, incorporate rest days into your schedule prior to hard workouts.
- Heed Injury Warning Signs
There are too many types of running injuries and treatment options that could be addressed in this section. However, if you suspect you may have an injury, begin a preventative rehabilitation program to keep the damage to a minimum. Depending on the type of injury, this might mean using ice, anti-inflammatory medication, and above all, taking a rest day or two to allow the injury to heal. Continuing to run will only slow down the recovery process or even make the injury more serious. In addition, by favoring the injury and altering your natural running style, a secondary injury may develop. If your injury doesn't respond to rest and/or the rehabilitation measures just described, it is then prudent to seek the advice of a physician familiar with running and sports-related injuries. Above all, follow his or her advice! For more information, refer to the section on Injury Treatment Approaches.
Stay well hydrated to avoid heat injury. See Nutrition, Preparing for the Long Run, Tapering, and Race Countdown - Marathon Strategy sections for more information.
- Use Fresh Shoes
Purchase a new pair of shoes when the mileage totals from your old shoes reach a maximum of 400 miles. See the separate section Choosing the Right Shoes for more information.
- Stretch Regularly
See the separate section on Stretching for more information.
- Include Weight Training
See the separate section on Weight Training for more information.
- Add Some Cross-Training Activities
Be sure that these activities supplement your running rather than increase your level of fatigue that reaches the point of interfering with your running program. See separate section on Cross-Training for more information.
- Utilize Recovery Techniques There are several therapeutic measures you can take to recover from stressful runs or from the cumulative effects of hard training over a long period of time. Massage therapy is great after a long run, hard race, and/or weeks of heavy training. Pouring cold water on fatigued legs after a race or long run is another therapeutic technique. Soaking your legs in a whirlpool with warm water (approximately 105 degrees) a couple of hours after a race or long run oftentimes aids in the recovery of fatigued muscles. Something as simple as taking a walk or going for an easy bike ride a couple hours after a hard workout also can work wonders for tired legs.