“Everyone can be an athlete, so long as they are willing to think like an athlete,” said Eugene Yim, MD, medical director of Hoag Sports Medicine. “That means taking sports injury prevention seriously.”

With the Hoag OC Marathon just around the bend, Dr. Yim offers 5 tips for running 26 miles to cross the finish line without injuries.

If you have questions about meeting a challenging exercise goal, visit your doctor, www.hoag.org.

1. Take it slow

Most injuries of first-time marathon runners are related to overuse. “When an athlete jumps in too quickly, without enough training, time, hydration, sleep or nutrition, injuries commonly occur,” Dr. Yim said. “Building rest and recovery time into your training can help you finish strong.” 

2. Gear up

running shoes

Having the right shoes can make the difference between crossing the finish line and sitting on the sidelines. “Replace your running shoes after 300 miles to ensure you are getting the support you need,” Dr. Yim said. “

This is a non-trivial aspect of training and performance that people don’t always think about, and it can make a tremendous difference to your bones and ligaments.”

3. Stretch

“Stretch those hamstrings, quads, calves, and gluteal muscles,” Dr. Yim said. “And don’t neglect your ankles.” A runner’s ankles take a beating; those small joints are key to stabilizing the feet and propelling the body. Be sure to add ankle mobility stretches to your workout both before and after your run.

4. Build

runner training

“I advise runners to increase their time or mileage by no more than 10% per week. This helps people build up their endurance and strength without overstressing their muscles and bones,” Dr. Yim said.

Look for training programs that help you build up to the big race. For runners with at least six months of running under their belt, a 12-week program can be enough. For more novice runners, 16 to 20 weeks might be needed to get your heart, muscles, bones, and mind ready for the long haul.

5. Rest

Punctuate your training with runs on softer surfaces, such as indoor running tracks, and lower-impact exercises, such as swimming.

The cardio still counts toward your mileage without overstressing your body. Similarly, it is important to take days off from training to give your body the time it needs to rebuild muscle, remodel your bones, and give your mental energy a boost.

“In addition to rest days, consider every night a ‘rest night.’ People too often neglect their sleep, but that is not something you can afford to do when you are building your strength and endurance,” Dr. Yim said. “You need to sleep to make your dream of completing a marathon come true.”