A Physiotherapist's Guide to Training for Running - Part 1

Steve Canning
on
August 24, 2020

Getting started

Introduction

I am a Senior Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, and I have been a serious runner for many years, dating back to my first London marathon as a 3rd year Physiotherapy student in 2002. I do have to admit to the odd injury and niggle, but from my run experience and professional training I have the knowledge and skills to help my fellow athletes to keep injury at bay and continue to enjoy the many benefits of running.

Here, I will guide you through my advice to train for a long-distance event (half-marathon, marathon or ultra) whilst reducing your chances of injury and achieving your goals.

What you need to start with

Motivation

The first thing you really need to get started is motivation. If the motivation and drive to achieve a goal is there, the rest will fit into place. My feeling has always been that anyone (within reason) can run a marathon, and many people who cross the finish line would never have believed that they could have done it even a few months prior to this. There are many reasons why the motivation might be there; from having a personal bucket list, doing it for charity or aiming for a PB.

Good base fitness

If you are looking to run long, then the body needs time to adapt to this. A typical marathon programme might be 12-weeks, but you need to start before this if you want to do well and reduce the risk of overuse injury. The base can come from a mixture of running, cycling and walking, as this allows the body to gradually adapt. If you already have a good running background behind you and are looking to do longer distances then work to the principal of the 10% rule – you should look to increase your training volume by no more than 10% from the previous week.  

A Training Plan

You are much more likely to succeed if you have a clear run training plan from the outset. There are plenty of free resources online (https://www.asics.com/gb/en-gb/running-advice/marathon-training-plan/) which can be used directly or adapted to your weekly schedule. A plan has to fit around your other commitments, including work and family. I recommend taking the basis of a prescribed one, and then adapting it to fit in with what you think you can achieve each week.

Strength & Conditioning

A key component to a successful training programme for running is the inclusion of regular strength and conditioning exercises. This is important to maintain good posture and form; reduce tightness and limit your risk of injury. Strength exercises are important to prepare your body for the demands of longer runs.

There is good evidence that strength training is effective at increasing short and long duration endurance capacity in untrained, well trained and highly trained top-level endurance athletes (Aagaard 2012).  A recent review found that strength training improved running economy by 2-8% and time trial performance by 2-5%.

A good variety of exercises is important, which cover balance (proprioception), strength and flexibility. It is recommended to speak to a Physiotherapist about which exercises might be the best for you to perform. A Physiotherapist who understands the nature and demands of your running goals is highly recommended. The White House run a weekly strength and conditioning class specifically for runners, led by a Senior Physiotherapist with run specialism training. Look out for further articles offering ideas on some great run specific exercises to try.

Massage

As you increase run training it is common to get an increase in muscle tightness, as the muscles have less time to recover between training sessions. The White House Physiotherapy clinic has highly skilled massage therapists at the clinic, to help you release any tension that builds up. A regular sports massage can go a long way in keeping you on the right track. Self-massage using massage balls and foam rollers brings excellent regular release as well. I highly recommend the vibrating ball from Pulse roll (https://pulseroll.com/product/singleball/) for those who are familiar with self-release and feel benefit from strong massage.

Summary

These tips provide a great starting point as you enter the realms of long-distance training. By making a weekly training plan with time scheduled for running, cross training (other sports & walking), strength & conditioning training and time for massage you will find that you have ticked off most of the points in one clean sweep, and this will go a long way to help with your motivation towards your running goals.

If you have any queries after reading this, then why not book a Remote Physiotherapy Consultation with me by clicking here. I also offer Run screening assessments which are an excellent way to review your body and reduce your risk of injury.

Look out for further articles of mine on running. These will include why now is the perfect time to start marathon training, Strength & Conditioning exercise ideas and what to do if injury occurs.

Our team are ready and waiting to assist with your recovery.

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