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Dr Zafar Iqbal's Marathon March top tips

Dr Zafar Iqbal is a Consultant in Sports and Exercise Medicine who has worked in professional football since 2005 and in the Premier League since 2007. Dr Iqbal has been Head of Sports Medicine at Crystal Palace FC for more than three years and previously worked at both Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Here he gives his advice to anyone taking part, or thinking about taking part, in Palace for Life Foundation’s Marathon March.

Dr Zafar Iqbal

Firstly congratulations on deciding to participate in the Marathon March and hopefully raise lots of funds for the Palace for Life Foundation. If you haven’t done one before, walking 26.2 miles is going to take between 6-10 hours to complete and it requires careful planning if you wish to finish successfully.

Here are a few tips to try and make the training enjoyable and reduce the stress for the big day:

Health problems or unfit?

If you’ve never done regular physical activity before or have a health problem please check with a health care practitioner that it is safe for you to participate.

Find a walking buddy

Walking alone regularly can be difficult and having a training partner means you can encourage and motivate each other through the difficult times.

Get the right equipment

Make sure you have comfortable trainers and socks designed for running or walking a marathon. This will reduce the risk of injuries from impact on joints and blisters on feet. There are some specialist running shops that can advise. Equally important is the clothing so that you don’t get chafing of sensitive areas, overheat in hot weather or get hypothermia in cold wet weather!

Warm up and cool down

Make sure that you warm up before a walk and stretch all the relevant muscles (calves, hamstrings, quads, hips, lower back and shoulders) for at least 15-20 mins before a walk. Equally important is recovering properly and an effective cool down is using a foam roller, walking in a swimming pool or a massage which can help reduce muscle soreness.

Dr Zafar Iqbal and Roy Hodgson

Dr Zafar Iqbal with Roy Hodgson during the Crystal Palace training. Photo:Dan Weir/PPAUK.

Don’t train in pain

‘No pain no gain’? Wrong. For long distance walking if you are getting pain in the feet and joints while or after walking then this is may be a sign that you are not able to cope yet at that intensity. Either reduce the load or have the issue reviewed if persisting for more than a few days. Walking while in pain will reduce the enjoyment and may cause further problems.

Build up slowly

Don’t increase your total weekly load more than 10% per week as otherwise your body may not have time to adapt and recover and so will increase the risk of injury.

Have a training plan

You should aim to be able to do an hour brisk walk comfortably before starting some proper training. Then train for three to four days a week with a long walk on one of the days.

Eating and drinking

During walks make sure you are well hydrated and have a mouthful of water every 20 minutes. Have some glucose every hour, for example an energy bar or glucose gel is fine. In the month before the walk try and see what foods work best for you, for example slow release carbohydrates.

The final countdown

In the month before the march, you should be aiming to try and walk at least a long walk and this should be done at least two weeks before the actual day. Most people have found that if they’ve walked at least half a marathon in the past then the full marathon is usually comfortably completed. In the last two weeks, you need to start tapering down to give the body enough time to recover.

In the week before the marathon don’t do any long walks and just do a few short walks and make sure you are happy with your timing of nutrition and fluid, before, during and after activity.

Preparing for the big Day

Continue with the same routine you’ve had for the last few weeks. Now is not the time to try some new clothes, footwear or diet. Use footwear that you have been comfortable with for at least a few weeks. Make sure you have clothes appropriate for both hot, cold and wet weather. Have Vaseline to prevent chaffing of the sensitive areas and avoid tops with embroidered logos.

Enjoy and once complete make sure that you give yourself enough time to recover over the following week!

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