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You’ve got a spring marathon in mind and you’re aiming high. You want to smash this year’s times and you’re fired up to start training.
Trouble is, it’s a bit early for race-day plans and speed sessions. So what do you do this autumn to get ready for your training to start in earnest in the New Year?
It’s easy to delay training until January, but the truth is that might be too late. Starting early will allow you to do more mileage, lose some extra weight, sort out any health problem that might get aggravated because of training, and generally prepare your body for what’s to come.
Rob Waite, physiotherapist and a seasoned runner, shares his insights about how to get ready for a half or full marathon.
I started out as a Kent County 400m champion, but moved onto longer distances after university. I've run four London marathons, but now I am focusing on triathlons and have completed three Olympic distance events. I'm planning to do a half-ironman later this year, which will finish with a half-marathon run.
What sort of training should those planning to do a marathon in spring do to start getting their body prepared?
The important thing is to put the miles in, not the pace. Long slow runs are the important part in this period of training. Look at running with a low heart rate, and building time on the legs.
What sort of mileage should they be aiming to reach by Christmas for a spring half or full marathon?
I tend not to worry too much about mileage but should be aiming for a long run of around a hour. For a full marathon they should aim for a slow, easy but long run of approximately 1.5 hours.
How often should they run now to maintain fitness without putting themselves at risk of injury? What else can they do to increase their chances of getting through the race injury-free?
I would be looking at running 2 – 3 times a week.
Core stability and flexibility training is so important when running, so you need to start working on them as soon as you can. Also, it is important to cross train, so alternate with a session in the pool or a bike ride that will work on your cardiovascular system and will reduce the stress on the joints. Monitoring your diet is important too because you are what you eat. So eat as clean as you can!
For anyone currently experiencing niggles, such as shin splints, knee aches, back pain, foot pain, etc, what advice do you have for them now?
The most important thing is to seek professional help to understand the cause of the pain.Everyone should include a session of stretching into their weekly training as well as working on their core stability. Using foam rollers also helps. But they should seek professional help first if experiencing any pain.
What sort of advice do you have for those who are very keen runners who may be tempted to overdo it? How can they tell if they are doing enough mileage or not too much?
I always train to heart rate and this is a key pointer to if you are overdoing it.
At the same time, it would be easy to think “I’ve got plenty of time between now and next spring” and not do enough running and not be fit enough by the spring. How can runners ensure this doesn’t happen?
The best thing is to join a group- there are loads of running clubs which will motivate you into running. Set goals, use social media to document your runs, whatever you need to keep you going!
What tips do you have on getting the discipline and focus to start training now, when spring 2018 sounds like a long time away?
Set small manageable goals that are achievable, so this will keep you motivated. Get friends and family involved so they can help and also join a club so it’s motivational and fun!
What general advice do you have for relatively new runners who haven’t done a spring half marathon or marathon before?
Keep it fun and enjoyable. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Running is meant to be fun. Look forward to your event. Enjoy the weather and countryside when you are out running! Use park runs, these are great social running events and free! But also remember to volunteer as well!
What sort of mileage should they ideally be up to by February 2018 for a half marathon? What about for a full marathon?
They should be able to do a 10k run if they are planning to run a half marathon, and able to run 20 miles for a full one.
Does everyone need to stretch before a run?
Everyone needs to stretch. The benefits is thought to improve the performance of endurance runners, also it is a way of reducing the risk of injury to runners. It increases range of motion and is a way of reducing stress levels. Stretching can also help with posture, especially reversing the day to day positions as we are very sedentary and sit for long periods of time.
Do supple muscles perform better than tight ones?
Running efficiency is how the body of the athlete impacts and how effective muscles are at using energy- this is dependent of factors such as muscle morphology, elastic elements and joint mechanics.
There is some evidence on acute stretching prior to warm up, suggesting that it decreases running economy, and this is with static stretches and is due to the muscles becoming tight. In other research, more dynamic stretches do seem to help with performance and therefore it is the type of stretching we do is the important factor. Static stretches,where you basically hold a stretch, are good at increasing range of motion, and this should be part of an athlete’s training programme and done as spate sessions. Dynamic stretching, such as leg swings, torso rotations or arm rotations, should be done prior to exercise.
Does a post-workout stretch prevent injury?
Stretching post training can reduce the discomfort generated by delayed onset muscle soreness, but the amount of research on this is not significant and there is no difference between static and dynamic stretches. The thought was that stretches would increase blood flow, but it is more significant to carry out slow active movements.
Do experienced athletes need to stretch as much as those new to the sport?
There is a point where there is an optimum level for muscle economy and going past that point may be detrimental, thought there is limited evidence looking at this. It is therefore a good idea to include stretching to maintain the muscle lengths and to prevent areas which are tight to become tight.
Is there anything else you wish to add?
The main point is enjoy running, have fun, If you have any niggles seek professional help as having the assessed early will prevent the injury getting worse !
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