Marathon training week 12: Looking after yourself

I've targeted the Kingston marathon in October to get a new PB (target sub-3.30, current best 3.38 at Edinburgh in 2014). Over each of the next 16 weeks, I'll be addressing a different aspect of marathon training. Follow me on my journey and tell me about yours!

Looks innocent. Really isn't. 

Looks innocent. Really isn't. 

As I sat down to write this post, I jabbed my calf with my finger. Prodded it, poked it, massaged it. With a marathon in less than six weeks and a lingering muscle injury, the PB is not looking very likely. But if I do everything within my power to help myself - and this includes prodding my leg - there's a chance I could still make it. This week's post is really just a reminder that no matter what your current state of health and fitness, you need to look after yourself.

 

Stretching

Hopefully this section will come as a surprise to no one. It may also make you groan; I've yet meet a runner who enjoys stretching. It can be uncomfortable, it's boring, it's taking time away from everything else you want to be doing i.e. more running or eating or sleeping. And yet without it you will almost certainly suffer, be it from soreness, stiffness or reduced mobility.

The simplest way to get your stretches done is after each run. You're in clothes that enable stretching so you may as well utilise this time. You're also probably ready for a sit down, and lots of stretches can be done on the floor, which is handy. Another option is yoga. Even if you don't fancy the idea of it, at the very least it forces you to do it once a week. When I go, I am invariably the least flexible in the room but you soon realise that as in running, there's no sense in comparing yourself with others.

If you'd rather do some in the comfort of your own home, here's a nice 20-minute yoga for runners workout I found:

 

Massage

When you run a lot, and especially in the midst of an intense training block such as that for a marathon, knots and tightness can build up. Calves, hamstrings and quads are common problem areas and while it's tempting to ignore niggles and run through the pain, it's a mistake. If I could afford it, I'd get a sports massage every week. But unless you're competing at the highest level or have bags of spare cash lying about, it's not realistic for the average runner. So it comes down to how much you want to budget for this. Is a remedial massage session when you're suffering more important than entering another race? Only you can decide but it's worth considering.

A cheaper albeit slightly less effective way to keep the muscles in shape is to use a foam roller. They come in all shapes and sizes but essentially take the hard work out of self-massage. Unless you're practiced in massage, your fingers and thumbs may well not be strong enough to get the depth of a professional, and more to the point, it's almost impossible to get the angles required to reach everywhere.

Here's James Dunne of KInetic Revolution on how to foam roll the calf muscles:


Beyond these two main areas, it's just a matter of common sense and making good decisions. You know that you need to eat and hydrate, rest and sleep well so do it, if you want to perform at the best of your ability. Don't ignore niggles and hope they'll go away on their own. You might have to back off your training for a bit but it's better than doing long-term damage. Looking after yourself might be a bit of a chore but it's nothing like as bad as being injured.

 

Read all my posts on marathon training