How to Prevent a Marathon Injury
A 26.2 mile run can place incredible stress on the body, regardless of a runner’s long term training plan or level of preparation. Marathons are not designed to be easy. A grueling endurance challenge on the scale of a full length marathon can bring a lifelong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that’s difficult to describe, but this powerful sense of personal reward does not come at an easy cost. In addition to the momentary struggle to stay in motion and complete the race, marathons also come with a high risk of injury. And a marathon injury sets an athlete back on two levels: injuries can cut a race short, which is disappointing, to say the least. And at worst, a marathon injury can also lead to serious suffering and medical complications that may harm a runner’s health for life.
Here are a few categories of marathon injury and some prevention tips for each one. In general, no inexperienced person with compromised health of any kind should run a marathon without consulting a healthcare provider first.
Marathon Injury Prevention: Bones and Joints
A marathon involves an intense level of repetitive stress, since the entire process takes several hours and repeats the same motions over and over again. When bones and joints are subject to repeated, identical forms of impact, the risk of stress fractures can occur, even in conditioned athletes with no history of breaks or bone strength problems. The best way to avoid problems with a stress fracture marathon injury is to recognize and address issues before the race date. Runners should not ignore minor, possibly bone-related pain that may flare up during their long training runs.
Joints are also subject to repetitive impact and inflammation, which can become serious during a long marathon. Joint pain is often subjective, and over the course of a long run, endorphins and mental stress can alter both judgment and perceptions of pain. As with potential bone fractures, joint discomfort in the neck, back, knees and feet should be attacked and addressed—not ignored-- before the day of the race. If the runner plans to wear supportive gear on the day of the race, the gear, bandage or brace should already have been worn and tested during at least one long training run.
Marathon Injury Prevention: Muscles
Before a race or training run, marathon runners should warm up with a light jog followed by a series of dynamic stretches. This means stretching a muscle while the muscle is in motion. Stretching cold muscles doesn’t necessarily increase the risk of marathon injury, but recent studies appear to show that warmed muscles stretch more efficiently and often result in better athletic performance and reduced cramping.
To prevent marathon injury, improve times, and reduce the possibility of muscle pain, runners should avoid static lunges and toe touches in favor of walking lunges and high straight-leg kicks. Dynamic quad stretches can also prevent marathon injury. So can spiderman crawls, in which the runner moves along the ground on all fours with the torso as close to the ground as possible.
Marathon Injury Prevention: Heart and Lungs
Other than advanced preparation and long term cardio and strength training, there are few things a runner can do to prevent marathon injury related to the heart and lungs. Training is the key to a strong, efficient heart rate and excellent circulation. Weeks and months of cardio development will strengthen the heart muscle and the diaphragm and improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
But marathon injury issues related to the heart and lungs are still common, even among experienced and well-conditioned runners. Marathon runners, especially those over the age of 60 or those with a history of heart and lung concerns, should use judgment if they feel any unusual sensations in the chest, including fluttering feelings or pressure. Unexplained sweating, numbness, tingling or nausea should signal an end to the race, especially if accompanied by abdominal pain or odd feelings in the arms and shoulders.
At the end of a long marathon, runners should focus on controlling body temperature and cooling down correctly to avoid serious problems with cramping and nausea. Race organizers will typically provide reflective blankets and walking space to allow runners to cool down properly. Runners should avoid marathon injury by taking advantage of these offerings.
Marathon Injury Prevention: Nutrition
A nutrition-related marathon injury may be the easiest kind of injury to prevent and control. Long before the day of the race arrives, most marathon runners will have spent several weeks, or even years, paying close attention to the nutritional aspects of their overall training program. By the time a conditioned athlete faces the starting line of a 26.2 mile race, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that green vegetables, lean proteins and whole grain carbs are a better choice than corn syrup and trans fats. At the same time, even for highly experienced distance runners, the days and hours leading up to a race are often subject to nutritional mistakes that can mean the difference between finishing a race and stopping early due to low blood sugar, headaches, body aches or other forms of nutrition-related marathon injury.
Carb loading before the day of the race can maximize the glycogen stored in the muscles and liver, which can fuel runners for at least the first two hours of the race. Digestible carbs in the form of sports drinks and gels can replenish carb supplies after this point. And most runners recognize the value of nutritional supplements and energy drinks that can help them stay alert and mentally focused for the duration of the race. Kbands Training offers a Booster Kit of energy supplements that serves this purpose, including two products for mental and physical energy support offered by Life Priority.
Marathon Injury Prevention
Before the day of the race, the best marathon injury prevention will come from sustained healthy nutrition and a long term training plan focused on a balance between strength development and cardio fitness. For more information about marathon injury avoidance, strength training equipment, and nutrition supplements for endurance athletes, visit the Kbands website at Kbands Training.com.
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