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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 www.drgillman.com.

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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

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