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Half Marathon Training


On Monday, February 24, New York Road Runners hosted a live Facebook chat with HSS sports medicine physician Dr. Marci Goolsby to talk about injury prevention when training for a half marathon. The following is an excerpt from the chat, with answers provided by Dr. Goolsby.

Q1. Is it better to have one or two true rest days a week to recover and avoid injury, or does rest just mean an easy run or anything other than running like cross-training, biking, or weights?

Dr. Goolsby: In my opinion, it is best to have at least one real rest day. A light yoga would be ok, but I tend to advocate for a true rest. This depends on who you ask and I am biased because I see a lot of overuse injuries in those who run more than 5 times per week.

Q2. Do you have any recommendations for ITB (iliotibial band) problems?

Dr. Goolsby: The key is strengthening your hip abductor muscles (gluteal muscles on the outside). Using a foam roller can help (between the hip and knee, but not directly over outside of the knee where pain usually is) and ice, but the key is to strengthen the outer hip muscles. Check out clamshells and monster walks for how to do this.

Q3. Around mile 2-3, my right foot falls asleep followed by the left a few minutes later. I tried loosening up my sneakers, but it still happens. I’m training for a half so I just truck on and it eventually goes away. What do you recommend I can do to prevent it from happening and what can I do if this happens on race day?

Dr. Goolsby: You might want to see if your shoe size is correct. If it’s too tight or too loose, this can happen, it is important to try on shoes at the end of the day when your feet might be a little swollen.

Q4. I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that my hips have been very tight and have had an impact on my stride. I feel this might be due to running through the snow and cold weather the past few weeks. Can you recommend exercises to do pre/post run?

Dr. Goolsby: A good stretching program, even yoga, may be helpful. Make sure your muscles are warm. Also, some really benefit from soft tissue work like sports massage or something called ART (Active Release Technique). These may be worth looking into. You may check out some stretching programs online.

Q5. I suffer from a very stiff back and pain in my left shoulder back whenever I finish running (sometimes while running too), which obstructs my pace and focus. Do you have any suggestions?

Dr. Goolsby: A running evaluation may help identify some poor habits in your arm swing during gait. Making sure your traps are relaxed, chin is tucked, and you have the right amount of elbow flexion while still remaining relaxed is important. Gentle stretching including your thoracic extension can help as well.

Q6. I am suffering from sciatic pain in my left glute. What stretches would be best to relieve that pain?

Dr. Goolsby: It depends, but a good piriformis stretch may be valuable. Core strengthening should be part of your routine. Rather than regular stretching, you may be better off with foam rolling to avoid aggravating sciatica pain.

Q7. I was feeling great. Then, with all the snow and freezing weather, I started running on a treadmill. Since then, I have gotten shin splints. Can treadmill running be the cause of this?

Dr. Goolsby: Yes, often you run differently on the treadmill as you do outside. Putting a slight incline on the treadmill can make you run with your feet more directly underneath you. Often on the treadmill, people take a longer stride, which can affect shin splints. Make sure you ice and stretch well also.

Dr. Marci Goolsby, primary care sports medicine physician

Dr. Marci Goolsby is a primary sports medicine physician in the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. She trained at the University of California Los Angeles, where she served as team physician for the UCLA women’s basketball, volleyball, softball, and baseball teams. She has also served as an event physician at marathons and triathlons. Her main areas of clinical and research interest are stress fractures and the Female Athlete Triad. As a prior collegiate basketball player, Dr. Goolsby also has a special interest in the care of basketball players. She is a consulting team physician for the New York Liberty.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.