Training for a Long Road Race? Talk to a PT
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If running a marathon, or just a road race, is one of your goals this upcoming running season, then getting your mileage up is probably on your mind. If you’re very serious about competing, you need to work on your nutrition and cross-training plan.
A key resource to help you in your marathon preparation is a physical therapist (PT), says Kristopher J. Paultre, M.D., a family medicine and primary care sports medicine specialist with the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute.
“I would say that a physical therapist should be part of your marathon training plan,” he says. “A lot of people are novices when they first commit to a marathon or half marathon, and a PT can help you train safely and effectively and reduce your risk of running injury.”
Why physical therapy?
There are several reasons for meeting with a PT early in your marathon preparation. The first benefit of seeing a therapist is to prevent overuse injuries before they occur. According to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, many running injuries occur due to a rapid increase in mileage or time spent running during the buildup to a marathon.
A physical therapist can help you develop a plan for building up your mileage safely and gradually to reduce the risk of injury.
PTs can also help you prevent injuries by working on your running gait or form. In fact, many running-focused PTs will perform a running analysis using high-tech cameras to record you running and identify areas of weakness or inconsistency.
“In addition to recording your run, a good physical therapist will examine your feet to look for calluses and other areas of wear,” says Dr. Paultre. “Everybody is slightly different, and a physical therapist can address these inconsistencies and help you run more efficiently.”
When injuries occur
If you do experience an injury during your training, then your relationship with a PT becomes even more critical. Physical therapists can address common issues like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and more and help you recover before the race in many cases. They can also address problems before they worsen and possibly take you out of commission for months.
Chase your personal record
Working with a PT can also improve your running performance (and, ultimately, your marathon race time).
Some of the techniques that PTs use to help you prevent injury, such as working on your running form and creating a running plan, also help improve performance. But the other way that PTs can help make you a better, stronger runner is by emphasizing cross-training.
“A lot of individuals may not use certain muscles until they start running frequently, and that’s how they end up with pain and injuries,” says Dr. Paultre. “A good physical therapist will create a plan for you to strength train and cross train on days when you’re not running to build strength and avoid these injuries.”
If you’re interested in running a marathon, Dr. Paultre recommends consultation with a physical therapist. Ask your primary care provider for a referral or find a PT who specializes in running. You may only meet with the PT occasionally, but this trained medical professional can be key for getting you to the finish line with good results.
Wyatt Myers is a regular contributor for UHealth’s news service.