Muscle Fatigue in Marathon Training: Prevention and Recovery Tips

The sheer endurance required in marathon running is astounding. Runners who suffer from muscle fatigue, however, may experience impaired concentration that inhibits performance during a marathon. 

Contrary to common believe, muscle fatigue isn’t always inevitable though it can occur even with trained athletes. Research also indicates that novice runners have higher a risk for injuries and fatigue for every 1000 hours spent running. Lack of energy and soreness can get in the way of finishing training much less a marathon itself. Don’t miss this quick guide to muscle fatigue prevention and recovery:

What can you do to prevent muscle fatigue?

  • Include strength training in your exercise program. Keep in mind that you need to be physically and emotionally ready. Your body will not be able to endure long distance running if you only focus your workout on certain muscle groups and leave out all the rest.
  • Incorporate other workout routines that would help maintain joint flexibility and a strong core. Some examples include basic planking and abdominal crunches, which you can do in the comfort of your home. Strong core muscles (stomach, back, and hips) can help improve your posture and speed as well as maintain your running form. This will prevent unnecessary movements that can lead to muscle fatigue.
  • Warm-up and stretch before running. It won’t take up too much of your time and it can be as simple as jogging in place and stretching your arms and legs. Do this to prepare your muscles for the training.
  • Consume a healthy and balanced meal. This means not skipping the latest diet fads and instead consuming an adequate amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. During the marathon, your glycogen will be depleted, so you need to load up on carbohydrates at least a week before the race day or while on training.
  • Never train on an empty or full stomach. Eat a light meal or a healthy snack two hours before the training to fuel you up.
  • Drink at least 8 ounces of water or sports drink every 10-20 minutes during the training. This is not just to avoid dehydration and muscle fatigue but also to help replenish the electrolytes and water lost through sweating and breathing.
  • Gradually increase the intensity of your training to avoid overwhelming your muscles. Don’t push yourself too far and listen closely to what your body is telling you. Testing your limits is understandable but going beyond what you can take can lead to fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Use foam rollers before and after the training. Not only can this improve your flexibility but it also helps massage the deep tissues and therefore reduce cramps, pain, and fatigue.

How can you help your body recover faster?

  • Cool-down and stretch after the training for at least 10-15 minutes.
  • Get adequate rest especially if the race day is near. If you’re still suffering from fatigue, you can do low-impact exercises as an alternative to your usual strenuous training. You need to recover first from soreness and exhaustion before you can resume and participate in more challenging routines.
  • Sleep at least 7-8 hours a day. If possible, there should be at least 24 hours interval in between your training sessions. This allows your body to recuperate. The last thing you need is an overuse injury caused by overtraining.
  • A body massage will help ease the stress and relieve muscle tension. It’s also a good way to prepare you mentally because it can help eliminate anxiety for the upcoming marathon. If you are looking for a customized massage option for fatigued muscles, try using a portable TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) instead, which helps relieve muscle fatigue and improve blood circulation in the affected area.
  • Use hot and cold therapy as needed. Remember not to apply ice directly onto skin and never leave it for more than 15 minutes.
  • Eat a light meal or snack 30 minutes after the training. Don’t try to ‘reward’ yourself with unhealthy food like donuts or pizza. You can go for pita bread with hummus or if you want something tastier, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich are also good options. In addition, a banana smoothie can help with the muscle fatigue and cramps caused by too much electrolyte loss.

Whether you’re a professional athlete or recreational runner, you never want to hit the wall during the marathon training, especially on the race day. You can follow these simple tips to minimize your risk for muscle fatigue and if it ever happens, apply these recovery tips to speed so you can get back on track in no time.

-By Joe Flemming

One Response to Muscle Fatigue in Marathon Training: Prevention and Recovery Tips

  1. Aoife August 12, 2022 at 7:42 am #

    Hi I had stared the marathon training program for a 4 hour marathon, which i thought would have been within my reach. All was going well but i had a niggling ankle ligament develop into a strain of the medial ligaments – as per my physio. The only thing is my physio is not a runner and he was telling me to take over 2 months off. What would you advise when returning to training on the marathon plan. Should i start from the beginning again or can i pick up from a certain point. I had reached the 14mile long run stage and was feeling good.
    Do I need to start from 1mile or can i start at 3miles – in your opinion? Do i build up per run or per week? Thank you for your help

Leave a Reply