Injury: a runner’s worst enemy. A lot of us have been injured at some point, and if you haven’t been I’m incredibly jealous.
I pulled my hip flexor when training for my second half marathon in 2013. This was mostly due to ramping up mileage too quickly, not strengthening key muscles, and pretending I was tougher than I was.
I learned my lesson.
After running 10 miles on a seriously strained hip flexor, that is. (Rookie mistake).
This resulted in 6 weeks of NO running followed by 6 weeks of physical therapy. I had to skip my race. I was sad. I vowed to take better care of my body and never take my ability to run for granted…and I’ve stuck to it.
Marathon training is tough on the body, but if you do it smart and pay attention to warning signs, I think it’s possible to make it through training and a goal race injury free.
This is my third full marathon training cycle and I’m feeling better than ever. But I’ll never take that as a reason to slack off on my injury prevention methods.
Here’s my best advice to prevent injury while marathon training:
1. Cross train
I’ll be honest, I did not cross train at all my first marathon training cycle. Or my first few half marathon training cycles. I loved to run. And only run. So I made time for running and that’s it. I didn’t really know any better. Physical therapy showed me just how weak my body really was. I could barely hold a 30 second plank. And my PT told me that if I ever wanted to be a distance runner I would need to cross train. And she was right. Since that year, I have tried to cross train at least twice a week. Even if that just means a five minute ab workout when I can squeeze it in. I’ve done Kayla Itsines’ BBG in my off time. I love spin classes. I take circuit classes. It’s about finding other types of exercise you love to do. I can’t imagine not cross training now. It’s often a highlight of my week (even if I’m constantly sore).
2. Wear quality shoes + orthotics
Don’t underestimate the power of a good pair of shoes. Or two. Or three. I’ve tested a lot of shoes in order to find what works for me. I love my Brooks Ravennas. They’ve gotten me through 3 marathons and I don’t plan on changing out of them any time soon. But I do always make sure I have two pairs to rotate between each day. I’m a huge advocate for this approach. The shoes last longer and it’s better on your legs. Even better? Make another pair a different brand/type of shoe. I also have a new love for my Nike Pegs and I think alternating between the shoes is the best tactic. I also know I need orthodics. I have a pair from Footmaxx and they do exactly what they should. My feet feel comfortable and supported. Don’t skimp out when it comes to taking care of your feet!
3. Foam roll & stretch
I have a love/hate relationship with my foam roller. We all do, right? But it helps. I don’t use it as much as I should, but I’m working on it. At least once a week (usually after my long run) I’ll roll it out and stretch for at least 20 minutes. The more frequently you roll, the better I say. I’m always trying to tell myself this too.
4. Fuel your body
You might be able to run 20 miles after eating pizza for dinner the night before, and I won’t say I’ve never done this, but I feel SO much better on runs when I eat well. And I think this helps prevent injury as well. Fuel before, during, and after long runs is so important. Eating real, nutritional foods definitely speeds up recovery and makes you feel better. If I’m in tune to how my body feels based on what I’m eating, then I’m more aware of when something feels off (and when I need to rest).
Take rest days. Don’t skip them. Recovery is key to injury prevention. Hydrate and do some light stretching one day a week…and do nothing else. I actually look forward to my rest days now. I get more sleep. I assess how I feel. And I wake up feeling ready to run the following day. If something is aching you, rest for a few days. It’s always better to rest at first signs of aggravation in order to avoid a full blown injury. Don’t ignore your body when it’s trying to tell you something!
This advice is all solely based on my personal experiences. I’ve found what works for me and I stick to it. Hoping if you’re still reading this, it can work for you too.