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Winter 2010

Marathon Training: Slow and Steady Is the Best Pace


VS Winter 2010 - Marathon TrainingWith the next Los Angeles Marathon coming up in March 2010, experts advise training slowly.

When it comes to training for a marathon, experts say beginners should take it slow.

“In the months leading up to a marathon, we often see people coming in with overuse injuries because they are ramping up their mileage too quickly,” says David R. McAllister, M.D., chief of the Sports Medicine Service in the UCLA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Overuse injuries can include patellofemoral pain (runner’s knee), medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), and bone-stress reactions or stress fractures.

“Most overuse injuries are not serious and will resolve on their own with adequate rest,” says John P. DiFiori, M.D., chief of the Division of Sports Medicine. “But if pain persists during daily activities or continues to recur for more than a few days of training, runners should definitely consult a physician.”

But most injuries can be avoided with an appropriate training regimen. “Running is a high-impact activity,” says UCLA family and sports medicine specialist Heather Gillespie, M.D. “If you do too much too soon, your joints and muscles will start to break down because of the impact and stress on your body.” Previous injuries with inadequate physical rehabilitation, muscle weakness or imbalance and, in women, low bone-mineral density may also increase risk for injuries, experts say.

Dr. Gillespie recommends that beginners start running a mile a few times per week, and refrain from increasing activity more than 10 percent per week. She says that runners can cross-train with activities such as cycling, swimming and other low-impact activities at the gym to build up cardiovascular fitness without increasing stress to the joints. Runners should get adequate nutrition and hydration — approximately six to 12 ounces of water every 20 minutes — before and during each run. Finally, aspiring runners with a history of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis or asthma, or who experience shortness of breath or chest pain with exercise, should check with a doctor before pursuing any type of physical activity or task.

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