If you are like me, you are inspired every year on Patriot’s Day by the motivated and fit men and women from around the world who’ve assembled in our fair city to run the marathon. On a daily basis and over the course of the last month especially, I see patients in the clinic who are training for anything from a 5K to a marathon. I’m always asking them to share with me their training schedules and other types of exercise, which usually opens up the gamut of their questions about the best way to train.
I think a training protocol is a great way to stay motivated and helps to give structure to your schedule so you aren’t running 3 days in a row and then taking 5 days off. One of my favorite websites to get a protocol from is halhigdon.com. This guy has a protocol for beginner to advanced runners on everything from 5K to marathons. Of course no protocol is set in stone, my only issue with his layout is the lack of days set aside for lifting weight, which many of patients have substituted in for rather than do cross training days. I have also had a lot of patients take out one of the shorter runs to have 3 running days and 2 lift days with 2 rest days and have great success.
That brings me to my second bit of information; you will be faster if you do some simple strength training and not just run! I swear! Working on quad and hamstring strength with squats, lunges, leg press, hamstring curls will make you a faster runner no matter what distance you are looking to run.
Stretching, stretching, stretching! After you run you must stretch! Stretch your hamstrings, quads, hip flexors and piriformis. Also, don’t forget about rolling out your IT band. So many runners tell me they are always tight and don’t really stretch because they feel they will always be relatively inflexible. I disagree with this totally. I have never been able to touch my toes in my life, but I always stretch after running, hiking, biking or any cardio to maintain and improve what flexibility I have as well as ward off any injuries. Trust me, your body will thank you for stretching with improved flexibility, circulation and joint range of motion.
I’m not being overly cautious with this point; you really should have a physical with your doctor before training for a race. Even if you have run recreationally or competitively for years it is beneficial, nay necessary to make sure your heart is in great shape. It doesn’t happen that often, but you will hear about a runner collapsing or going into cardiac arrest a couple miles or even at the end of a race due to an underlying heart condition. Let’s make sure that won’t be you!
So good luck in all your running endeavors, I tip my hat to you and maybe I’ll see you running by me on the street someday!
Dr. Clark is a physical therapist at Boston Sports Medicine