One of my favourite quotes is “one run can change someone’s day, many runs can change someone’s life”. Signing up to take on a marathon can be daunting but the feeling you get when you cross that finish line is perhaps one of the best rewards one can experience. One of the biggest challenges faced when running a marathon is getting to the start-line injury free. My goal with this blog post is for you to take away some practical advice to help you reduce your risk of injury on your journey and minimise the impact they might have on your training. Let’s avoid some of the most common mistakes I see runners make so you can get on that start line ready to create some incredible memories.
Tip number 1: Start with a plan
The marathon is no easy feat, your body goes through a lot of stress on the day. In order for your body to handle this, you need to put it under some stress when you are training. Having a running plan that takes into consideration your level of experience, previous running injuries and time available to train around work and family commitments is very important. Downloading a generic marathon plan online won’t factor in these key points. There is no one size fits all. Whether you decide to work with a running coach or a running specific physio, be sure to find someone you trust that takes into consideration these key Factors. Another option I recommend is Runna, they create smart, tailored running plans and you can use my affiliate code in the image. I have tried a number of these plans myself and I work closely with them to help provide as much valuable information for their users.
Tip number 2: Build easy running volume first
We all start our Marathon prep from different fitness levels and experience, but one key tip for everyone is to build up your easy running volume first. What does this mean? Building your weekly mileage while keeping your runs at a lower intensity. Why? Well, if you go straight into building volume, frequency and intensity you are changing too many variables at once and asking for trouble. Once you have spent a number of weeks building that base it will allow you to add in intensity much more effectively.
Running easy is actually…not that easy! It requires discipline and trust in the process that this is going to help you reach your goal.
What does ‘easy’ mean? And why is it so important? Easy running pace can be determined by rate perceived exertion (RPE) or % of maximum heart rate (MHR). An easy run is generally 1-3 out of 10 on the RPE scale, 10 being max effort or below 80% of your Maximum training HR. Example: My maximum running HR is 192 so my easy runs would be below 153 beats per minute.
Of course, there are many factors that can influence HR which is why using RPE can also be useful. By being disciplined and keeping your easy runs where they should be, recovery rate is quicker and allows you to be prepared for your next run. It’s common to fall into the trap of running your easy runs too hard (I’ve been there many times!!). So, on every easy run, remember to enjoy it and know that this is going to set you up for success as your marathon training progresses!
Tip number 3: Strength train!!
Strength training is often overlooked by runners and I do understand why. If you have a busy work life, social life and family commitments then it may not leave you with much spare time. The time you do have will often be spent running! In my opinion, a good running plan should allow you the ability to strength train. Particularly early on in your marathon prep as you are gradually building your running volume, you should find it manageable to fit in your strength training. Another reason runners may not to take part in regular strength training is because they might not be aware of the benefits and may not know how it should be incorporated into their training. So let’s delve into this a little bit more…
Why should runners strength train?
The aim of strength training is to improve structural integrity and offset the likelihood of overuse injuries by exposing the tissues to more load. What runners often don’t realise is that it can significantly improve your running performance by improving your running economy and other anaerobic qualities.
How often should you strength train?
It is recommended 2-3 times per week. As your running volume increases this can be reduced to one session per week to maintain the benefits providing that you have undergone a number of weeks/months of consistent strength training. It is often recommended that you have de load weeks from running to allow the body adapt. Strength training is no different, after you have undergone a number of weeks it is important to have a lighter week and then return and continue challenging different components of strength such as, rate of force development, power and specific tissue capacity. I will be going into more specifics in another blog post soon on all things strength training for runners.
How much weight should you lift? How many reps and sets?
There is a common belief amongst runners, running coaches and other health professionals that runners should lift low weight with higher reps. This is not true. Heavy Resistance Training (HRT) provides more benefits to runners. Here is a post I created about this topic over on my Instagram page for more detail. There is no one size fits all, it will depend very much on the individuals injury history, experience, access to a gym etc. You can see an example as to how it might look here again on my Instagram page. With my expertise in this area, I can put together a bespoke plan for you.
Coming up in part two, I will be talking about recovery, training intensity, monitoring training loads and more!
Thank you for taking the time to read. Please feel free to share with your running friends! If you are struggling with an injury or need more direction with your running and/or strength training, you can get in touch with me here.