Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Long runs - Avoid injury and stay healthy to race day

We’re just about 5 weeks away from the NU Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon, which means long training runs are in full force.  We are seeing more conversations in the HMF Events Runners Group page, Tweets from your mile trackers and questions on planning before and after long runs. So, we are calling in the experts to help you along.  Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers (PTSMC) physical therapist and seasoned triathlete and marathoner Kathryn Flodquist, PT, DPT, cert. MDT, CSCS is sharing below her top tips for making it through long runs and to race day healthy and prepared.

Kathryn is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with PTSMC and also a USA Triathlon Level 1 coach, you can learn about her through her Web site.   Feel free to share questions in comments below and we will work with PTSMC to get you answers.

Since you’re well in to your training programs at this point, make sure you stick with it, but remember that training isn’t just about the miles you’re logging:
  • Rest. Most good plans have you build your training for 2-3 weeks followed by a “rest” or easier week.  Don’t skip it.  That’s actually when you get stronger and it will help to prevent injury
  • Recover. Take care to recover, especially after longer runs, with light stretching, a good meal and some rest.  Consider a nap after your longest runs - sleep is the best recovery tool available.
  • Prepare race day nutrition. Practice your race nutrition during training. Whether a sports drink, gel or something else, don’t surprise your body with it on race day*.  Find something you like and use it during your long runs so that you will know how it feels in your stomach and how you like the taste after several hours. 

Avoiding injury and pain:
  • While there is no real substitute for running when marathon training you can bike, swim, hike and do other lower impact activities to give your joints a break while still building fitness.
  • Running causes us to use the same muscle groups in the same way over and over, which can leave muscles tight and sore.  Self massage techniques like foam rolling can help to keep the blood flowing and loosen any tight spots.
  • If you have always run on pavement, don’t suddenly decide to do a run on a rocky trail.  Our bodies become good at what we do all the time, if your feet and ankles are not prepared to handle the uneven surface and side-to-side movement on trails you’re at a greater injury risk.
  • If you do feel a twinge or strain during a run don’t ignore it.  If it gets stronger during the run, stop.  Sometimes it may even come on after you’ve finished.  Either way, it’s better to address it immediately, rather than push through it.
  • Rest the area or switch to cross training for a day or so. Use ice and elevation if you have swelling.  Don’t return to running until the swelling and pain subside.  If this doesn’t happen after a few days, get it checked out.
  • Also, if you seem to get injured frequently, or if you have “problem” areas, you may benefit from having your running gait assessed.  Often we can see what’s causing your problem, and help you correct it.

For detailed assessments of injuries broken down through the body, visit PTSMC’s injury page.

While we shouldn’t need to remind runners of this, please don’t run in old or worn out shoes and do not make big changes to your running style, shoe type or activity level as you build up to the race.  These kinds of changes take time to adapt to and frequently worsen your running ability in the short term as your body adjusts to them.

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