Medical Monday: Understanding Training, Recovery and Your Physical Status

We are excited to launch a new monthly feature “Medical Monday” with training tips and advice from our Medical Director John Cianca, M.D. Be sure to check back on the first Monday of each month for a new feature. Interested in a specific topic? Leave a comment and yours may be featured in the next month’s Medical Monday!

Understanding Training

Congratulations on gaining entry in the 2012 Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon! Many of you may never have trained or competed in events of this distance, and training for these events is a must. While some of you in your  20’s may be able to get away with minimal training, no one will be able to do so and have a pleasant experience. Training for a marathon or half marathon enables you to participate safely and at your best.

How you train is important – some may join a training group, use an online training schedule or train with a coach or even alone. If you are starting from a minimal running base, 4-6 months is a recommended training minimum, but if you have never trained for a race of this distance before, you may need more time. Regardless of your level of experience, staying alert to how you feel during and after your training will help you avoid injury and maximize your performance.

It is never advisable to train when you are sick or injured. In the case of a common cold, this may mean a few days to a week of reduced mileage and more rest. Injuries may require even bigger adjustments, but either way, it is very important that you make adjustments to reduce intensity, frequency of runs, and incorporate more rest in the form of sleep and reduced activity.

Understanding Recovery

In general, recovering is a much underestimated part of training. It is a physiologic fact that you must recover from every effort – more for hard efforts and less for easier efforts. Older runners and less experienced runners generally need more recovery time. Most injuries result from a failure to recovery properly, leading to overuse and overload injuries. Far and away, these are the most common causes of lost training time.

It is important to recognize when you need more recovery time. Listening to your body, such as pain, should alert you to reduce the load placed on your body until the pain has been resolved and the reason for the pain has been corrected. This is always the most important component of injury rehabilitation. It may require that you be evaluated by a medical or exercise specialist to help you determine the cause of the pain.

In addition to pain, there are more subtle signs that you need recovery. A fall-off in performance is often due to fatigue which may be at the musculoskeletal level or more generalized fatigue. In the musculoskeletal level, reduced intensity and frequency of training is necessary, and in the case of the more generalized fatigue, increased sleep, better nutrition, and reduced training intensity are needed.

Understanding Your Physical Status

Your resting pulse is a good indicator of your physical status. If your typical resting pulse (which is best determined by checking first thing in the morning as you wake up) is elevated beyond a few beats of the usual rate, this means that you are not at your best, which could be because of impending illness or over training. When your resting pulse is elevated, be sure to adjust your training for the day.

These observations and adjustments are important elements in your training. I hope
this advice helps you train successfully and safely as you prepare for the Chevron Houston Marathon or Aramco Houston Half Marathon.

Good luck with your training and we look forward to seeing you at the start line on January 15, 2012!

John Cianca, M.D.
Medical Director, Houston Marathon Committee

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