Avoid Overtraining and Injury Before A Marathon

Running is an easy and popular way to stay fit. But it also places stress on your body that can lead to injury, especially for athletes training for a marathon. The heavy miles and long runs can cause a lot of stress on your body, resulting in sore muscles, tiredness, and sometimes injury before race day.

The impact of running is hard on muscles and joints, and commonly results in injuries affecting the hips, knees, shins, ankles and feet. So as much as you may want to throw yourself into training for your next marathon challenge, it’s important to avoid overtraining to protect yourself from injury.

Train Progressively
Progressive overload trains your body to gradually adapt to the stress of running. It involves increasing your training load at a steady rate rather than taking a ‘full speed ahead’ approach. When you increase the intensity of your exercise gradually, it forces your body to make cardiovascular and muscular changes to support the increasing demands.

The main areas to progressively increase for better running performance are speed, distance and intensity. Each week, challenge yourself to no more than 10% more in these areas.

Even though you may start to feel a bit like Superman after the first few weeks of this training, it’s important to maintain your gradual schedule. This is because your ligaments, bones, and joints adapt more slowly than do your heart and lungs. So you’ll injure yourself if you push too hard too quickly. Patience is key!

Incorporate Easy Runs In Your Training
The body is a complex organism that manages thousands of organic processes every day. It is not a machine that can run the same program at full intensity 24/7. Therefore, it’s important to vary your intensity with easy runs to allow your body to cope and adapt to increased stresses.

Easy runs keep your cardiovascular system going and your muscles limber in between harder runs. If every run is a hard run, you greatly increase your risk of injury and burnout through overtraining.

Wait at least 2 days between your hard runs, and make your easy runs short or mid-distance, and that you run at 60-70% intensity.

Don’t Reach Burnout
Know the signs of burnout, and monitor your body. Listen to your body for signs that you’re overdoing it. Take a day off to rest if you notice any of the following:

  • An elevated resting pulse
  • Persistent achiness, stiffness or pain in your muscles or joints between runs
  • Intermittent or shooting pains (commonly in your shins or achilles), especially when at rest.
  • Increased general fatigue, lethargy or sluggishness
  • A drop in your athletic performance
  • Depression, moodiness or unusual lack of motivation
  • Loss of sleep or appetite

Burnout is serious and can have long term effects if not managed correctly. If you are not feeling better after a few days of rest, you may want to consider seeing your GP for advice.

Recovery Days
The key to successful training is giving your body time to recover. Rest is just as important as your active training, because your body needs time to rebuild muscle tissue that is stretched during each run.

If you don’t let your body rest, not only will your athletic performance be negatively affected, but you are also putting yourself in danger of injury. Interrupt your training progression periodically with brief periods of lighter training to give your body a chance to fully recover.

Managing Injury
The best way to manage an injury is to prevent it. Practice the following to reduce your chance of hurting your body.

  • Perform warm up and cool down routines
  • Wear footwear that is suited to your foot structure
  • Plan your training schedule to avoid overtraining
  • Increase your training no more than 10% each week
  • Don’t ignore the warning signs of injury: swelling, tenderness, or pain

If an injury does occur, it’s important to apply the principles of PRICE as soon as you can.

P = Protect it against further injury by applying a splint if necessary
R = Rest the injured area for at least 2 days
I = Ice the area to reduce swelling for 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
C = Compress the injured area with a bandage
E = Elevate the injury above your heart

If the injured area does not improve after 1-2 days, see your GP or Podiatrist for an assessment.

Where to get help
If you have a niggling injury to your feet or legs, a podiatrist can determine the underlying cause of your injury and recommend treatment to relieve your pain and to prevent further injury. Treatment may include stretching exercises, shockwave therapy to hasten recovery and/or orthotic therapy to correct a biomechanical imbalance.

Click here to book an appointment to see one of Melbourne Podiatrist’s experienced practitioners.