Prepare for the London Marathon

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Guest blog from Ten Health & Fitness 

Marathon season is well upon us, and we’re now only two months away from the best marathon in the world, the London Marathon. I may be biased, but I’m unapologetically biased – a route that starts in Greenwich Park and leads you past famous landmarks like the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, and Big Ben, with a home straight that takes you down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace is hard to beat.

If you’re new to the marathon game, a marathon is a challenging 26.2-mile run, attempted by elite and recreational runners all across the world.  Whether this year marks your first marathon or your 10th, it’s important that you carefully consider your training, and how to best prepare yourself for the day of the run.

You can find marathon plans that will help you do that yourself but – especially for less experienced runners – we’d definitely recommend getting professional help to build and keep to your programme.

In essence, a marathon training plan should include a number of elements: running (obviously), strength, mobility, technique and last but definitely not least, injury prevention and management. Clearly that’s a lot of elements and effort to manage, especially when that usually involves different providers for each element.

At Ten Health &Fitness, we’re the exception to the rule.

At our Reformer Pilates Studio in Chiswick, we have all the disciplines in house that you need to create, monitor and maintain an effective marathon programme, all working together under one roof. From Physiotherapy and Sports Massage Therapists to ease niggles and help prevent injury to expert PT’s and Pilates instructors who can help you build the strength and mobility you’ll need to see you over the finish line.

Read on, or get in touch if you’d like help with your Marathon programme.

First, prehab

Injury is the enemy of every training plan. So, it’s important to take steps (pardon the pun) to prevent injuries, or at worst to reduce their impact. It’s an approach known as prehab – or prehabilitation.

During your marathon training, you’ll run several hundred miles, with each step putting a load through your knees, ankles and feet of around 7 times your bodyweight. So, unless you’re already a seasoned distance runner (an even if you are) it’s worth having some gait analysis done.

Most commonly this takes the form of a video recording of your running from behind and from the side, which is then then analysed by a Physiotherapist or running specialist to look for any faulty movement patterns or imbalances that could lead to injury, and to prescribe corrective exercises to rebalance them, helping you run further, more safely and with less effort.

Get in touch for more information or to book a gait analysis session with one of Ten’s Physios.

Next, running training

A marathon training plan can last upwards of 16 weeks, depending on your level of experience. If you’re new to running, you’ll need a little more time to get used to the challenges of distance running. If you’re more experienced, your body can adapt quicker. A structured training programme allows your tendons, ligaments, and joints to get used to the repetitive force of running. This allows your body to become more resilient, recover more readily, and greatly reduces the risk of injury.

An effective way to structure a marathon training programme is to focus on weekly mileage. You want to aim for consistency and limit large increases or drops in training distance from week to week. Alongside the longer target pace runs, you can improve your strength and stamina by doing interval runs and/or hill training. This means working harder for shorter periods of time, with rest in between. Doing this type of training will help you maintain your target pace for longer during the race.

Many well-structured training programmes will also include a tapering period, tapering is when you gradually reduce the overall training volume/intensity in preparation for race day. Tapering allows your body to recover and help settle any niggles you may have before the all-important race. During your taper, focus on lower intensity runs as well as movement and mobility.

Massage is an invaluable element of running training, easing tight, tired and sore muscles to help you recover faster from your training runs. And by helping rebalance the musculoskeletal system, it’s a great way to keep any little niggles in check and reduce the risk of them turning into something more serious.

Mobility work is something you can do at home if you have the knowledge and experience. If it’s something you’re relatively new to, or want to make sure you’re getting maximum benefit from the mobility element of our training, you may prefer to look something more structured.

Our TenStretch classes for example. Available at our Chiswick Studio, ­­these sessions are ideal for de-loading the body and helping keep the joints and muscles mobile. By using the Pilates reformer to isolate and lengthen the muscle you’re targeting – think quads, hamstrings, calves and lower back amongst others -­ you’ll get a deeper, more effective stretch than you could achieve unassisted.

