Once you’ve made the mental commitment to run a marathon, there are only a few things that can get in your way. And one of them – a big one – is injury. Chances are, whether it’s your first marathon or you’re an experienced runner, you’ll face an injury at some point – so it’s important to know how to avoid injury while training for a marathon.
The first year I tried to run the New York City Marathon, I ended up with stress fractures in both feet, tendinitis in my knee and an inflamed psoas muscle. I had tried to go for too much distance with too little training and very weak muscles. Basically I had just woken up one day and decided to start running.
In the end I couldn’t even walk on my sore knee, let alone run, and had to postpone my place in the race to the following year.
What I’ve learned since then is that it’s all about laying the groundwork. Making sure your muscles are strong and your technique is solid is going to help you run that long-distance course much more readily than hours of running on a treadmill (which is also really boring).
So what have I learned?
Find a physical therapist who “gets” running
If you’ve got health insurance in New York, you’re probably paying a pretty penny so you may as well use it. Seeing a physical therapist/physiotherapist aka PT before you get injured can help you identify problems before they become big issues. Also, finding a PT that understands that while the human body isn’t really designed to pound the pavement repeatedly for hours at a time, they are still willing to help you on your mission is really helpful. There’s nothing worse than going to a PT that says, “you should just stop running” so a good PT can advise you how to avoid injury while training for a marathon.
For me, I found Kristin Sapienza, based at Integrative Spine & Sports. Kristin has assigned me a number of exercises that I do on a daily basis to help stabilize my core, strengthen my legs and improve my mobility. My favourite has been the 30-Day Better Butt Challenge. Whether you’re running or not, it’s worth a go for the nice perky butt you’ll achieve!
It’s a run, but it’s not just about running
Just before Christmas I traded in my yoga membership (I can do that at home using the Down Dog app) and instead got a membership at a high-intensity strengthening class called Refine. Refine uses lunges, squats and core work, but also provides a great cardio component, so even without running my fitness is up. Through a 50-minute class I am strengthening the muscles I need to run, staying fit, and better yet, during the cold winter months, I’m safe and warm inside. I actually haven’t gone for a run for nearly six months.
Other things you can do to keep your fitness up are to use the low-impact elliptical machines or bikes at the gym.
And of course, you can’t forget the foam roller. If you’ve not heard of or seen one of these before, they are a cylindrical device made out of hard foam that you can use to massage yourself in the areas most prone to issues when running like your calves, IT band, hamstrings and glutes.
So, my legs are feeling stronger and I’m not in the pain I was at the end of last year. Now that I’ve learned how to avoid injury while training for a marathon, the next step is to actually start running again and see if all of these exercises have paid off.
You’ll just have to wait for the next installment to see how it goes! Stay tuned for my regular NYC Marathon Tips during the year to help make your NYC Marathon dream a reality.
Image credits: Julia O’Brien and http://www.pexels.com