London Marathon Series: A runner’s guide to protecting the joints and muscles

Running enthusiast, Vivianne Pow, a 53 year old former policewoman, and now receptionist at BMI Woodlands Hospital, is about to take on The London Marathon as part of her mission to help raise the awareness of bowel cancer. 

Having battled the disease twice since 2012, Viv is running on behalf of Beating Bowel Cancer to help raise vital funds for the endless campaigning work the charity do. Viv has ran marathons before, including Paris and Rome, running the latter only 4 months after having her entire colon removed. In this article Viv discusses her training regime.

My running training programme is often based loosely on ones that I have found on the Internet and adjusted to accommodate my regular fitness classes/sessions. As I’ve run a number of marathons previously, (before and after cancer diagnosis, treatment and surgery) I decided to roughly follow an advanced 16 week training plan. 

This involves gently increasing weekly mileage with a mix of sessions then a taper of mileage in readiness for the marathon day. As an example about half way into my plan, my week looked like this:

  • Monday - Recovery run - 5 gentle miles with Up & Running Club
  • Tuesday - Speed session - approx. 4.25 miles at Darlington Harriers running club track (I am a member of the Darlington Harriers and Athletics Club) 
  • Wednesday - Rest day - 1 hour Pilates class 
  • Thursday - 3 miles with a friend at 13 min/mile then 1 ¼ hour yoga class 
  • Friday - 3 miles at 8:46 min/mile 
  • Saturday - 6 miles (including 3.1 miles Park run in 24:10) 
  • Sunday - Long run - 6 miles alone at 10:22 min/mile and 8 miles with a friend at 13:45 min/mile 
  • Total for the week – 35 miles 

I like to keep my training schedule adaptable to allow for socialising opportunities. Support from friends, especially for the longer runs is invaluable. 

Vivianne Pow

There’s nothing quite like a catch up chat to while away those miles! Running with a club forces me out of my comfort zone and really increases my effort levels. I am competitive so I can’t help but try harder when there are other people about. 

Fortunately, at the moment I am injury free. I like to think that I have learnt from experience and I ensure that I encompass stretches into my daily routine. I also make use of a foam roller and spiky ball to ease out any tight muscles.

I believe that my weekly Pilates and yoga classes are also beneficial in preventing injury and maintaining core strength and flexibility. A stretch band, spiky ball, tennis ball & foam rollers all aid my recovery regime.

After long runs or hard sessions, I soak in an Epsom salts bath for at least half an hour. I have found that this, together with drinking more fluids, has reduced the instance of cramp, which at one point was a frequent complaint of mine. Previously, problems I have encountered have been tight calf muscles, sore hips and aching glute muscles for which I sought treatment from physiotherapists. 

Vivianne stretching

This included massage, ultrasound and acupuncture as well as suitable stretch exercises. A particular recurring past issue was pain and numbness in my left leg due to sciatic nerve irritation.  

I was given a set of stretches by the head of the physiotherapy department at BMI Woodlands Hospital and these are now a part of my regular stretching regime. 

At the moment I don’t belong to a gym so I follow a series of my own body weight resistance exercises including squats (great to do a few of those while I’m cleaning my teeth), lunges, press-ups, planks and tricep dips. 

I find the arm exercises are particularly useful. Running is mostly about using your legs but it is surprising how much our arms are used especially during hill repetitions. 

I began to run regularly in 2003. At that time I was slightly overweight and decided to run to assist in my weight loss efforts. Initially, I experienced knee discomfort when I ran and so I wore neoprene knee supports, which helped immensely. I lost around a stone in weight and have never put it back on again. Since shedding that excess stone I have not suffered any knee pain whatsoever. A good enough reason for me to maintain a healthy weight!  

As with any exercise it is important to understand and listen to your own body. Aches are normal when you are using muscles more frequently or in a different way whereas actual pain could be an indication that you need to seek professional health advice before continuing. With the marathon rapidly approaching plenty of stretching and rest is in store so I am ready for the big day.

To ensure you are bowel cancer aware, download our free awareness guide or listen to our bowel cancer podcast where our panel discuss the bowel cancer journey from signs, symptoms and screening to diagnostics, treatment and life after bowel cancer. You can support Viv’s London Marathon fundraising efforts by sponsoring her via JustGiving. Feel free to download our free guide to running as well!

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