This past Sunday on November 4th, Heather Shantora, 39-year-old single mother of 2, completed the New York City Marathon!
It was a long, exhilarating and tough day, seeing as six months ago Heather would not have classified herself as a runner. But with perseverance and training, and support from her family, physiotherapist, massage therapist and chiropractor, Heather finished the marathon. Not only did she finish it, but she completed it with flying colours. Throughout the marathon, Heather was able to maintain a consistent pace and finished strong with a time of 6 hours and 32 minutes.
Heather, who has been seeing a rehabilitation team consisting of a physiotherapist, massage therapist and chiropractor for the past three months to help her with prehabilitation and preparing for running the marathon, reported that she felt good during and after the run. She wasn’t plagued by intense pain in her hips, calves and shins as she had been before she started seeing her “prehab” team. In fact, during the race, she felt good…just the regular pain that you can imagine would go into running 42 km over 6 and a half hours! She had done enough pre-work with her rehab team to correct the imbalances and weaknesses that she started with to successfully run the marathon. And now, on the days following the marathon, she isn’t feeling any of the intense joint and muscle pain that she experienced when first implementing her long runs in training, just the regular muscle recovery after an extreme work out.
When putting your body through the stress of a marathon without proper preparation, you are more likely to sustain an injury. If you have ever been to an extreme sporting event like a marathon or triathlon, you will recognize the look of exhausted people who limp over the finish line, or once they stop running can’t muster the strength to walk or even step up onto the curb. The NYC marathon was no exception to this, however, Heather was! Although she was tired from the marathon, she was able to keep walking (without limping) – and it wasn’t just the excitement from finishing her first marathon talking either. It was because her body was properly aligned and had been ready to take on the 42km marathon because of her prehabilitation. The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation estimates that as many as 70% of people will sustain a running injury; while this won’t necessarily happen during a marathon, without proper preparation, it is more likely.
Running a marathon is just as much a physical feat as it is a mental one. Studies show that 43% of runners hit a mental wall during a marathon. For Heather it was at the 35km mark – the furthest she had run in her training – that she hit her wall. When you hit your wall, whether running a marathon or doing a sport, it’s more a mental game than physical; you need to believe that you can keep going and start the positive self-talk to power through. If you know that your body is ready because you’ve seen an expert in body mechanics, like a physiotherapist, you know that you are aligned and capable of continuing, so it is one less thing that you have to be concerned about. Heather reported that the knowledge that her body mechanics were in check from physiotherapy, and that she didn’t need to worry about having poor form and sustaining an injury, helped her to concentrate on talking herself through her ‘wall’ and finishing the marathon in good time.
Now that the marathon is over, Heather is in active recovery mode. Active recovery includes a work out that is shorter and less intense than your regular work out, for example, a brisk walk instead of a run. Stretching is also a key component of active recovery because it prevents scar tissue from building up while your muscles are healing. Active recovery should also still include support from your rehabilitation team.
During her active recovery, Heather will be going in for two physiotherapy treatments and two massages this week, to help her body fully recover from the stress of the marathon. Today she saw Jessica, her physiotherapist, who did some active stretching with her – something Heather found hugely beneficial because it allowed to her reach a point in her stretch that she alone could not achieve. Jessica also provided some relief and muscle healing with a mixture of ice and IFC (interferential current therapy – basically using electrical impulses to trick your brain to not feel the pain and help your body to produce endorphins, natural pain relieving chemicals) on her knees and heat on her hips – a nice treat after Sunday’s marathon!
So, if you are thinking of signing up for a marathon, playing a new sport, or changing your exercise routine, don’t wait for an injury to occur. Contact a pt Health physiotherapist to see if a prehabilitation routine can help you in reaching your goals as much as it helped Heather.