Top tips for injury prevention during marathon training

Posted on by Ross Harris

Running a marathon is a challenging and rewarding goal, but it also comes with the risk of getting injured. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner, you need to take care of your body and follow some best practices to avoid common running injuries. In this post, I will share some top tips for marathon runners to prevent injuries and enjoy a safe and successful race.

Marathon - Physio Belfast

1. Choose an appropriate marathon training programme

Spend some time choosing a training programme that is appropriate for you. If you are a beginner, or new to marathons, don’t pick an advanced programme. Likewise, if you have a manual job your body may not be able to cope with the same training load as a student. Things to consider are your age, running experience, occupation, and family commitments (having a young child means less sleep and slower recovery!). Choosing a programme that is too advanced and doesn’t suit your individual needs will inevitably lead to overuse and injury.

2. Increase your mileage gradually

One of the most common causes of running injuries is increasing your mileage too quickly and too soon. Your body needs time to adapt to the stress of running longer and harder, and if you overload it, you can end up with overuse injuries such as shin splints, runner’s knee, or Achilles tendinopathy. A general rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week.

3. Incorporate strength training

Strength training is not only beneficial for improving your running performance, but also for preventing injuries. Strength training can improve your muscle and tissue tolerance, endurance, and efficiency, and reduce the energy required for each running stride.

4. Listen to your body

Your body is your best guide when it comes to avoiding injuries. You need to pay attention to how you feel during and after your runs, and adjust your training accordingly. If you feel any pain, discomfort, or niggles, do not ignore them or try to run through them. Instead, take a break, ice the affected area, and seek professional advice if needed. Running through pain can worsen your injury and delay your recovery. Similarly, if you feel fatigued, ill, or stressed, take it easy and rest. Overtraining can lead to burnout, lowered immunity, and loss of form.

Marathon - Physio Belfast

6. Drink plenty of water

Hydration is crucial for runners, as it affects your body temperature, blood volume, heart rate, and muscle function. Dehydration can impair your performance, increase your perceived exertion, and cause cramps, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. To prevent dehydration, you should drink plenty of water before, during, and after your runs, and replenish any electrolytes that you lose through sweat. The amount of water you need depends on your body weight, sweat rate, and environmental conditions, but a good guideline is to drink about 500ml of water 2 hours before you run, 150-200ml every 15-20 minutes you run, and 500 – 1000ml after your run.

7. Get enough sleep

The average person requires 7-9 hours of sleep a night, however, this varies due to genetic and lifestyle factors.  If you’re training for a marathon you may find that you’re tired more often and require more sleep. Since sleep improves all areas of brain and cellular health it follows that it will improve your athletic performance as well. Professional athletes are well known for their sleep schedules. Runner’s World even has an article entitled “Sleep Your Way to a PR.”

The third stage of a typical sleep cycle is when the body heals itself. Human growth hormone (HGH) is released at this time from the pituitary gland and it plays a key role in building and repairing muscle tissue and bones, as well as helping the body use fat as fuel. Without the right amount of HGH in the blood, recovery from workouts is hindered. When a person is chronically sleep deprived their level of HGH decreases and another hormone, cortisol (also called the stress hormone) increases. High levels of cortisol can be dangerous because it may prohibit the body from recovering fully and it can also interfere with the repair and growth of soft tissue.

Marathon - Physio Belfast

8. Diet

You should consume both carbohydrates and protein before and after your exercise, either from food or supplements. These nutrients provide energy and help repair and build muscle tissue.

Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health and density, which may help prevent stress fractures. They also support muscle and nerve function, and help regulate inflammation. During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make it. But since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement.

Running a marathon is an amazing achievement, but it also requires a lot of preparation and care. By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of getting injured and enjoy a safe and successful race. Remember to always listen to your body, train smart, and have fun!

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