The UK hosts more than 200 marathons, and every year thousands of runners of various abilities don their running shoes and hit the road; one such running enthusiast is our very own Lead Physiotherapist, Jean-Vincent (JV).
JV is not only a Physiotherapist but also our Clinical Lead at Nordic Balance and a Leader in Running Fitness with England Athletics. In the first instalment of our running series, JV has shared his 5 top tips for marathon training after completing his first marathon earlier this year.
According to a recent government survey, approximately 7 million people in England went for a run at least twice every month last year. That’s more than 1 in 10 people!
Many members of team Nordic Balance are keen runners – there’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition between colleagues! In recent years, running has firmly established itself as one of the country’s most popular sports. From the perspective of physiotherapy, it’s easy to see why this is the case.
Regular runs are a fantastic way to improve your whole-body health. This includes weight loss, improving your mental health, and bolstering your physical fitness.
At the same time, runners highly value the social side of the sport – not to mention the fun sense of competition and rewarding personal targets you can set. So, to ensure you maximise your training results, have a read of JV’s expert tips for marathon training.
Spring’s warmer days provide the perfect opportunity to spend more time outside and start running. This, alongside the fact that marathon season is here, means that many runners increase their training volume at this time of the year. However, running is a sport with repetitive impacts, and it’s easy to get injured when you try to do too much, too soon.
As a result, it’s vital that you create a detailed plan BEFORE you hit the tarmac. Marathon training plans are essential for protecting your body, monitoring your progress, and ensuring you successfully reach your targets.
With that in mind, here are JV’s 5 top tips for marathon training to ensure continued progression while minimising the risk of injuries:
1. Run often
The body needs repetitions to solidify and learn this complex gesture that is running. It will also help to develop your “running economy”.
Running economy is a term used amongst specialists to measure your overall performance during a run. It achieves this by measuring how efficiently your body converts oxygen into movement.
A running economy calculation measures the amount of oxygen needed to keep running at a particular speed. The calculation tells you how successfully your body is breaking down the fat and carbohydrates that you have taken in to increase your energy levels and run faster.
It covers a wide range of biomechanical factors and physiological processes and measures how optimally they perform. These factors that affect your running economy include the flexibility of your joints, your muscle composition, and your metabolic rate.
By running often, you can make your body better equipped for running and improve your running economy. By doing so, you will see that your body can achieve better results when you run.
Keep in mind that the body is extremely adaptable. When applying stress, we see our body’s remarkable ability to adapt to change and develop in the areas required to overcome it.
If you’re keen to learn more about how this works, here’s a great video from The Running Clinic, which outlines the relation between Load and Capacity in more detail: Mechanical Stress Quantification in running.
2. Start small and work your way up
Increase the load progressively (usually around 10% per week). The term ‘increasing the load’ essentially means incrementally increasing the volume or the intensity of your training session.
For running, you could do this by increasing the distance covered, the speed you reach, or the gradient of your terrain. However, this approach is key to keeping these increases small and incremental. Listen to your body. If the pain appears, slow down, shorten the distance or take a few days of rest. You won’t lose your fitness by taking up to 10 days off.
3. It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Don’t feel like the only way to achieve results is to keep pushing and pushing yourself. In reality, trying to keep your workouts as high intensity as possible won’t necessarily give you the results that you’re looking for.
Training is not racing; developing your endurance happens with a lot of low-intensity running (80/20: 80% volume at low intensity, 20% at a higher intensity).
A marathon is usually run at an intensity between 75 and 85% (with 85% being the rate that elite runners reach) of your maximal heart rate. When you are at 75%, this pace almost feels like you could hold a conversation or run like this forever.
4. Don’t underestimate the importance of footwear
You wouldn’t expect a cyclist to train with a cheap bike. And having the correct, supportive kit is just as crucial for runners. However, if you’re not looking for performance, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to invest in the most expensive carbon-plate shoes.
Choosing dependable and specialist trainers is one of the best ways to support your training.
When buying a new pair for your next marathon, try sticking to the same features as your old one (particularly considering comfort and drop).
But, if you recently had an injury or are just starting to run, you might need more tailored advice about the best type of shoes for you. And, if you’re struggling to narrow your options, follow JV’s advice: “Choosing the right shoe might be challenging, but remember, it has to be light and feel comfortable right away.”
5. Practice healthy lifestyle habits
Your training doesn’t start and end with your morning run. On the contrary, one of the best ways to maximise your training results is to observe a healthy, balanced lifestyle. This includes sleep, diet, hydration and mobility training.
In addition to keeping your energy levels high and your body in peak condition, this will help you recover properly between your runs.
After graduating in France in 2009, JV started a dynamic career specialising in Sports Physiotherapy. In fact, he has worked in a ski resort in the French Alps, offered physiotherapy in significant events (Ironman, Ultra-marathons, Swimming championship, Rugby world cup and TOP14), and was the Lead Physiotherapist for the Georgian national rugby team from 2012 to 2015.
When he moved to London, he developed his expertise in managing and preventing running and cycling injuries.
For guidance on overcoming common running injuries or enhancing performance, check out our 360 Degree Running Analysis at Nordic Balance St James’s.
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