Contact us to talk to one of our Massage therapists or book your Massage or a Stretch class.

Strength training

It may seem counterintuitive, but for any endurance event, training for strength is as important as training for stamina.

A marathon is a long distance to run, and training for such event puts strain on the body. Alongside running, the best way to increase your pace on race day is strength training. This type of training will help increase the strength of your muscles, help reduce the risk of injury by improving the resilience of the tendons, joints and ligaments, and will enable you to run faster and train for longer.

Strength training for distance runners will generally focus on:

  1. Hips and glutes. Good strength and control around these areas means you’ll have greater running economy, maintain an upright posture more easily, and can help correct issues with your running technique. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, glute bridges and lunges are good places to start. If you’re able to, try and include some form of single leg work, as this not only works to strengthen the hips and glutes, but challenges your control and balance as well. The hips also benefit from regular stretching and mobility exercises, which our personal trainers can also advise about.
  2. Trunk and core
    This area of training will improve the posture required for efficient running and help support the muscles in the lower limbs over the longer miles. Here you want to work in both lying and standing positions. Exercises like woodchop, plank, wheelbarrow and curl ups will help target the abdominals and core. In addition to the abdominals, strengthening the back muscles is vital. The back muscles help support the spine and allows the body to maintain a strong stable position when running.
  3. Ankles and lower leg
    Due to the impact between the foot and floor, a fair proportion of running injuries occur around the ankle and Achilles tendon. To reduce the risk of injury and improve the effectiveness of your training, it’s important to improve the resilience of the tissue in this area. Exercises like calf raises and single leg exercises are a good place to start. Also be sure not to neglect the ‘shin’ muscles, these muscles help support the ankle. They’re also responsible for flexing the foot towards the lower leg, which is a vital part of running mechanics. Try walking on your heels with your toes pointed up to the sky to help these muscles get stronger.

If you’d like help with a strength training programme, contact us to talk to one of our Trainers.

If you’re unsure on what areas you need to work on, a good way to start is to book in for a Full Body MOT with one of our expert physiotherapists who would help you define your goals, assess your key areas of mobility and strength, and then help form a plan on how to improve.

Pilates for runners

If you’re looking to complete your first marathon, or to shave time off your personal best, all of the above areas are really important to focus on. However, creating an effective programme that includes muscular strength, muscular endurance and mobility work alongside your regular training runs can be pretty challenging.

Fortunately, Reformer Pilates is a proven and effective way to work on all these areas, at the same. The varied tension and load of the reformer springs allow trainers to tailor movements and strengthening to you depending on your needs. And because Pilates is a low-impact exercise, you’re not putting any unnecessary stress through the joints and ligaments.

Our reformer Pilates classes are structured to ensure the legs, core and upper body are all challenged, with mobility exercises Included throughout. At our Chiswick Studio we offer a full schedule of Dynamic Reformer Pilates classes, with options for all levels of experience and fitness.

How we can help

As we’ve discussed, Marathon training is a multi-faceted and relatively lengthy process. On your journey to the start line, you’ll need to manage multiple factors, from changes in programme content, and varying levels of motivation, to managing fatigue and dealing with niggles.

Our Chiswick Studio team are here to help with all of them:

  • Picked up an injury during training? Speak to our physio team to get you back on track.
  • Unsure about how to progress your training? Book in for a Full Body MOT to talk through your goals and areas for improvement.
  • Need some guidance with your strength training? Book a 1-1 personal training session with our team to better understand your body.
  • Legs feeling heavy as your weekly mileage increases? Book a Sports Massage or drop in to a TenStretch
  • Want an effective workout that combines strength and mobility training? Have a look at our Dynamic Reformer Pilates class schedule

Ten Health & Fitness is s a member of The Chsiwick Calendar’s Club Card scheme. To see their current offers to Club Card members go here: Ten Health & Fitness Club Card offer.

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