Optimizing Performance for the Boston Marathon

By Scott F. Gillman Diplomate: American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians

For Boston Marathoners, it’s now the last jittery few days before the big event, and all the efforts to prepare the body to endure the demanding 26.2 mile course hopefully will pay off.   Periodized training in advance of this monumental endurance event is critical.  Equally important is having the fuel on board to drive one’s metabolic engine to the finish line.  Preparation should also include adequate sleep for several days prior, since the body does not perform well or heal well with insufficient sleep. Many reparative metabolic processes occur when your body shuts down and cycles into deep sleep which aids in the rebuilding and repair of muscles that are strained and damaged from workouts. Cumulative sleep loss will impair performance, and short midday "power naps" can make a big difference in performance.  Having a full tank of nutritional fuel is imperative going into a marathon and can make the difference between finishing comfortably or bonking.   Nutrition for marathoners should promote the storage of carbohydrates (carbs) in their complex form, called glycogen in the muscles and the liver.   

Maintaining lean body mass is also important for marathoners, as for all endurance athletes. Carb loading a few days before, and then immediately after endurance training, while maintaining a high fat, high protein, low carb diet in between heavy training cycles is the best approach. The protein/fat mode helps mobilize fat stores, losing fat aids in performance for distance running, and carb loading bolsters glycogen storage. Runners should load up with quality starches right after a workout, including foods such as yams, pasta and raisins, as well as balancing it with protein.   

Pain is way of life for distance runners, and keeping injured parts treated and rehabilitated is another way to bolster the ability to perform at one’s best.   Pain alters the body's way of working. The brain responds to pain signals and creates compensatory muscle activity to avoid painful movement.  Research has shown that previous injuries can create brain "programs" which cause the body to move in faulty ways. Akin to driving with one foot on the gas and one on the brake, the brain drives the body to move in ways that compensate around the injured area. These biomechanical inefficiencies can precipitate pain and impair performance. They also can cause the runner to expend more fuel and prematurely run out of energy.   

Marathoners can better prepare their bodies by having injured or painful area treated, any painful joint movements assessed, and any muscle, tendon or other soft tissue problem worked out and alleviated well before the marathon.  Finding a sports medicine provider with the skills to examine and treat these conditions can be a challenge but doing so can better guarantee a successful run. Following these guidelines for appropriate rest, nutrition and pain management will surely optimize a marathoner's performance. Best of luck to all Boston Marathoners and volunteer staff!   

Scott Gillman is a Doctor of Chiropractic in Natick, MA since 1991. He is also a Chiropractic Sports Medicine Specialist with a diplomate from the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians. He can be reached at 508-650-1091 or through


Articles by Dr. Gillman:

Dr. Gillman was a columnist for the  Metrowest Daily News. Below are some of the article he wrote. We hope you find these published articles helpful. If you would like information about a particular condition that is not listed here  or would like more information on any condition, send us an email and we will be happy to assist you.

May 2017 | Surgeon Not The First Stop for Back Pain Download and Print

March 2017 | Preparing Your Body for a Marathon! Download and Print

January 2017 | Improving Spine Care OutcomesDownload and Print

January 2017 | Hit The Gym! Download and Print

December 2016 | What is Soft Tissue Therapy? Download and Print

November 2016 | The Myth of Neck Manipulation and Stroke Download and Print

October 2016 | National Chiropractic Health Month Download and Print

September 2016 | Idiopathic Scoliosis and Back Pain Download and Print

August 2016 | Piriformis Syndrome - Not a Pain in the Butt! Download and Print

June 2016 | Spine Fracture in youth athletes Download and Print

May 2016 | Female Athlete Triad Syndrome Download and Print

April 2016 | Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Download and Print

March 2016 | Achilles Tendinitis Download and Print

February 2016 | Do you really have Sciatica? Download and Print

January 2016 | Chiropractic Versus Opiods   Download and Print

December 2015 | Is Your Chiropractor Out of Line? Download and Print

October 2015 | Chiropractic Care for Children Download and Print

September 2015 | Lyme Disease and Outdoor Athletes Download and Print

August 2015 | Is stretching beneficial? Download and Print

July 2015 | Shoulder impingement can be stubborn Download and Print

June 2015 | Do Discs Really Slip? Download and Print

May 2015 | Stop icing your injury! Download and Print

April 2015 | Patellofemoral knee pain is treatable Download and Print

March 2015 | Gym exercises that may be doing you more harm than good Download and Print

Feb. 2015 | Protect your back while shoveling Download and Print

Jan 2015 | Stop cracking your own neck! Download and Print

Dec. 2014 | Why Athletes Need Sports Chiropractors Download and Print

Nov.  2014  | Love-Hate Relationship with Orthotics Download & Print

Oct. 2014 | Recovering from whiplash Download & Print

Sept. 2014 | Why go to a chiropractor Download & Print

Aug. 2014 | Be wary of heat illness during summer sports Download & Print

July 2014 | Strategies for Back Pain Download & Print

June 2014 | Plantar Fasciitis- Pain that’s hard to kick Download & Print

April 2014 | Do you really need that X-ray Download & Print

March 2014 | Why Your Diet Doesn't Work Download and Print  

Feb. 2014 | Do you have Runner's Butt? Download & Print

Jan. 2014 | Article: CrossFit: Beauty or Beast? Download & Print

Dec. 2013 | Attacking Back Pain Download & Print