Strengthening muscles is one of the most important factors for injury prevention. Strong muscles allow your body to be able to cope with the work load from marathon training. The key muscles to look after are: Achilles, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus minimus/medius/maximus. There are many ways this can be done but here are a few that work.
Achilles and calves: squat jumps landing and pushing off on your tip toes as well as calf raises are perfect for building strength in each muscle. To make the exercises harder, you can hold weights which increases the strength further for the muscles.
Follow this squat jumps diagram to strengthen the calves
calf raises will also help to build strength
Quadriceps: To strengthen the quads, you can either use resistant bands or use the gym machine. The exercise is called leg extension which is where you have both legs bent at 90 degrees, add the desired resistance or weight to the machine and extend your legs
Hamstrings: To strengthen the hamstrings, you do the opposite to the leg extension, where you extend your legs, apply the desired resistance/weight to the machine and flex your legs. This is called ‘hamstring curls’, a very useful way to build the hamstrings.
The glutes: There are three glueteal muscles which all need to be strengthened. A great way to strengthen the muscles is to use a machine at the gym, where you tie the ankle hold around your ankle, standing straight with the legs together as your starting position, you then push the leg with the ankle hold outwards whilst keeping the leg straight. You can alter the weight or slow the exercise down to make it harder and work the muscles more, or you can do floor exercises like the one below to stretch out the glutes
Shoes are also very important! It is widely regarded that there are 3 planes of movement that the foot can travel through, supination/neutral/over-pronation. Each style is suited to different shoe categories. Supination and neutral, you would suit a neutral shoe which has no built in arch support, it has a flat insole and you can choose any neutral shoe you want depending on the desired cushioning/responsiveness of the shoe. Over-pronation has 3 main categories, mild, moderate and high support. A supportive shoe will have a raised arch and the size will depend on the amount you over-pronate. To find out what kind of shoe you need, a gait analysis would be very beneficial to guide you towards the kind of shoe that would suit you.
Training is obviously an important part of the marathon, but why is it included in an injury prevention leaflet? Overtraining is one of the biggest factors as to why runners don’t achieve their goals. Overtraining can overload the joints which in turn can stress the joints, causing stress fractures, muscle tears, tendon issues etc. The main way to avoid this is to listen to your body, if your body is screaming for rest then take that day off, let your body recover. You can also use heart rate monitors to track your heart rate, making sure you are in the right heart rate zones and not pushing yourself too hard.
Compression is a great way to reduce injury risk. Compression allows the muscles to circulate the blood flow better which supplies the muscles with more oxygen, enhancing the removal of lactic acid which increases muscle recovery. Increased muscle recovery allows you to cope with the marathon training better and reduces the stress on the joints that makes the injury risk less. Compression clothing, from socks to t-shirts, is widely available.
The most important part is to enjoy the running and listen to your body, it shouldn’t feel like a chore to go out and run. You can do this on your own and enjoy your own company or run with friends to share the experience with, good luck guys!
Dean Newton, New Marske Harriers, Darlington store Assistant manager