How To Have An Injury-Free Marathon
You’re all prepped for the marathon, but it’s also crucial to know how to have a have a damage-free run. Channel one important lesson of yoga – while running, run sans ego. Pushing yourself hard to the point of no-pain-no-gain is great CrossFit advice, but with goal-oriented running, the last thing you want is for race day to get rained on, because of a shin splint or a strained illiotibial band. We got the experts to weigh in with some essentials tips:
- Listen to your body: New runners often make the mistake of running through pain, or injuries. “Report old injuries immediately,” says Divya Sharma, a sports physiotherapist and biomechanist. “If you’ve had an old shin splint from tight calves and haven’t allowed it time to repair, and plan to run the marathon, your brain may tell your body that it has to run, but the vicious cycle of pain will just continue. Your body compensates to overcome internal imbalances, calves will get tighter, muscles will get more painful.”
- Don’t be an overachiever: While this is a winning attitude in life, it can lead to serious regret on the track. Be realistic. “When you start, don’t have an unrealistic goal”, says Sharma, “14 to 16 weeks is good for people who do regular intense cardio” or people who are in a reasonably healthy state of physical being, and work-out and run at least a few times a week. “Novices should be at the grind for at least six months,” adds Sharma. Packing it all into the last few weeks can lead to a plethora of ugly issues.
- Shaking it up: Endurance events don’t just stress muscles out; they strain the cardiovascular system and the lungs as well. And when you run, the easy part is strengthening your glutes and hamstrings, but strengthening your lungs, heart and nervous system is as essential and perhaps harder.
“VO2max, is a parameter that tests your maximum oxygen uptake capacity, which is measured from the ability of your body to dissipate lactic acid accumulating in it. It is the key physiological determinant of an athlete’s running performance,” explains Sharma. In other words, it’s the measure of the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can use per minute. To improve your VO2max and the efficiency of your running, also work out anaerobically. Do short bursts of high intensity exercises that work out your systems. Do step ups, short duration training exercises like burpees (even once a week is fine, for anything under 60 seconds), and alternate with activities like mountain climbing, tabata and yoga for repair and relaxation.
- Rest and stretch: “This is the most important step when it comes to avoiding injuries,” says fitness expert and trainer Sumaya Dalmia. “Make sure you stretch pre and post your run. Focus on large muscle groups such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, chest and back before, and focus on stretching your hip flexors, calves, the piriformis muscle, gluteal muscles and the iliotibial band, after a run”. The ITB is a thick band of fibres that runs along the outer side of the thigh, which when tight, is the most common cause of knee pain in runners. “Use foam rollers to loosen tight muscle fibres,” says Dalmia, “rest a day between runs if you’ve just started and do two-three runs/walks a week at the most”.
- Eat right: Milk, maida, coffee processed foods and sugar are energy-depleting kryptonite. “While training intensely, breakfast must have a complex carb, like a whole grain porridge or brown rice, for slow-burning sugars during the training or before a run,” adds Sabherwal. “You get energy from complex carb sugars. Chew the grains well to break down sugars.”
- Choose your gear wisely: Breaking in your running gear early is the best gift you can give yourself. “Avoid unpleasant last-minute surprises like blisters and chafes from new shoes or running gear that doesn’t feel right,” advises Dalmia. “The right shoes and socks top the list – make sure you’ve run a reasonable distance in the gear you’ve chosen.”
Your list of other essentials should include comfortable, quick-drying running apparel like tights, shorts, appropriate undergarments, cap, and breathable and light T-shirts, music on your iPod, an arm or waistband, energy bars, a water bottle with a recovery drink like coconut water or lemon juice.
Post training, you must give your body a strong protein-based drink. Sabherwal recommends a plant-based protein shake with cooked quinoa in a smoothie of leafy greens to help keep the body refreshed and boost protein. “Avoid whey protein shakes,” she says, “because their milk solids are difficult to assimilate and digest, in the long run.”