For runners, completing a marathon is one of the highest achievements of their sport – it’s the ultimate test of endurance and willpower and requires extensive, regimented training. There’s a reason people display “26.2” stickers on the back windows of their cars and wear T-shirts commemorating past races – completing a marathon takes a lot of work.
Marathon training regimens vary and depend on the starting level of the runner. A runner competing in his or her first marathon, for example, would train differently than an experienced marathoner. But there are several cardinal rules that can help all runners avoid injury during training.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
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David Price, MD, of Sports Medicine & Injury Care at Carolinas HealthCare System, is an expert on running injuries and frequently treats long-distance runners for common ailments, including patellofemoral stress syndrome, IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, stress fractures and muscle strains.
Dr. Price said one of the biggest issues he sees with long-distance runners is jumping into overly intensive training before their bodies are prepared. “Get your bodyvgf used to running by establishing a good base mileage,” he said. “Add only 10 percent of total mileage per week, and make sure to follow a well-known training program. Most marathon programs will provide such a mileage build-up and also have a dip in total mileage every few weeks to allow your body to recover to prepare for the next increase in training. Cross-training is a great way to continue improving your cardiovascular fitness while decreasing the impact on your legs. Finally, you may want to check with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough to train for a marathon.”
The “10 Percent Rule” is a useful rule of thumb to make sure you’re not pushing your body past its limits before you’re acclimated to a rigorous training schedule. By simply limiting the total running distance added to no more than 10 percent per week (if you run a total of 10 miles in week one, run 11 miles in week two), you can help ensure your joints and muscles keep pace with your improving cardiovascular fitness levels.
The Right Fit
While it may seem like a given, selecting the right shoes for your feet and gait can pay huge dividends to avoiding injury and maximizing your training. “Don’t just use an off-the-shelf shoe,” said Price. “Find a store that will properly fit you based on your running form and fit type.”
Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly can lead to muscular imbalances in the body, joint injuries, blisters, bunions and more. Buying your shoes from a specialty running store, instead of online or in a “big-box” store, means you’re likely to have access to knowledgeable associates who can advise you on the fitting process. Many specialty stores also have tools to measure your arch and gait to help you find the perfect shoe.
Keep the following in mind when selecting a shoe:
- Don’t assume your running shoes will be the same size as your other shoes.
- Jog in the shoe when trying it on. When you run, your feet “spread out” and your toes splay under the increased pressure. Many stores even allow you to “try out” the shoes for a short time and return them if they don’t feel right.
- Don’t buy for look, and don’t shop for deals. The best shoe for your foot may not be the perfect color or the lowest price. It’s a sacrifice worth making.
- Allow for wiggle room. Your feet will swell as you run, so make sure there’s about a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. When you’ve selected the right new pair of shoes, break them in with shorter runs before running a long distance.
Get Expert Advice
Dr. David Price is a sports medicine physician at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sports Medicine & Injury Care. An avid runner, Dr. Price is involved with a number of local running groups and is currently training for a marathon himself.
Let the experts at Sports Medicine & Injury Care help you get started on your marathon goal. To schedule an appointment with a board-certified physician at one of our eight locations, call 704-512-3994 or visit CarolinasHealthCare.org/SportsCare. Same-day appointment scheduling is available.