Even if this isn’t your first marathon, who couldn’t benefit from a tip or two? Training is already hard enough, so any helpful advice or adjustments will be greatly appreciated. Check out these quick tips to help you feel prepared and ready when race day arrives.
Find the Right Form
Running is a skill we learn as children. It’s carried us this far so why change it now? At least 60 percent of runners injure themselves severely enough to keep them sidelined on race day. The most common injuries are overuse, runner’s knee, shin splints, and stress fractures, and all have a culprit in common – poor running form. The first aspect of proper form is your foot strike. Your foot should hit the ground underneath your body. Think of it as a straight line from your hips to where your foot lands, reducing the impact on your legs and creating a more fluid stride.
Taking it back to childhood once more, you also learned from your parents to sit and stand up straight. As a runner, you strive daily for the perfect “forward lean,” but it should come from your ankles rather than hinging forward from your waist. You’ll be happy to hear that you get a small forward lean from your ankles naturally, so there is no need to consciously think about leaning forward. Instead, shift your focus to running tall by pretending you are being pulled upward from marionette strings.
Stretch It Out
Some days you are just itching to get your run started. Whether it is because you are really looking forward to it or you just want to get it done so you don’t miss your favorite show, don’t skip out on stretching. Every single run should involve a warm-up and cool down. Why are these steps so important? Warm-ups dilate your blood vessels, sending oxygen to your muscles to increase flexibility and efficiency. It also raises your heart rate, reducing stress on your heart. The cool down is just as important, as it helps your body to wind down slowly by gradually decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure.
The best warm-up should include 10 minutes of light exercise such as jogging slowly, marching, or brisk walking. Rather than stretch cold muscles, focus on dynamic stretching rather than static, targeting large muscle groups such as your hamstrings. After your run, cool down by walking or jogging slowly for about 10 minutes. Now that your muscles are warmed up, now is the best time to stretch. Stay still for each stretch, holding it for 15 to 30 seconds. While you may have been told to stretch sore muscles, never stretch to the point of pain or muscle tightness.
Set Your Mileage
The 10 percent rule is like the Golden Rule of running, and states that you should increase your weekly running mileage by no more than 10 percent. Why 10 percent? The majority of running injuries are the result of overuse, and the feeling of energy and enthusiasm as race day approaches leaves you feeling like you can handle anything. Your body won’t be as enthusiastic – it needs gradual adaptation to stress. Unfortunately, the 10 percent rule isn’t the best option for everyone looking to set his or her running mileage.
If you are a beginner, your main goal is to run consistently. Rather than ramping up your mileage each week, stay at a consistent running mileage each week to give your body time to adjust. If you run three days a week for 2 miles, 3 miles, and 3 miles, and you feel like you are ready for more mileage, add another day of running. While throwing in a 2 miler is a 25 percent increase, it is safe as long as you were totally comfortable with the volume beforehand. Stick to this new mileage for several weeks before adding more, and don’t be afraid to drop back down if necessary. Experienced runners will find that they have a mileage sweet spot. For example, you may find that you can run 25 miles with ease but any more and you are struggling. If you need to increase for a race, up the mileage by only 5 percent to prevent injury.
Running a marathon is an exhilarating experience, so make sure you are able to enjoy it thoroughly by preparing for race day. Take training one day at a time, and only do what feels comfortable to you. Take it slow and steady to avoid watching from the sidelines.
This post comes to us from Jason Lewis. Jason is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell to share his tips on senior fitness.