Marathon Training Week 4: Getting Back Into Distance Shape
Header via John Howard/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Last week found our subject, yours truly, in a whole lot of pain and recovery. My first foray into serious distance running warranted some nasty injuries including knots in my muscles and a swollen ITB band, something I frankly didn’t know you could hurt until it happened. This week begs the question: how do I get into full marathon shape but still protect my healing body?
Phase #1: Staying in Shape Whilst Avoiding Running
Pounding your feet on the concrete, treadmill, or indoor track is murder on the joints, especially over long distances. The real problem in these situations isn’t so much your muscles as it is the constant impact, which is significant at any speed. Though the muscles won’t be exactly the same as running, you can substitute a running day here or there with cross-training via swimming or biking. Both activities keep your cardiovascular fitness up while you avoid the impact of running.
If there is no activity but running for you, don’t stress; you can still get your run on….in a pool that is. Pool running, though slightly ridiculous to observers, will work the same muscles.
Since you’re not moving as fast, the impact from stride to stride is reduced to minuscule levels.
Phase #2: Find Support
Last week, I mentioned that running shoes were a good idea like the good running newb I am. If your pain is more localized, you might want to find some extra supportive gear while consulting medical professionals. Since my legs were in pain and my knee had acted up, I’ve picked up a brace and two compression wraps for my legs. Put the macho crap aside and don’t think of it as something an old man would need. It’s hard, I know; however, both of these things help prevent pain and ease it in the midst of my runs.
Seeking medical help came second. Despite my constant foam rolling, rest, new shoes, and supportive gear, I found a troubling pain in my calf. When I went to the sports massage facility, they discovered something odd: a knot the size of New Jersey. It was utter agony getting it worked out, but I honestly could not have done that on my own. Thankfully, the calf is now pain free, and it’s due to manning up and admitting that a marathon requires support from all sides.
Phase #3: Help Out The ITB
The IT Band is a harsh and difficult mistress to please. For one, stretching the ITB probably isn’t a part of your normal warm up routine. Because the band connects around the hip, you need very specific exercises to stretch it out. Here are a couple that I recommend:
Stretch #1: Lay on your back and pull the leg in question towards your opposite shoulder and hold it for 10-20 seconds. You should feel a pull by your hips.
Stretch #2: Sit up with your legs stretched forward. Put the pained leg over your other leg so the bottom of your crossed foot touches the ground. Wrap your arms around your knee and pull it towards you. You should feel the pull in the same place.
Phase #4: Strengthen The Glutes
This is a portion of advice where I hear mixed messages. Some say if you injure the ITB, don’t work the glutes. Others declare that working your backside helps strengthen the surrounding tendons. I tend to aim for action over inaction, let’s hit those glutes. Distance runners can truly benefit from anything that works these muscles since they tend to get ignored or underused during long runs.
Here’s some exercises that helps the gluteus maximus.
-Leg lifts on your side
No need for implants, Nicki Minaj.
Next week I hope to kick up the distance and be back on the trail as planned. Let’s just hope my body agrees to join me on the journey.
This Week’s Highlighted Run: “Celebrate America” Underwear Run
The Aquaphor Triathlon is as much as joke as the movie In the Heat of the Night, so it’s understandable that people would need a bit of fun to ease your way into an intense race. That’s why this particular underwear run exists. You may have participated or observed undie runs at college, but this one is packed to the brim. Don your stars and stripes and little else, get in line, and run for the fun of it.
Support Scott in his run for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by donating to his page, and make sure you root for him as he takes on the challenge of the Cleveland Marathon!