September 20, 2010

The Marathon: Taking care of your runner's body

The final chapter in my book Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon is about marathon training, originally a feature I wrote for the September/October 2008 issue of Canadian Running magazine.
One of the two coaches I interviewed about marathon training was Dave Scott-Thomas, head coach for the University of Guelph. He highly recommended that runners, from novices to elites, get regular massages. Here is how he explains a massage therapist what a distance runner looking for:

“I say, look I am a runner and I respond pretty well to what most people would consider a deep massage. When they start working on me, and ask me how is that, I often find myself saying, No you can work a little harder. You’re going in there not usually for a gentle relaxing massage.
"But during the heavy phase of training for our guys they are going in there to get scar tissue broken up and getting all the points shoved out of their legs. Be direct. 

"'This is what I need it for, to get ready for marathon. I don’t need a relaxation-type massage right now. This is supposed to help me feel better so that for my next run I am better able to perform',” according to Scott-Thomas.

When I began increasing my training volume as an Ironman triathlete in 2001, I had regular (once a month) deep tissue massages from a remedial massage therapist in Sydney. Those treatments were superb and very helpful.

I later found Active Release Techniques very beneficial when I had an ITB injury, a common problem among endurance athletes. After a great experience with two ART providers in Sydney, I found two other superb ones in the Vancouver area.

For the past two years
Dr Jenn Turner (a four-time Ironman finisher) has kept me healthy, through three marathons and a 50 miler. Needless to say, I highly recommend her.

The key is finding a therapist and treatment that works for your body and budget. I no longer have monthly treatments and, aside from a good training routine, use the following to ward off injury:

- regular hot baths with Epsom salts, followed by gentle stretching and/or the next point:

trigger point therapy: several products are available, I use the link's brand. A cheap DIY-kit is a tennis ball and a rolling pin. Simply roll the ball, or rolling pin, along tight muscles to help release tension.

- immediately after finishing a run of two hours, or longer, I grab a towel and lie on my back in a place that allows me to put my legs up against a wall and stay in that position for at least five minutes. It truly speeds up recovery (if you want to know why, check out Tim Noakes' Lore of Running).

Voltaren Gel is a great product to use on tight muscles (a superb suggestiong by my ART provider in Sydney about five years ago). After a long run or race (either immediately after the post-run shower or that night before going to sleep) I apply a healthy layer on my calves, which are for me the typical areas of tightness, and then wrap my calves in GladWrap as long as possible.

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