Monday, September 10, 2012

It's All In The Preparation!

On November 4, some 40,000+ runners and I will eagerly await the sound of the gun (read electronic beep) and begin what is arguably one of the world's most famous races. But that, in my opinion, is going to be the easy part. As a physical therapist I have treated numerous runners, and 9 times out of 10 it is the training, not the race itself that lands people on the treatment table. That in mind, when I received confirmation that I had gained entry to the 2012 ING NYC Marathon, my very first marathon, I made a vow to make full use of my physical therapy background and avoid becoming the next victim of the monster that is the dreaded 16-week-training-plan. Since beginning my training in July, I have run over 200 injury-free miles, and learned a lot about running and myself.
Here are the Top 5 Things I've Learned While Training for the Marathon:
Follow the 10% Rule
The 10% Rule implies that you should never increase your duration, frequency, or intensity by more than 10% per week. I've managed to avoid injury while training for the marathon, but I wasn't so lucky while training for a half marathon earlier this year. I increased my long run from 8 miles to 13 miles in the course of a week and wound up missing the next 3 weeks of training with ice on my knee. LESSON LEARNED!
Adopt the 20-Minute Rule
For anyone who's trained for a race you know how difficult it can be to determine if you should push through that annoying feeling at the top of your right knee or turn around and head home. At times like these I've found it helpful to adopt the 20-minute rule. "If you're not sure whether your body is telling you to take a day off or plow ahead, see how you feel after 20 minutes." Go out the door always! If {after 20 minutes} the pain is worse or the same, take a day off; if it's better and you feel nothing, then do the workout. Twenty minutes is long enough to shake off inertia that plagues all of us from time to time, but not so long that it will worsen an impending injury." - Coach and 2:13 marathoner, Brad Hudson.
Build in Rest Days
Simply stated, don't wait for your body to break down to take a day off. Build rest days into your training schedule and avoid an injury that could instead have you resting for weeks.
If It's Not Broken, Don't Fix It
When it comes to gait and the 'correct' running form, everyone has an opinion. While form and technique can be adjusted, worked on, and improved, it's not something you want to suddenly change 8 weeks out from the marathon, nor is it something that needs to be obsessed over if you're running well and injury-free. I could ramble on for days and days about foot strike, gait, and biomechanics- and would be more than happy to do so should any of you reading this have any questions - but the point is, if you're feeling good, keep doing what you're doing; and when in doubt, take shorter steps.
Don't Get (Too) Competitive
While I'm all about healthy competition, a big ego can lead to a big injury. Some people, myself included, find it helpful to use other runners as motivational aides while on those solo runs. However, there is definitely something to be said about starting off slow, running negative splits, and then picking up the pace once you get your legs under you. Try this at your next race and you'll find yourself passing all those hares that went out way too fast. Remember, you don't have to prove anything to anyone.
Stay tuned for my take on the second half of my marathon training, and if all goes according to plan, the marathon itself.

C. Shante Cofield, DPT, CSCS
I'm raising funds for Liberty Science Center in exchange for guaranteed entry into the marathon this year. Please visit my donation page and contribute to this great cause!

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