How To Run A Marathon Without Breaking Your Body

oday’s guest post is from Soma Room therapist Naomi Johns – a mum of three, avid runner, qualified personal trainer and massage tutor at St Mary’s University in Twickenham. She offers Sports, Deep Tissue and Pregnancy massage every Wednesday at The Soma Room.

I really love to run. For me it’s not just about the physical challenge but also about the amazing benefits it gives to the mind.  To date I have run four marathons (one of those up a mountain!) and many more half marathons – each one offering different challenges depending on their lead up and the circumstances on the day.

London Marathon is just a few weeks away. And for those taking on this fantastic challenge, training will be nearing its peak and bodies may be starting to hurt a little bit more each week.

It is by no means an easy thing to take on the 26.2 miles of a Marathon. This distance is an extreme test of endurance, not only for your body, but even more importantly in those final miles, for your mind.

Training takes place over many months. The long time frame allows your body the chance to adapt and make the changes it needs to be able to see you through the long miles ahead. However, as the mileage increases so comes a greater likelihood of injury. The body begins to tire and as a result, running form can suffer.

It is important to stay tuned to what your body is telling you. We all go through mild discomfort and fatigue as we train for a marathon, that’s perfectly normal. However, pain is not okay. This may sound simple but listen to your body.

So often people feel they can run through their pain with no ill effects. However, this is rarely, if ever the case.  If you feel the pain isn’t going away there is one thing you should do. Stop!

Try not to get so hung up on having to complete every single training run. Remember it’s okay to rest and let your body heal and recover. In the long run (no pun intended!) it’ll make you stronger on race day. The most important thing is to get through the training without getting injured, so you’ll make it to the start line.

Advice for running a marathon

Massage is not just for elite runners
 Schedule in regular massage as part of your training plan from the beginning (or as soon as you start to feel tired muscles). Remember to treat deep tissue massage like a hard training day. This is because small tears in your muscles can occur during treatment and they will need time to repair and recover afterwards. Regular massage can increase circulation and blood flow, reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, increase flexibility, help prevent injury and relax you before a race.Don’t neglect building your core strength
 Strong core muscles (very simply abdominal, back and muscles around the hip) will be of enormous benefit in your running. In the final few miles of the marathon a strong core is what will keep you strong when your body tires. Exercises can include squats, lunges, plank, mountain climbers and burpees. As a qualified personal trainer I am always happy to advise on specific exercises.

Rest and recover
 Do not run more than you have to! Many training plans include very long runs. Often people feel they need to run over 20 miles in marathon training and this is still common practice. But recovery takes longer and the risk of injury is greater. Remember, there is no physiological benefit to running over three hours. The adaptations in your body will still be the same, injury will be less likely and recovery will be much quicker.

Trust in your training 
You’ve put the miles in over many months. Trust that your body has made the adaptations it needs to get you around the 26.2 miles.

Eat clean 
This means cooking fresh healthy, non-processed food. Plenty of homemade made food with a good combination of ingredients. There’s no point just doing this for a couple of days before the race. Incorporate it into your life now!

Listen to your feet
 Are they heavy on the ground? Can you hear every step you are making thudding along? Light steps will ensure so much less impact. Think about lifting your sternum (breastbone) and imagining a helium balloon on the top of your head. This will automatically lift and open your shoulders and help make you lighter.

Remember to breathe
 This may sound simple but I cannot stress the importance of getting control of your breathing during the marathon. Steady breathing will allow you to conserve energy and get oxygen to travel to where it needs to go. When the going gets tough try counting your inhalation and exhalation breaths – inhale 1,2 exhale 1,2. It’s amazing the difference it will make to tired legs.

Control your mind
 Towards the end of the marathon every part of your mind will be telling you it hurts and you want to stop. Keep going! You have done the training and you are ready. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other because your body is totally capable of success and the finish line is in clear sight. Then celebrate your success because you have just run a marathon!

Post race massage Three days after the marathon be sure to book yourself in for some well deserved massage therapy. You’ve worked hard and massage will help aid your recovery and let you get out there running again!

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