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Ready to Race: Tips for Marathons and Long Distance Running

March 23, 2017 12:00 PM with Dr. Hallie Labrador

Springtime not only means the return of more runner-friendly weather, but also signals the time during which many athletes start training for races. Whether you’re prepping for your first marathon or looking to improve the benefits of your workout schedule, Dr. Hallie Labrador, NorthShore Sports Medicine specialist, has tips that will help. She will provide expertise on athletic training at different stages, injury prevention and the healthy things you can do to keep your body in top race shape.

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Kathryn (Moderator) - 12:00 PM:
Our chat on marathons and long distance running is now open. You can submit questions at any time during this chat.

Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore) - 12:01 PM:
Hello everyone and welcome to our chat! I am ready to start answering your questions.

  Wendy (Chicago, IL) - 12:04 PM:
Is there a "best way" to hydrate before long distance running? Let's say 5+ miles.
Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore)

Great question!

How much you need to hydrate depends a lot on what time of day you're running and what the temperature is in the environment where you're running. If you are running first thing in the morning, you're probably going to be in a semi-dehydrated state; whereas if you're running later in the day and have been drinking fluids during the day, you may not need too much right before your run. Typically, 1-2 cups of water and/or sports drink before you run is a good amount to hydrate, but not slosh around too much on the run. If you're running later in the day, you can always monitor the color of your urine during the day to assess your hydration status - aim for a pale color.

  Mark (Evanston, IL) - 12:09 PM:
What factor (amongst many) do you think contributes the most to overuse injuries?
Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore)
A lot of overuse injuries follow the "rule of too's"; too much, too soon. Training is a fine balance between pushing your body so it can grow stronger, but not so much that you wind up injured. A lot of runners stick to a coaching or training plan no matter what and that's an easy way to get in trouble. Easing into training and listening to your body is the best way to go. Rest and recovery is also a very important part of training that runners sometimes forget. Your body needs time to recover in order to grow stronger.

  Randal (Round Lake Beach, IL) - 12:16 PM:
What are the best ways to train to avoid hitting the dreaded 20 mile wall?
Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore)
The dreaded 20 mile wall (and it can be a doozy) typically comes when the body is out of muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) and has to switch to burning more fat and muscle, which take longer to breakdown - this is what we think causes the slow down. There are 2 ways to train for this.

One is with nutrition - making sure you're consuming carbohydrates while you're running can help save some of that muscle glycogen for later in the run.

The other important factor is with training. Putting in the distance, miles and doing at least a couple of 20+ mile runs during training can help your body adapt to burn more fat than carbohydrates at typical endurance pace.

  Kandi (Chicago, IL) - 12:22 PM:
I am just starting to become active again, as I am quite overweight (technically obese) and very much interested in becoming an avid runner. Currently, I'm only a treadmill jogger, sometimes without any walking and sometimes with. Any tips for getting started with serious running such as 5K and 10K events, or how best to build my endurance?
Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore)
First off, congratulations on your efforts to be active! It can be a very tough, but very rewarding journey to your first 5 or 10K.

Step one is to come up with a plan. There are a lot of couch-to-5 or 10K plans online which can help guide you to safely increasing your activity. These plans usually start with run-walks and progress until you're running continuously. Listen to your body too. A guide should be just that, a guide - not set in stone, so feel free to adjust if you need to.

Step 2 is setting a goal. Pick a 5K race in the area for sometime in the late spring or summer, and follow the plan until you get there.

  Marie (Evanston, IL) - 12:28 PM:
Hello! I recently sprained my ankle. I have previously sprained that same ankle. I also have tight calves. What can I do to strengthen my ankle and relieve the tightness in my calves?

Thank you!

Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore)

Hi Marie,

Activities like yoga, which involve flexibility and balancing, can be good for working on strengthening the little muscles that stabilize the ankle and on calf stretching. Also, great cross-training for runners!

You could also see a sports medicine doctor for a specific home exercise program or prescription for PT if chronic ankle sprains are a problem - sometimes it requires a little more directed exercise depending on the situation.

  Desiree (Grayslake, IL) - 12:32 PM:
What advice do you have for running a marathon after age 50?
Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore)

The answer depends on what the past experience of the runner is.

For someone new to running who is over the age of 50 and wanting to do a marathon, I would advise taking it slow. Typically getting a clean bill of health from your primary care provider prior to starting an endurance training program is a good idea. Chronic diseases like heart disease are more common as we age, and although running can help keep the heart healthy, runners are not immune to it.

If you've been running for years and are aging, you may notice that, running after 50 can be associated with more aches and pains than running at a younger age. Making sure that you have adequate recovery time and cross train with non-impact exercises is important. Plenty of people can do endurance training after 50, but if there is a pain that is not going away, definitely get it checked out.

  Patrick (Chicago, IL) - 12:40 PM:
Treadmill vs. Outdoors: I like running on the treadmill, as there is a nearby Chicago Park District gym. Is running on the treadmill better, worse or the same as running outdoors? If worse, how much better/more effective is running outdoors? My outside running time is always slower than the treadmill; I can't keep the pace outside that I can when on the treadmill.
Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore)
Running on a treadmill and running outdoors are pretty similar when it comes to muscle use and calorie burn. It is not uncommon to have slower times outdoors because there is differences in terrain and wind resistance. Usually, putting the treadmill incline up a little to about 1% better mimics running outdoors.

  Ted (Gurnee, IL) - 12:48 PM:
What warm ups can a runner with plantar fasciitis do prior to running? My calves are usually tight, and I do the basic calve stretches.
Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore)
Calf tightness and plantar fasciitis usually go hand-in-hand. Making sure that your muscles are warm prior to stretching is a good idea, so doing a brisk walk before stretching can help.

In addition to basic calf wall stretches, doing some seated stretching can help. One I like is to sit with one knee bent and one straight. Use a towel or strap to pull your toes back towards you and hold for a count of 10. Repeat 3 times and then switch legs.

  Deb (Detroit, MI) - 12:53 PM:
What recommendations do you have for fueling during the marathon when you are a 4+ hour runner? Balancing getting enough nutrients while avoiding GI distress?
Dr. Labrador (NorthShore)
Marathon fueling is always individual and what works for one person's gut doesn't always work for someone else's.

Consuming simple carbohydrates (typically gels, jelly beans, oranges, banana pieces) every 45 minutes or so is a good idea. Simple carbohydrates are easily digested and so usually easier on the tummy.

Avoid eating anything with a lot of fiber or fat during the run - this usually causes GI distress. Use your training runs to practice and find out what works for you.

  Vasyl (Northbrook, IL) - 12:57 PM:
Good day! My question is, how should person start training before a run? Are there any movements/exercises that will help prevent sprain/tear of ligaments or cartilages?


Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore)
The most important thing is to have a good warm up. Start with brisk walking or a slow run, and progress into the workout so the muscles are warm and ready to go.

Kathryn (Moderator) - 1:01 PM:
This will be the end of our chat. Thank you for your questions. If you would like more information on long distance and marathon training, or to talk to a specialist like Dr. Labrador, please contact the Department of Sports Medicine.

Dr. Hallie Labrador (NorthShore) - 1:01 PM:
Thank you everyone for your questions! I wish everyone good luck and good health with your training.

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.