On Your Mark: Training Begins for 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon


By Chuck Finder

After anywhere from a 3- to 12-mile training jaunt, scores of local runners preparing for the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 4 huddled inside UPMC Montefiore Hospital’s LHAS Auditorium to learn more about eating to run better, exercising to run better and ways to better avoid limping into a doctor’s office.

Or, as phrased by Aaron Mares, M.D., a UPMC Sports Medicine primary-care physician who also works the race-day medical tent: “I’m the guy you don’t want to see, right?”

Saturday morning’s seminar was the first of two sponsored by UPMC Sports Medicine, the marathon’s healthcare provider along with UPMC Emergency Medicine. The seminar began with Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D., nutrition director of Sports Medicine, counseling the runners to eat a minimum of two meals per day while training.

Leslie Bonci
“Less than two are not going to be appropriate because how are you going to fuel your body?” said Bonci, adding that runners training for the marathon should never eat any sooner than 90 minutes before bedtime  “The reason for that is sleep is a critical component allowing you to recover, repair, restore."

Her advice was to find a regimen that will fuel your body consistently, and stick to it. 

Bonci also suggested:
Orthopaedic surgeon Vonda Wright, M.D., a mobility expert who also directs the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes (PRIMA), stressed cross-training for the total body athlete. It makes the difference in being dragged across the finish line, huffing through it or maximizing your performance.

“Our job is to keep you on the road and out of the doctor’s office,” Wright said. “Runners who only run get injured. Running builds an amazing aerobic engine. But, optimally, we are not just building a huge engine and a small frame.” Hips, quads, core, balance and more play critical roles, and those won’t get help by merely hitting the road for miles.

Vonda Wright
Dr. Wright’s suggestions included such exercises as toe walking, heel walking, hip swings, activators for ankles, knees, butt, quads and core. Specifically, she offered a total-body circuit that she uses in her couch-to-race classes and more: pushups (22 for men, 11 for women; elbows bent and close to the body); planking (two minutes at a time is best), kettlebell raises; and a monster walk with an elastic band around the shins.

“It really builds frame around that engine,” she said of cross-training, which she recommended for two days each week - even before a run.

Dr. Mares closed out the seminar by showing runners where on a skeleton model they should watch for potential training injuries.

“Boney pain is not a good thing,” he said. “If you have that, you might want to have it looked at.”

Follow the RICE regimen: rest, ice, compression and elevation for aches and pains. He reminded folks that the three steps to returning from an injury in running or any sport is rehabilitation, decreasing inflammation, and bracing/immobilizing an injury. And he said to remember: Doing something too much, too hard or too long – when unaccustomed to it – often leads to injury.

“The biggest thing we see at our clinic, people change up something that they’re doing,” Dr. Mares said. “Like they change shoes. . . and the next day they go out and run 12 miles. Make progressive changes. You need different equipment for different conditions. And know that there are a variety of weather conditions out there, too.”

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