Monday, October 12, 2015

Marathon Training Update from Dr. Brandon Larkin; May the Force (and good health) be with you!

Marathon season is upon us!  We’ve banked hundreds of miles over the past several weeks.  It’s a bittersweet time, as every week we lose a few more of our training team buddies to their respective races.  Well, we don’t really lose them, but they finish their training and step up to the start line in St. Charles or Chicago or Chattanooga.  

It’s somewhat of a sad bit of attrition.  We all still start our long runs together, but because the folks with earlier races are tapering their miles to ready their bodies to handle 26.2 miles, they fall off after ten or so.  They leave the rest of us, those suckers whom are either bad at math or at reading calendars.  Those of us who thought, “I know! I’ll do a race in November! The weather will be more predictable.”  Never mind that means five extra weeks of training to maintain our fitness after our peak mileage weeks.  I’m such a dummy.

So while they are busy finalizing travel arrangements and stuffing their suitcases full of GU, I’m left planning the next five weeks of runs.  Or rather, planning how to avoid getting hurt this close to the race.  

And this doesn’t just mean getting hurt while running.  Real life is a dangerous place.  You have never seen a grown man move as fast as you will when my five-year-old stomps within 18 inches of my left second toenail.  I’m like a toenail Jedi.  When it comes to my feet, I can sense a potential disturbance in the Force from as far away as….well….a galaxy far, far away.

So this far into training, injury prevention is paramount.  But here’s the deal.  I hurt.  I’m sore.  If I drop something on the ground the day after my speed work run, it’s pretty likely to stay down there unless it has a picture of Andrew Jackson or Ulysses S. Grant on it.

How do I know if what I’m feeling is just the “normal” soreness of training or something more concerning?  It’s not always easy, but there are a few tips to remember if that question is causing you some anxiety.

If you roll out of bed, pull on your shoes, and trudge out the door to face the early morning street lamps and startled raccoons, and you have some pain as you get those legs going, it’s probably fine.  BUT, that pain should improve as you get warmed up.  That’s what muscle soreness does—it decreases as you repeatedly lengthen the muscle unit.  If the pain doesn’t decrease, or gets worse, you may have an injury.

Realize that you don’t have to have one traumatic event to sustain an injury.  Distance runners are at high risk of overuse injuries like tendonitis, stress fractures, and bursitis.  They result from repetitive stress to tissues without adequate time to heal before the next episode of stress.

DING DING DING!! That’s marathon training.

If the pain increases to a point where you are changing your gait, or how you run, you need to get things checked out.  At a minimum, you are placing stress on other structures to compensate for the pain and are risking a second issue.  Worse, you may be overloading the injured tissue and making a mild injury more severe.  Think of it this way. You may be growing a one or two week injury into one that puts your race in jeopardy.  Even if it is five long weeks away.  In November.  Ugh.

Lastly, if you are having pain at rest, get to the doctor.  You aren’t moving.  It shouldn’t hurt.  Not being able to sleep or being awoken from pain is no good.  That deep achy pain in your shin you can feel throbbing while sitting on the couch may not be shin splints.  So get it looked at.  You’d hate to find out you have a stress fracture when your leg actually breaks during a run.  Makes it hard to finish the miles.  

So now that I’ve totally freaked you out and convinced you that your leg is going to fall off, make sure to take a breath and keep these tips in mind.  I know I will be while I’m finishing up those last few long runs.  By myself.  After everyone else has run their races.  After the World Series.  With no leaves in the trees. In the same month as Thanksgiving.  

Such a dummy.

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