Leading into October each year physios around Victoria start to a get little busier with people injuring themselves on the road to the Melbourne marathon. Whether they are running the half marathon or the full, there are always problems that occur. Running has one of the highest incidences of injuries than any other sport and for this reason there is a lot of research into injury prevention for running. It is also the main skill utilised in most sports. For example; you can’t play footy, tennis, basketball, soccer or many other sports if you can’t run. So with all the research and talk out there about the best way to optimise training, nutrition, injury prevention and so on, I thought I would write a little bit about the way I am preparing for my first marathon.
I decided to run the Melbourne marathon this year mainly because it is on my bucket list of things to do. I am sure I will regret the decision at 35km into the race but I will be glad for it later on. Having experienced a large number of injury setbacks myself, I have always looked for ways to minimise injury risk and optimise training loads. This has been something that I have experimented with over the last 5-6 years when I started to gain more knowledge in the area. Without going into research and reciting journal articles and statistics I thought I would just take you through my thought processes behind my training and preparation for this year’s marathon. My preparation has been mainly based on my own reading of research in the area, my own past experiences with training and injury, discussions with other experienced runners, my clinical experience with treating runners with injury and also common sense with regards to putting all of these things together.
My typical training week involves 5 runs in the 7 day week.
- Sunday: Long run
- Monday: Easy run
- Tuesday: Fartlek or interval session
- Wednesday: Recovery cycle
- Thursday: Hills circuit
- Friday: Rest day
- Saturday: Alternating between shorter speed sessions and threshold runs
I would generally average between 60 and 85km per week depending on the way my body is responding to the training and how I have periodised my training. As a general rule you should only increase your training load by up to 10% in a week. You should also have 1 week each month which is an easier week. I try to follow this, however I am flexible with my program based on external factors such as time commitments, health and also the way my body is responding to training. For instance if I have had 2 or 3 runs in a row where I have felt tired and lethargic, then I would follow with an easy couple of days to allow my body to recover. I would also look at other factors such as how much sleep I have been getting and how my diet has been.
Although diet and sleep are important to ensuring I can still run there are a number of other things I try to bring into my program. These things are massage and strengthening. A large number of runners who seek physiotherapy treatment have sub optimal hip and core strength. These are often the patients who recurrently miss periods of running due to injury. To avoid this I work some basic core and hip strengthening exercises into my routine. These include thera band strengthening of the glutes and hip rotators, with the addition of some core and glute exercises using a gym ball. I complete these exercises 3 times per week. I obviously also have the luxury of full time access to the Lake Health Group gym. I use this for loading my Achilles tendons with some heavier weights. This is due to my previous history with Achilles tendon problems.
In addition to the strength work, I use a foam roller 3 or 4 times per week on my quads and hamstrings. A spikey ball works really well for the glutes and I also work through my calf. If the above self-massage strategies are not enough to relieve persistent muscular tightness I would use dry needling techniques. The dry needling seems to work more effectively in this situation as you can access deeper trigger points within the muscle and obtain a greater trigger point response.
Leading into race day, I am nearly half way through a 2 week taper. In the week leading into the race I plan on running about 50% of the volume of my normal week. I still want some good quality speed work during this week but not enough to fatigue me before the race. I am avoiding hills within 2 weeks of the race also. My nutrition is really focused on packing as many good nutrients into the day as possible. I am consuming a lot of fruit and vegetables as well as high protein food sources. The best possible diet to follow is a diet which does not exclude food groups but includes good volumes of the right foods. The 2 days prior to the race I will be focusing on remaining adequately hydrated and packing in the carbs. I have also been taking the Ultra Muscle Ease magnesium supplement which is available at Lake Health Group and helps prevent cramp during a race.
On race day the plan is 2-3 pieces of toast with some jam about 2 hours before the race. I am looking to take on 150-200mL of water/electrolyte drinks each 5km and energy gels at 10km, 20km, 30km and 38km. All going well I will survive my first ever marathon and live to tell the tale over a couple of hard earned beers. – Physiotherapist Daniel Lewry