Race Day Ready: Training for a Marathon in the Winter Months

Originally published in the Williamson Herald

It may not seem like it now, but longer days and warmer temperatures are just around the corner. That’s good news, especially if you’re preparing for a spring marathon or other long-distance race. Whether it’s your first race or your hundredth, Travis Henry, DPT, a licensed physical therapist at Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, offered a few tips to make sure you’re more than ready on race day. 

Don’t Fall Victim to Training Myths

“The No. 1 myth of marathon training is that people feel like they need to run the exact mileage of the race during their training,” Henry said. “Typically, it’s better to run a little bit less.”  

That means runners preparing for a half marathon might only run 10 miles during their training, while those training for a full marathon may only complete 18-20 miles. To avoid injury, it’s best to keep your longest training run to about three hours in length.  

The importance of stretching before a run is another myth Henry refutes.  

“New research over the past five to six years has shown us that stretching before a long run does not help with injury prevention,” he said.  

Henry recommended warming up with more dynamic exercises, such as a high knee circuit or tail kickers, and saving the stretching for the end of the run.  

“Dynamic exercises help get the heart rate up and blood flowing before a run,” Henry said. “You can save the static stretching until the end of your run to help cool down.” 

Avoid the Pitfalls of Training During the Colder Months

Middle Tennessee weather can vary widely in the winter months, but the early months of the year often include inclement weather.  

To prevent injuries or falls, Henry strongly advised against running on snow or ice. During colder temperatures, start your run at a slower pace, Henry said, to give your lungs time to acclimate to the colder air. Most importantly, don’t wear too many layers.  

“You’re going to warm up as you’re running, so dress a little warmer than the temperature,” he said. “If the temperature is 30 degrees, come dressed for 45 to 50 degrees.”  

Know Your Strike Pattern

Foot strike pattern refers to how you land on your foot each time you take a step — and knowing yours can help prevent injuries, Henry said.  

There are three types of strike patterns — heel, midfoot and forefoot — and each absorbs shock in different parts of the body.  

“The different strike patterns influence specific types of injuries and affect your running speed and cadence,” Henry said. “I would advise runners to figure out what type of strike pattern they have and then listen to their bodies for anything that doesn’t feel quite right.”  

Dodge Common Injuries

As a physical therapist at Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, Henry said he sees a few common running injuries.  

“A lot of the runners I see in the clinic come in with hip and knee injuries,” he said. “Those are generally overuse injuries, which stem from hypomobility of certain joints.”  

Henry advised all runners, beginners and advanced alike, to focus on hip strength and mobility during training. That includes increasing hip and ankle mobility as well as adding strength workouts into your training plan.  

“Running is a straight plane motion, and you don’t get a lot of lateral movement,” Henry said. “So, I would recommend getting to the gym a couple times a week and working on core and overall strength, which can help cut down on injuries and improve your times.”  

Strength exercises can include squats, lunges, side lunges, planks and more.  

Whether your goal is setting a new personal record or simply finishing the race, Bone and Joint Institute is here to help you. Situated just off Interstate 65 in Franklin, Bone and Joint Institute offers state-of-the-art technology and a superior patient experience close to home.  

Travis Henry, DPT, is a licensed physical therapist with Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. He received his Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2014 and his Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree from Belmont University in 2018. In addition, he completed the URI Sports Physical Therapy Residency at the University of Alabama in 2020. Travis has spent the vast majority of his professional career working in the areas of orthopaedics and sports rehab, treating a wide variety of patients of all ages, diagnoses, and injuries. When not in the clinic, Travis enjoys working out, spending time with friends and family, traveling, and watching collegiate and professional sports.