Are you thinking of running at the NYC Marathon? That’s awesome! Whether you are running alone—for your personal achievement—or with a team—maybe for charity—it is sure to be a great experience.
I have never ran the NYC marathon, but I have worked as a volunteer massage therapist at the last one as well as at a few triathlons. I work on tons of runners in my sports massage practice and I’ve learned a few things on the way!
If you are not a regular long-distance runner, then the 26.2 miles will be challenging to say the least. But you have exactly 260 days from today to prepare, and that is enough time to increase your endurance and to master those miles. If you are new to training for a marathon, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Write down your motivation for running the marathon and hang it on your fridge or some other prominent place – why do you want to run the marathon? Be specific in setting your goals. Statistics show that people who have specific goals and who focus on their motivation are more likely to succeed in reaching their dream. This is especially important to keep in mind on those days when you are tired from training and feel like skipping the next few runs.
I am not a running coach and I will not spend much time talking about training plans; they are widely available on the web and experts differ on the best approach. But every training program suggests that you build up miles and running time from week to week over the course of 3-6 months to reach a minimum of 20 miles. Most plans recommend running 4-5x/wk which includes several shorter runs and a long-distance run once or twice a week. Taking 1-2 rest days per week and increasing mileage slowly (no more than 10% from one week to the next) is recommended. Some excellent training plans can be found here: Halhigdon.com, Runnersworld.com, Marathontraining.com
Strength and Cross Training
There are surprisingly few training schedules that recommend cross training or strength training. Cross training can be strength training and/or almost any low-impact activity, including swimming, bicycling, hiking, or yoga. Doing one or more of these activities two times a week is recommended.
Strength training can be done in many ways and can include weight lifting, plyometrics, or isometric exercises. You can use dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, elastic bands, medicine balls, jump ropes, or just stick to your own bodyweight. Keep your focus on the muscles of the foot, calf, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, core and spine. Whole body strength training can help improve overall posture and benefits your kinetics as well. Strength training will help prevent injuries by strengthening your muscles and tendons, which helps stabilize the ankle, knee, and hip joints. You should always train with someone who will correct your posture and bodymechanics for best results.
Warm Up and Stretching:
It is very important to get in the habit of warming up your body before you run. Recommended warm-ups include:
- Range of motion (move your joints a few times into the directions of natural movement). Rotate ankle and hips, extend/flex knees and hips, move your spine gently.
- Knee hugs
- Hip stretches
- Marching while pulling knees high up
Walking for 10min to cool down is a good habit. Stretching after runs and workouts is important to keep the joints flexible. Focus on calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and hip extensors.
Self Care Regimen
During your training days it is important to provide your body with additional care.
- Massage therapy is proven to reduce recovery time and post-workout soreness in athletes. Running and training usually leads to tight calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors. Regular sports massage (about once a week) will soften those tissues and ease aches and pains that result from taught tissue. Massage will improve flexibility and endurance and helps to prevent injuries. It also improves circulation, strengthens the immune system, and improves mood, sleep, and overall wellbeing. Besides, it just feels incredibly good to get those tired and sore muscles worked on after all those hours of training!
- Sauna/Steamroom/Hot Baths, in combination with cold showers, is a great way to strengthen your immune system, sweat out toxins, and improve circulation in sore tissue.
- Meditation—make it a practice to meditate at least 15 minutes every day. It will help you feel grounded and stay focused. It helps to clear the mind and increases overall happiness. It gives you some calm “me-time” and helps you relax after a run or workout.
- Sleep is a very important part of any training regimen! The average person needs to sleep between 6-9 hours a night. About 8 hours of solid sleep is recommended in order to restore, recharge, and recover. Additional naps during the day also help with recovery time.
This is a whole topic in and of itself! Of course it is very important to be conscious of what you put in your mouth! There’s not one right diet. It is important to eat from all food groups: carbohydrates, protein and fat—but eating the right amount of each group is the secret. Pre-workout snacks give you the power you need without overburdening your stomach, and post-workout foods help refuel and rebuild broken-down muscle mass.
Hydration is key – drink water before and after your runs and workouts and throughout the day, 3 liters/day or 100 ounces should be the minimum. A dash of sea salt mixed in with your water helps to prevent loss of sodium and other elements that occurs due to excessive sweating. Coconut Water is a great natural source of electrolytes. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sodas and store-bought fruit juice.
Of course it is very important to wear the correct shoe for your foot—running shoes, that is. Your feet need the proper support for your arch and they have to fit perfectly in order to support your movement rather than interfering with your gait. More about this on the world wide web.
The most common injuries in runners are:
- Runner’s knee
- Shin splints
- Stress fractures
- Achilles Tendinitis
- Plantar Faschiitis
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome
- Strains and Sprains
- Blisters and loss of toenails
Building up a running routine and training 3-5 days a week results in repetitive movements and can be quite taxing to the body. Repetitive stress on the tissues can often lead to injuries. Not all injuries can be prevented. But the risk can be minimized greatly with a regular self-care regimen and precaution.
Recommendations are as follows:
- Always warm up and stretch
- Add strength training and cross training
- Wear the right shoes
- Keep hydrated
- Listen to your body – if you feel pain don’t force it. If your pain appears every time you run or workout you should see a health care provider and assess and treat the situation before injury occurs.
- Build up your running routine and training slowly over time. Don’t increase mileage for more than 10% each week.
- Get enough rest periods. Off-days are very important days in your training schedule! Your body needs time to recover. Most recommended are 2 days of rest per week.
- Run in safe conditions – watch the ice while running outdoors in the winter, especially on steps, inclines, and unsteady surfaces. Wear reflective clothing so that others can easily see you. Keep identification and a cell phone with you. If possible run with a partner.
We wish you a great training period and an exciting race!
February 13th 2018 by Eliane Baggenstos, RN, LMT, bodono