Training Advice for Runners

Each year, tens of thousands of America’s 30 million adult runners decide to train for a marathon, a distance that taxes the abilities of even the most seasoned athletes. Despite a wealth of available fitness information, recreational and competitive sports participants are sustaining injuries at a higher rate than ever before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) doctors, also called physiatrists, are experts in therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation, helping athletes of all ages and ability levels train safely and effectively. They warn that too many people underestimate the physical demands of running 26.2 miles and fail one of the most basic of all training principles: the need to listen to your body. For recreational and elite athletes alike, PM&R physicians help patients learn how to monitor their own progress and pain to avoid serious injury and maximize ability.

The American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) has these tips to help you train safely and effectively for your next race:

Hydration — More water isn’t always better: Many people assume that proper hydration means drinking as much water as possible. Not true, say PM&R physicians. Too much water can trigger a condition called hyponatremia, which means over-hydration. Although it’s relatively uncommon, it is difficult to diagnose and can cause reactions ranging from nausea and respiratory failure to seizure, coma and even death. To ensure proper hydration, PM&R physicians recommend that you monitor how much fluid weight you lose during training and then consume 16 ounces of fluids for every pound of weight you lose. Or simply follow a more basic guideline: drink when you’re thirsty, not before.

Training Intensity — Over-training causes injury and poor performance: If it’s performance gain you’re after, training longer and harder isn’t necessarily the best method. Recent studies have shown that over-training often results in injury. Sports medicine experts now stress the importance of building rest or light days into your training schedule to improve your performance

Overtraining Among Female Athletes — Long-term health risks are increased: Female athletes who overtrain risk long-term health complications. Intense exercise and limiting caloric intake can cause an irregular menstrual cycle, a condition called amenorrhea that can lead to osteoporosis, infertility and cardiovascular disease. Female athletes with menstrual irregularity can regain regular cycles simply by making slight reductions in exercise intensity and increases in calorie intake.

Pain — Don’t train through it: Too many athletes think they should train through the pain, but muscle soreness caused by overuse usually signals the need for rest. Tired muscles are prone to injury, and PM&R physicians warn that once you’ve sustained an injury to bones, tendons or other tissues, you are in for a long recovery. Physiatrists also urge athletes to monitor their pain and what provokes it. Physiatrists have special expertise in diagnosing and treating pain, evaluating its overall impact and the patterns of physical movement that can trigger problems in interrelated body parts.

Team Training Programs — Knowing when not to listen can be critical to your success: Remember that you are the best judge of your own progress and preparedness. Despite the value of team training programs springing up across the country, PM&R physicians warn that individual health and fitness isn’t generic, and your training program shouldn’t be either. If you’re training for a marathon or some other race — whether independently or as part of a team — monitor your energy levels on a week-to-week basis. If you frequently feel exhausted, you’re probably overdoing it.

Benefits of Cross-Training — More than just a key to overall fitness and improved performance, new research suggests cross-training can help build stronger bones: Despite the popularity of running as a recreational way to get fit, PM&R physicians say it isn’t always the best way to achieve improved overall health. PM&R physicians recommend that runners also do other activities such as swimming, biking, team sports, yoga, pilates or weightlifting.

For more information about treatment and rehabilitation for pain or sports-related injuries, call Summit Orthopedic Specialists for a consultation. Our PM&R physician can help you restore function by treating the source of your pain, not just symptoms.

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