How to prepare yourself for a marathon
Top physiotherapist Lucy MacDonald explains how to perform at your best on race day.
Never ever do static stretches before running. Instead include dynamic stretches as part of your warm up. Static stretching slows down your muscle reaction times just when you want it to be optimally responsive so you perform poorly and are more susceptible to injury.
Use the right shoes
After about 400 miles running shoes won't give you the support and shock absorbency you need. Don't wait until the last minute to change your shoes because you need to time for them to mould to your foot shape. You should ideally not change your shoes later than 6 weeks before the big race.
The vast majority of patients that come to me with injuries have not allowed enough time for rest and recovery - this is just as important as the actual running itself. Prioritise sleep, particularly if you are ramping up your training or recovering from injury. Never do two 'long runs' on consecutive days and always have at least one complete rest day a week.
Ten minutes in an ice bath after your long run or an intense run can speed up recovery by reducing inflammation.
You are what you eat
Never underestimate how important nutrition is. Throughout your training but particularly when you are ramping up your distances or if recovering from injury you should make sure you are eating enough vitamins, minerals, protein and slow-release carbs. So lots of veg, brown carbs, beans, nuts, seeds and lean meat. Then make sure you are not putting in bad stuff - alcohol, processed foods, white carbs, sugars and saturated fats. With intense training your body is constantly healing so make sure it can focus on this and not on processing any rubbish you are putting into your body!
Practice makes perfect
Practice hydration and nutrition early in your training schedule. This should include what you are going to eat the night before. No point carb loading the night before on foods that block or inflame your digestive tract for the big race – you'll be uncomfortable for 26.2 miles and that's not fun.
Have a massage
Regular deep sports massages can help to relieve tight muscles and get rid of all the knots you've built up during long runs – this will help you run more fluidly and freely on the big day.
Don't push through the pain
Have pain and injuries assessed and treated immediately before they cause long-term damage. You wouldn't believe how many people I see who've spent most of their training programme trying to push through the pain before finally addressing a problem that's going to ruin their race but could have been eminently treatable had they done something about it earlier.
To book sessions with Lucy, go to lucymacdonald.co.uk. And don't forget to read Nick Hutchings's marathon blog.
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Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.