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The yearly incidence rates for injury in those training for marathons are reported to be as high as 90% (Fredericson & Misra, 2007). Below are a few tips and things to look out for to help you avoid injury in the run up to the marathon.
Listen to your body and the warning signs it is giving. The two main injury risk factors during marathon training are increasing training load too quickly, and continuing to train with a previous injury (Saragiotto et al., 2014). If you miss a training session, don’t train on back to back days or skip onto the next part of your training program. Most running injuries tend to gradually occur and produce warning signs e.g. aches, tightness, swelling, redness, pain. Don’t dismiss these signs and take action by seeing a physio as soon as possible to determine what’s going on and how much rest you should take to allow full recovery.
Ice and anti-inflammatories
Swelling, increased temperature, redness and pain are all signs of inflammation due to injury. If you feel a niggle when running ice it afterwards for 10-15 minutes. This helps settle any inflammation which may have built up over the course of a run. Taking anti-inflammatories afterwards may also help. However, if you are unsure as to whether you have torn a muscle, get some advice before taking anti-inflammatories.
Stretching and rolling
Stretching and foam rolling is most important after you run before your muscles start to cool down. Make sure you are stretching all major muscles groups in your legs and hips, holding all stretches for 30 seconds. Foam rollers are extremely helpful in loosening out your ITB, which when tight is likely to cause knee or hip pain. Foam rollers also help in releasing tight knots which are often difficult to release with stretching alone.
Cross training e.g.: cycling/swimming is as important as your running for marathon training. It helps improve muscle balance, keep you free of injury and maintain cardiovascular fitness. If you suspect you are developing an injury, substitute in cross training instead of running to give the muscles you have been overusing when running a rest.
Tapering is an essential part of your training and should normally occur during your final 21 days of training. It is vital to taper in order to allow muscle glycogen, enzymes and antioxidants return to normal levels. Muscles also repair and regenerate during this recovery time. During these 3 weeks it is really important to aim for 8-9 hours sleep per night. This also aides muscle repair and reduces the chances of you getting run down and catching a cold in the run up to the marathon. It has been shown that the average performance by runners who tapered improved by 3%.