Derek Griffin is a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist with expertise in chronic pain disorders. He is also an avid marathon runner.
Derek, from Tralee in Co. Kerry, Ireland, began his Six Star journey in 2015 when he ran the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon and completed his set to become a Six Star Finisher at the 2019 Tokyo Marathon.
Combining his passion for running and his specialist expertise, he has four top tips for anyone looking to run long and strong as you train for your next AbbottWMM race.
1. Build slowly & gradually
Running remains one of the most popular forms of physical activity globally and its health-enhancing effects have been well documented. Pain and injury are common among marathon runners, especially for novice runners. To mitigate this risk, it is important that the training volume and intensity is progressed in a gradual manner.
This is especially true for individuals with a low baseline fitness level or who are unaccustomed to running. It is important to remember that pain and injury can be latent. That is, you might not experience symptoms for up to four to six weeks following an increase in training loads.
Building up slowly to being able to run moderate to high training volumes consistently in the long term might reduce the risk of sustaining an injury. The route taken is more important that the destination!
2. Make room for easy runs
For the more competitive runner, an appropriate distribution of easy and hard runs is also something to consider. Speed sessions (intervals, fartlek, tempo runs etc.) need to be balanced with easy runs. For many elite distance runners, as much as 80 per cent of their training runs are “easy” with the remaining 20 per cent completed at high intensity.
The easy runs allow sufficient recovery to both tolerate and execute the more demanding sessions. The most common mistake is running too quickly on the easy days leading to diminished performance and a higher risk of injury.
3. Prioritise sleep & recovery
The demanding nature of training for a marathon imposes a stress on the body. Sufficient recovery is essential to maximise the benefits of training, to improve performance, to reduce the risk of injury and to prevent overtraining. Additional stressors such as everyday life stress, a demanding work schedule, anxiety and poor sleep habits further add to the physiological stress of marathon training.
It is therefore important to recognise such factors as the emerging evidence suggests that such stressors can interfere with the adaptations to training and increase the risk for injury. Sleep is a fundamental process required to optimise recovery. Adequate sleep is linked to a reduce risk of injury, improved performance and improved mental health. Nutrition, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and stress management techniques can further aid recovery.
4. Get strong!
A common belief among the distance running community is that strength training will slow you down due to an increase in muscle bulk. However, the scientific evidence has shown that strength training can lead to improved running economy and performance. When strength training is added to a well-designed running training programme, any increase in muscle bulk can be avoided.
It is important that the training is gradual and progressive and should be tailored to the individual depending on their performance goals, injury history and general health. Strength training is an important part of injury rehabilitation and prevention programs. It helps to build capacity to tolerate the demands of running.
In summary, progress your training gradually, ensure your easy runs are easy enough, work on optimising your sleep routine and consider adding strength training to your routine.