5 Stress Body Signs You Shouldn't Ignore During Marathons
By Nina Syahira
April 29, 2014
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A good runner makes preparations for what happens before, during and after a marathon.
Event organisers would usually welcome first-time participants and if you’re one of them, be sure to have the right guidance for a proper training. This will help increase your chances in finishing the marathon and even achieving your personal best.
From the moment you wake up all the way till flag-off time, it feels like the perfect day for a running marathon. Everything seems to be going right and you feel great with every confident stride. All that extra time and effort that you've taken to prepare for this race will finally be paid off.
But even the most enthusiastic runner can run into trouble during the marathon if they don't listen to their body. Take a look at these five warning signs to look out for while running that. Whether severe or not, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
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1. Body pains
Like the saying, “no pain, no gain”, it is normal to experience discomfort throughout your body when doing any tough physical activity. But this can be a hindrance during a marathon when you’re trying to push through till the end. If you’re not careful, the pain may also worsen.
How to combat: If you can’t focus your attention away from it or if it gets worse, change the way you run. Perhaps your current stride is too long or too short or you’re landing on your heels much harder than usual. Once you’re feeling comfortable again, switch back to your usual style. For further relief of pain, consider walking and give your muscles a short break. One way is to walk through water stops while drinking water and then start running again when returning to the route.
How to avoid: One, get better running shoes. It's not you, it's them. There's no point going through pain every single time you go out there to run so find a better pair that truly fits you. Two, ensure that you have also put in enough training time before the marathon. Besides the physical aspect, do some mental preparation as well.
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2. Muscle cramps
One of the most common reasons of marathon failure is experiencing muscle cramps. This is not your regular pain as there is an intense muscle contraction, usually in the calves for runners. Some people can still power through this if the pain is not too great by drinking some water. But there are times when the cause of these cramps is not just dehydration. Cramping can also occur due to muscle fatigue and this can be observed through your running form. It’s been said that as you grow more tired during a marathon, the way you run changes and may even become sloppy.
How to combat: Slow down to a walk. Don’t force your already tired muscles to work. Drink water and massage the affected area. Try not to stretch that muscle as it might worsen the cramp or tear the muscle fibres.
How to avoid: During training, do more walk-run exercises to avoid overworking your muscles. Also, incorporate more drills and stretches that focus on improving hip extension and muscular endurance.
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3. Nausea and vomiting
Great levels of stress will cause anxiety which can lead to nausea, dry-heaving and even vomiting. Whether the environment is hot or cold, exercising will naturally raise the core body temperature in order to increase the blood flow to your working muscles. Due to this, more blood may be diverted away from the digestive system to the skin to cool down the body.
How to combat: The cause of nausea usually lies within your diet. Get water or sports drink to drink in small sips. If you have energy gels, take one with only water. This is because energy gels contain a lot of sugar and too much of that can cause the nausea to worsen. Find a cool area to rest first. When you continue running, remember to pace yourself.
How to avoid: Eat a smaller meal at least two to four hours before running as a full stomach can cause nausea and even cramping. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water the day before the marathon and take 1 to 2 cups of water right before the actual run. Carry your own bottled water with you and take small sips (don’t guzzle!) during the race. If you’re the type who sweats a lot, prepare yourself with water or a sports drink that is enhanced with electrolytes and sugars as it helps replenish what your body has lost.
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4. Feeling lightheaded
Throughout the marathon, your heart rate will constantly be adjusting. Your blood pressure level will change according to the intensity of the race. So when you work your body too quickly, you’re putting it under a lot of strain which causes a spike in your blood pressure. This is when you would start to feel dizzy and lightheaded. This sudden change in blood pressure level is known as exercise hypertension where you push your body too hard. It may also be an early sign of cardiovascular disease.
How to combat: If you feel lightheaded during your run, slow down or find the nearest place from where you are to rest. Don’t continue the marathon until the dizziness goes away. If it doesn’t, call for help. It might worsen and cause you to faint.
How to avoid: If this happens often even during regular exercise, consult a doctor. Ensure that you have proper nutrition and stay hydrated before, during and after the marathon. Carry light healthy snacks to keep your blood sugar level up throughout the race. Take note of the marathon’s emergency contact numbers.
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Besides dizziness, overexertion can also cause breathlessness. It’s been said that if you’re overworking yourself, you won’t be able to hold a conversation while exercising. You would most likely be breathing too fast and too shallow.
How to combat: Stop for a rest immediately but do not lie down. Sit on a chair or slowly walk it off. Drink water or eat a light snack. If none of this helps, call for help.
How to avoid: Sometimes the reason you overexerted yourself is because your body is not used to that level of activity. Ensure that you have the proper training beforehand like breathing techniques. Learning the correct form is important so master the basics first.
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For more tips on long distance running like the IPPT's 2.4km test, click here! For tips on how to recover from injuries, read this!