6 Myth Busters for Your Final 2 Weeks of Marathon Training

By Robert Forster PT, PHASE IV CEO

After months of training and sacrifice your practices in the last few weeks will either make or break your race day enjoyment. Don’t let these old wives tales of marathon training sabotage your experience on race day.  Read on for debunking common training myths for your final 2 weeks of training!

Marathon Myth 1. Playing Catch Up.   

The finals weeks of marathon preparation are too often sabotaged by anxiety that says, “You haven’t done enough.”   Maybe you missed a few long runs due to illness, injury, or travel obligations and now you feel compelled to play catch up and sneak in a few long, hard training efforts.

Instead: Taper your training workload. If you’ve been training successfully so far it’s better to be fully recovered than to sneak in more workouts that will only leave you fatigued for race day.

Your last long run, which should approach 18 miles or more, should be done, and your fitness gains from that run are being realized now. Your training for the next 2 weeks should allow your body to recover fully and reap the fitness gains from the last long-run.

If you feel like you need one last long fitness stimulus do it on the bike or in the water to gain the physiological benefit without beating your body up with so little time to recover.  This low impact “catch up” workout should not be less than 7 days form the race to be sure you are well rested for race day.

Now, just 2 weeks from race day, your weekly mileage should drop by 50% this week, and to 25% next week. Your last few weeks of training should include 3 short, easy recovery workouts per week and one workout with some “speed play” to peak your strength and power. These include increasing your pace for a mile at a time during your last few runs.

Marathon Myth 2. It’s too late to make ANY changes in your preparation.

It’s never too late to make the right changes! Many runners have taken the “don’t change anything in the last few weeks” mantra too far.

Instead: The mantra should be, “Don’t change anything that has worked well in your training, but work like heck to fix the things that aren’t working.”  Work on your running mechanics. It’s never too late to improve running mechanics and improve your economy of motion, or if you have been fighting an injury.  The single best strategy you can adopt in hopes of improving your performance or to run a pain free race is to optimize your running mechanics. It’s never too late to make the RIGHT change.

You CAN improve your running mechanics in last weeks of training by focusing on a few simple form cues in all your remaining workouts. The single most important gait adjustment you can make is to increase your cadence, or whats called turn over.

By increasing the number of steps you take per minute you will shorten your stride length and assure your feet land more directly below your body to prevent the terrible waste of energy from the “braking” effect of over striding.

Call us today at (310) 582-8212 to help you make this essential change and other simple adjustments that will save energy and result in a faster, more enjoyable experience on race day. Don’t live in SoCal? You can read all about optimizing your running mechanics in my best-selling book, Healthy Running Step by Step.

Marathon Myth 3. If the fire is hot enough you can eat whatever you want.

Don’t be fooled into thinking, “I earned these calories.” Because your mileage was quite high the last month, you undoubtedly ate more calories.  Eating lots of calories during the mileage taper of your last few weeks will cause you to gain weight.

Instead: Cut back on calories as your mileage comes down, especially your carb calories. Increase your intake of healthy fats and protein but cut out all processed carbs, “If its white it ain’t right.”  Pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, cake, sugar, all play havoc with your metabolism, instead eat more veggies, nuts and seeds.

Also: Develop your nutritional plan for race day NOW: As you complete your last few runs, play around with meals to figure out which foods you tolerate best.

This way, you can plan your ideal dinner for the night before the race and the pre-event meal. You don’t have to do a long run to tell how well last nights meal sat in your tummy.

Modify meals with different foods for dinner and see how you feel on your run the next day. The same is true for pre-event breakfast.

If solid foods don’t sit well with you, investigate the best shake or meal replacement drink you can tolerate without GI distress, like bloating, gas and cramps. It’s best to have your pre-race meal 90 minutes before the start of the event so you have adequate time for digestion. If you need help with your final nutrition plan please call 310-582-8212 today to schedule your complimentary PHASE IV nutrition consultation.

Marathon Myth 4. It’s too late to replace your shoes.

Again, it’s never too late to make the RIGHT change before your big race. Broken down shoes are difficult to assess as the new rubber compounds of the sole of the shoe hardly show wear patterns, but that doesn’t mean they are safe to run in.

INSTEAD If your favorite shoes are in rough shape, or if you can track your recent injuries to a new model you bought in the least few months, then you must replace your running shoes.

Examine the wear patterns on your old shoes and twist the shoe from toe to heel. Bend the shoe at the forefoot to compare the rigidity against a new pair of the same model shoe. You will be able to tell if your shoes have lost their support function.

Before using your new pair on race day, we recommend breaking them in by wearing them for a few hours each day for two or three days and during short runs.

Marathon Myth 5. Salt and other electrolytes are dangerous for runners.

Poorly informed coaches and nutritionists still believe salt is dangerous for runners because “it causes high blood pressure.”  High blood pressure is caused mostly by a stiffening of the blood vessel walls known as arterioles, which prevents them from relaxing, it’s mostly hereditary.

While folks with high blood pressure should consult their doctor to determine doses of electrolytes lost in sweat are excessive even in mild temperatures and it is this electrolyte depletion that sabotages most marathon efforts. Cramping, GI distress and a general slowing of your pace as your marathon day progresses are all signs of electrolyte depletion. THIS IS 100% AVOIDABLE!

Instead: Scientific research and the common practices for tens of thousands of endurance athletes around the world is that additional electrolytes, ABOVE AND BEYOND WHAT IS IN YOUR ENERGY DRINK are essential to prevent the all to common race saboteurs.

Salt and other electrolytes are essential to proper firing of the nerves that make your muscles move and the muscle contractions themselves as well as nearly all other physiological functioning.

Marathon Myth 6: “If I rest for the last few weeks before the marathon my injury will go away, and I will have a pain free race day.”

REST ALONE NEVER FIXES A RUNNING INJURY!

INSTEAD Think: “Injury Prevention Through Active Recovery.”  (Information below) You have to be proactive to correct your biomechanics: how your body moves, to change the damaging forces that overloaded your tissues and caused the injury in the first place.

Muscle stiffness and scar tissue can easily be addressed with a good foam roller and stretching routine, you can even make your muscles fire better in a couple of weeks with the right prescription home exercise. But time is a critical commodity you can’t afford to waste.

Avoid baseless marathon myths and you will have a great experience on race day!

Remember, please don’t run with pain. Call Forster Physical Therapy today for your free injury evaluation  (310) 656-8600.

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