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Training For a Half or Full Marathon? How To Run Faster & Get Injured Less!



With the Dublin Marathon coming up in October and other marathons around Europe also taking place in the coming months, many athletes are now in full training mode.


Whether you are entered into the half marathon or full marathon, your number one priority is to be standing on the start line come race day. One sure way to be sitting on your sofa on race day, is to pick up an unnecessary and avoidable injury along the way. The number of times people attend the clinic with a niggle due to a training error is extremely high.


This is where I can help.



Below are a list of key factors to consider when training for a distance event:

  • Marathon Training Plan

  • Strength Training & Plyometrics

  • Injury Prevention

  • Hydration & Nutrition

  • Recovery (including the no.1 recovery tool.....SLEEP)

  • Training Age (i.e you're new to running, you've had a break for 5 years or you've ran every day for the past 20 years)



This blog post is going to focus on three of these areas: strength training, plyometrics & injury prevention. They all go hand in hand really. Running is simple. It's a single-leg sport, as in, you're only ever on one leg at any one time. I like to describe it as hopping (or technically 'bounding') repeatedly, whilst moving in a horizontal direction. To repeatedly hit the ground over and over again, one needs to have various physical attributes. The ability for both soft (muscle) and hard (bone) tissues to absorb & produce force is one. Another, is one's ability to use the body's natural spring (i.e. utilising the 'stretch shortening cycle').


"The average runner strikes the ground 600 times per km" (van Gent et al, 2007)

The following information outlines the importance of including strength training, plyometric exercises and injury prevention drills alongside your weekly running schedule.



 


How To Run Faster & Get Injured Less



#1 Optimise Your Tendon Stiffness!

  • Whilst running, our legs behave like a spring. The stiffness of this spring is vital for running performance.

  • In physics, stiffness is defined as the extent to which an object or material resists deformation, in response to an applied force.

  • In relation to running, tendon stiffness describes the resistance of a tendon to a change in length (Kubo, Kawakami & Fukynaga, 1999).

  • Therefore, when your foot strikes the ground during running, a stiffer tendon will be able to initially stretch & then recoil quickly, meaning short ground contact times.

  • Optimal tendon stiffness therefore allows more adequate storage & release of elastic energy, where energy is released quickly and with more force (Think: pulling back and stretching an elastic band, and then quickly letting it go).

  • This also means less active work for your calf muscles and it is therefore more energy efficient (hint: this is important for runners).


So how do you optimise tendon stiffness?

  1. Heavy Resistance Training .....and no, strength training won't make you heavier & slower

  2. Eccentric Exercises



"Direct supervision of resistance training results in greater training adherence and increased strength gains, than does unsupervised training" (Coutts, Murphy & Dascombe, 2004)




#2 Plyometric Training!

  • Plyometric training involves explosive body weight resistance exercises

  • These exercises utilise the body's natural spring (as discussed earlier), which enables more energy efficient running.

  • Plyometric training elicits physiological adaptions (both structural & neural).

  • These drills should also be included in one's training, alongside heavy resistance training.

  • The training dose (i.e. the intensity, duration & frequency of individual sessions), the types of exercises chosen and the length of the programme, will vary according to the training age of the endurance athlete (Booth & Orr, 2016).


Practical applications:

  • Twice weekly sessions are recommended.

  • Include both double-leg & single-leg drills

  • Include tri-planar plyos (i.e. in all 3 planes of motion)

  • Varying the surface used may be appropriate also (e.g. grass v's sand v's gym floor)





#3 Injury Prevention

  • First of all, the biggest predictor of future injury is having a previous injury....FACT!

  • This is because your body will often compensate in some way, to avoid loading the previously injured tissue to the same extent as it did before.

  • Understandably, some other tissue has to take up this slack and it can often become sensitised and painful.

  • Finding out what is and what is not doing its job properly is a good place to start. We find this out during 'Performance Testing'. Individual testing is key here.

  • It is important to think about what the demands are on the body during running. Only then can we sufficiently condition specific muscles for those roles. One should also consider the common injuries observed in long-distance runners (e.g. calf tears, achilles tendinopathies, bone stress fractures).

  • Proper conditioning can improve the ability of these tissues to repeatedly absorb & produce forces.


So which muscles are we talking about here?

  • Foot & Shank (calf muscle) conditioning is vital in order to tolerate running loads.

  • The ability of leg muscles that cross two joints (i.e. bi-articular muscles) to co-activate during the stance phase, has also been shown to be linked to greater running economy (Heise, Shinohara & Binks, 2007).

  • The Intrinsic Foot Muscles (i.e. the muscles of the arch) have been shown to help stiffen the foot, aiding push off during running (Farris et al, 2018).




Some entry level exercises that we use, working on big toe strength & 1-leg balance with arch / foot control.



 


To assist you in getting to the start line, running faster times and achieving your goals, we have developed the Improve My Running block of x8 one-on-one sessions. The initial session involves Sports Performance Testing to obtain baseline scores. We then set you up with a home or gym-based strength & conditioning programme, which is regularly updated.




What To Expect

An Initial 'Performance Testing' Session

1-on-1 Supervised Gym Sessions

A Home-Based Exercise Programme (delivered via our App)

Early morning (from 7am onwards) and late evening sessions available

Running Video Analysis (outdoor)





What Our Clients Say

"I had a long-standing achilles tendon injury which was preventing me from run training for competing in triathlon. Declan started with an in-depth information gathering session, then did extensive performance testing and run-specific strengthening exercises. He also gave me a wealth of information during our sessions which was a big help, as I looked upon these sessions as educational for me as well as fixing the immediate problem. I was delighted with the service and the outcome, and I would highly recommend Buan Physio to my friends and family".

Donal





If you would like to know more about our 'Improve My Running' Block (x8 sessions) then click on the link below, pick up the phone or email me at at info@buanphysio.ie. The block is tailored to your individual needs, whether you are new to running or you're an experienced distance runner. The results of your 'Performance Testing' in session number one, will guide the contents of your eight sessions.


Book online now & get to the start line ready to race!



 

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