img_5032Marathon training and injury risk: Beginners mistakes

I am currently 12 weeks away from a marathon. Just writing that would have been inconceivable a year ago and, laugh out loud batshit crazy impossible 2 years ago when running 1.5 miles was the furthest I had ever managed.

So far I have utilised my time well over Christmas, managing to pull off a weekly long run of 11, 12 and 14 miles, as well as shorter more focused runs, runs where I feel a slow hippopotamus in a pair of thermal leggings and others where I’ve felt like I could be Mo Farrah (in my head at least).

But somewhere inbetween the Christmas festivities and New Year, I  developed a pain in what I believe to be the inner thigh abductor muscle on one side.

I have a high pain threshold and I am used to developing minor aches pains and twitches as mileage increases.But this has now reached the point where it cannot be ignored and the tried and failed philosophy of “running through the pain” is no longer cutting it.

This is now more of an “oh my god I am limping like a three legged dog” twinge, then my “legs just ache from the distance but I can carry on.” type of ache. My initial unqualified suspicions are that this is a problem in the inner thigh abductor muscle. It is purely on one side and only comes on when I stop running.   I have spent the last two nights using Himalayan salts as a muscle soak.

Last week I was feeling …HELL YES, I CAN take this challenge on. I can smash this (even if I end up a hot mess limping train wreck the next day). But now that feeling of invincibility has given way to a reality that I am going to have to get serious about injury prevention and slow things down a notch.

I am booked into a sports physio appointment later today and feeling very anxious whilst I write this, thinking about the prognosis. On the one hand, getting an analysis of my gait, shoes and physiology is potentially going to be a really positive experience that in insight is long overdue. On the other hand, I hoping that no serious problems that put me on the injury bench are going to be discovered.

Fingers crossed.

Here’s Five mistakes NOT to make (hindsight is a wonderful thing)

#1) Do not over train. Repeat this; do NOT over train. This is something that I have now learnt to my peril. Yeah, yeah. I know. You feel great and like you can smash this, having just raced yourself  and achieved a 5K personal best. But that approach could turn you into an accident waiting to happen. Don’t “dip in” and go faster or harder than a training plan recommends. The goal is to be able to sustain a 26.2 mile run. This means building up endurance miles over weeks and being able to see those weeks through.Not burning out 10 weeks in with injury.

#2) Do not “run through the pain”. There are theories about “running through” injuries and most runners have a high pain threshold and an ability to tolerate feeling uncomfortable when upping mileages. As the saying goes, no pain, no gain. Right? Wrong. Reading up on this, Kenyan elite runners take an approach of stopping if there is and stop if something is hurting more than it should be. That way, injuries can be caught before they progress through continued hard running on concrete.

#3) Step away from dangerous and pointless machines in the gym.  Ladies and gentleman, I bring to you the leg abductor machine – this I believe is the culprit for some of my misery when I decided a few quick goes on this after a 4 mile slow paced treadmill run might help “strengthen my muscles”.  When the reality that I now learn is that these machine are a common culprit of injuries. I’m sure many more experienced runners would read this, cringe and think what the hell was she doing?

 #4) Do not  “cram”. I know that I have precisely 57 minutes from the moment I drop my son at the crèche door and hit the gym. Like most Mum’s my time for exercise and training is very limited, so in a foolish cramming style approach, I used the bloody leg abductor machine.  A few other times, I must also confess to racing myself on the treadmill to fit in a  5K run in case I had to stop to perform an ad hoc toddler nappy change. The lesson? No matter how short on time or childcare, don’t adopt an ad hoc, unfocused and rushed approach to your training.

#5) Make an appointment with a physio early on for advice/identify any problems.  This is again, something that I should have done at the beginning of my training. But how many of us get put off by financial outlay that may seem at the time unnecessary if you have never suffered from an injury before?

As mother’s we get used to powering through the tiredness and going to work on very little sleep, ignoring minor discomforts that come from things like getting used as a human climbing frame by a toddler or  constantly lifting car seats that feel like they are made of lead.

My biggest lesson in this experience to date has been don’t fall into an “ignorance is bliss”, trap when it comes to injury and training for distance running. Just because you feel relatively fit and have previously conquered half marathons, 10ks and 5ks injury free, does not mean you are immune from getting injured.