Marathon training update. Weakling.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My mileage is slowing increasing.  And with that comes the grim reality that I am not strong.  The day after a long run, I struggle to get up the hill on my bike.  At times, I even dismount and shamefully walk up the hill.  I wish I had a shirt that said 'yesterday was my long run' to help me save face.

Photo from RunnersWorld.com
I always knew that weight training would be an integral part of marathon prep.  My friends say that having a strong body will get you across the finish line when your mind is ready to quit. Slowly, I am incorporating weights in, as well as yoga.  Seriously, marathon training is a full-time job between the running, the eating, the lifting, and the stretching.  Mad props to anyone who pulls this off while working and has dependents to care for.

My dog comes on 2-3 mile runs with me but stops so frequently I wonder if he is ruining my training.  Hal Higdon suggests a walk/run plan for marathons, such as run for 9 minutes then walk for 1.  His point is that why start walking after your body is tired out but rather delay the fatigue as much as possible.  I need to decide what approach I am going to take.  Usually for me, once I start walking I find it incredibly hard to start running again.  Plus would I feel that I had accomplished my goal if I purposefully walk?

First things first. I set out to determine if I really was a weakling, if my legs needed more recovery time or if my muscles needed some TLC.  I reached out to a massage therapist, physical therapist and osteopath for their guidance on when we need rest vs when we need care.

First up is Anna, co-owner of the The Green Well.  This is where I have had a few treatments as one location is within walking distance of my home.  I also appreciate that Anna is also an athlete and therefore 'gets' me and my goals. (Side note, these ladies also donate 5% of their proceed and give volunteer treatments with cancer patients. Love them!)  I asked Anna a few simple questions about when you should seek out a massage during marathon training versus plain old rest and here is what she said:

During sustained running, as in marathon training, your muscles experience repetitive contractions. The harder and longer you run the greater the force your muscles experience. This causes the muscle fibres to shorten as well as creating micro trauma in the tissue. This is the body’s natural response to training and this is what makes you faster and able to run further. Unfortunately the side effects of this process can be; shortened, tight muscles, a restriction in range of movement in joints and decreased circulation due to compressed tissues. This can lead to pain and injuries such as illiotibial band syndrome, Achilles tendinopathies, plantar fasciitis and knee issues - not ideal when trying to push yourself for the big race.

Massage can help to alleviate these unavoidable effects of training, allowing you to:
·         Decrease your recovery time between training sessions by lessening the impact of delayed onset muscles soreness (DOMS).
·         Identify areas of tightness that may develop into injuries or hamper performance.
·         Maintain flexibility of your muscles, allowing them to function effectively.
·         Release muscle tension and restore balance to the musculoskeletal system.

Massage therapy works best as an injury prevention and recovery strategy. If you know that you have a pre-existing issue, perhaps an Achilles that’s flared up in the past or knee complaints, I would suggest that massage should be part of your training programme from the start. Of course if you do become injured massage can also help in your recovery programme.

When training for a marathon you should ideally be receiving massage on a weekly basis, however, due to financial and time constraints this is not always possible. With this in mind I would recommend massage every three to four weeks during training, perhaps upping this to once a week during your peak training period, when your sessions are long and your body is feeling the toll. The best time to have a treatment is within 36 hours of a long training session and at least two days prior to your next big training session (this enables the therapist to treat any specific muscular tightness and allowing a couple of day’s recovery).

For runners who can’t afford regular massages, consistent stretching and icing are essential. Foam rollers, strategically placed tennis and golf balls (good for getting into the upper parts of your hamstring) can also supplement regular massage. Although unfortunately they’re not a replacement for skilled hands that can work through muscle issues.
Photo from TheRockyMountainHalf.com

It may seem like obvious advice but you must always stretch after runs - don’t forget your glutes and IT bands as stretching these areas is vital in reducing injury and maintaining good balance. Icing will also help your recovery time, so you’re ready for your next session. I would also suggest supplementing your running training with regular sessions of Pilates or yoga. Apart from being important for your core strength, these disciplines get your muscles working in different ways, therefore decreasing the risk of running induced repetitive strain injuries

It’s important to note that the effects of massage are cumulative, the benefits increasing treatment after treatment. Receiving one massage prior to a race will not have the same benefits as regular treatments. It is not recommended that you have your first ever sports massage in the week prior to the event as you don’t know how your body will respond!

If you want to increase your chances of preventing injury and aiding your recovery time then massage should be an important part of your training programme. If this isn’t possible then make sure you’re stretching properly, using self-massage (foam rollers etc.) and icing regularly. However, if you do feel a niggle then go and see a qualified sports massage therapist as soon as possible. Hopefully it’s nothing, but a problem that’s not addressed soon enough could develop into an issue which hampers your entire training programme.

Thanks so much to Anna for sharing her wisdom.  I hope to post more suggestions from the other professionals I consulted with in the next few weeks.

Do you schedule in regular massages when training for a marathon?  How do you keep your legs fresh?



1 comment:

  1. I am also learning how it is a full time job training for events! If it's what you want to do though then you just have to do it! ;)

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