In this post I wanted to run through some of my top tips for marathon training with scoliosis or spinal fusion. If you read my blog or watch my YouTube videos, you may know that I ran the Manchester Marathon in April 2022! This was my first marathon, and to be honest, running a marathon was something I NEVER imagined I would be able to do, especially following my spinal fusion surgery. I still can’t quite believe I’ve done it!
Now that the Spring marathon training season has started, I thought I would share some of my own tips that I learnt last year when marathon training. Although in this post I’m referring to marathon training with scoliosis, I think that these tips will apply to anyone running their first marathon – scoliosis or not!
Please bear in mind that these tips are taken from my own experiences having been through marathon training myself a couple of times. I am not a qualified run coach or doctor, always consult with a doctor/physio before starting any exercise/running training programme – especially if you have scoliosis, to make sure it’s safe to do so for you.
TIP 1 – STRENGTH TRAINING
Strength training is absolutely crucial when marathon training, and it’s something that often gets neglected. It’s especially important when you have scoliosis, as scoliosis can cause certain muscle imbalances and weaknesses that may start to cause problems when you start running long distances. Running often exposes any weaknesses, and so it’s crucial to get yourself as strong as possible to prevent injury. You don’t need to go to a gym or lift weights either – everything can be done at home with body weight and some resistance bands!
When marathon training, I did 3-4 strength sessions a week of around 15-30 mins each. I focused on my glute muscles, calves and ankles as well as my core muscles using resistance bands and a kettle bell.
It’s important to focus on exercises that target and strengthen the muscles used when you are running – take a look at these glute exercises for runners for some inspiration. It is however worth consulting with a physio/running coach who can help guide and tailor specific strength exercises for you, and remember to check with an expert before trying any exercises.
TIP 2 – PACE YOURSELF
By this I mean a few things. Firstly, I find it helpful to spread out my running sessions and give myself a day off in between runs. I personally find that my body/back struggles with running on consecutive days, unless I follow up a long run with a recovery run for example on the following day, which would typically be at a much slower pace.
If you have scoliosis, or if it is your first marathon, you should also allow for sufficient time to train for a marathon. This could be up to 6 months or more depending on your ability/fitness level. It’s important to build up gradually to the marathon distance to avoid injury. Ideally, you would have been running for a while and have already completed the half marathon distance prior to starting marathon training.
It’s also important to pace yourself when completing your long runs. Long runs should be done at an ‘easy’ pace (for you) where you can easily have a conversation. This will help to avoid injury and burnout before you even reach the start line!
TIP 3 – GET DECENT TRAINERS
Don’t underestimate the importance of wearing the correct trainers when completing marathon training. If you don’t wear trainers that are designed for running long distances, you may end up with injuries.
If you are considering training for a marathon, especially if you have scoliosis, I would advise going to a specialised running shop and getting professional advice on the best trainers for you. This will help you avoid injury and be much more comfortable as well!
TIP 4 – ALLOW TIME TO RECOVER IN BETWEEN RUNS
It’s really important to give your body time to recover in between runs, and especially following a long run. I would tend to avoid running for a couple of days after a long run and instead do some stretches, yoga, or a walk the following day. I also enjoy taking a bath with epsom salts following a long run. Recovery is so important to prevent injury and keep the body is strong, so don’t neglect it!
TIP 5 – DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS
This is something I was guilty of, but what I learnt is that it’s impossible to compare what you are doing training wise to what someone else may be doing. Everyone is at different levels and training for different things so just focus on yourself and try not to get swept along with others, or feel like you are behind with your training.
Some people may run multiple marathons a year and be using the marathon as training for an ultra marathon, therefore these people may not need to build up as gradually as they may run long distances every week. There are many groups on social media for people marathon training and whilst they can be helpful for advice/tips, just be wary that not everyone will be training at the same level/rate, so be careful with comparing your training.
TIP 6 – CONSIDER WORKING WITH A RUNNING COACH
If it is available to you/if you can afford it, I would recommend working with a professional run coach to help with your marathon training plan. They can help you build up gradually, give you the correct strength exercises and work closely with you to help you avoid injury.
If this is not an option for you, then there are many marathon training plans online and you should choose one that matches with your current ability and give yourself enough time to train. Don’t be afraid to move sessions around as well so that they work for you. For example, adding in extra strength training and giving yourself days off in between runs.
I hope you found this post useful, if you did, I also have a video where I talk about marathon training with scoliosis in more detail.
Let me know if you can relate to this post, or have any questions in the comments below!
I had scoliosis surgery in 2010 and blog about my experiences living with scoliosis. My aim is to raise awareness of scoliosis and help and inspire others with the condition.