Is marathon running different for women?

Marathon training is tough. But, the more you run, the more you love your body. Not because it is perfect, but because with every mile it makes you believe that you are capable of something more than you expected to be.

Running marathons has become a very popular way to get fit and with awareness building, more and more women have picked up this sport despite the time and responsibility challenges unique to women. Often women have been quoted saying that no matter the hardship, they know that an elevated mood is just a runaway! Running is especially beneficial for women not just from a weight loss and mental well-being perspective but also from medical. An American study found that women runners produce a less potent form of estrogen than other sedentary counterparts and as a result, the risk of developing breast and uterine cancer and diabetes is drastically reduced.

Having said that, there are factors that women must consider before beginning marathon training and also while training. Before beginning a training program making sure that your calcium, B12, Vitamin D3, and iron are sufficient is critical. Women tend to be more depleted than men if not sufficient substituted either by a balanced diet or dietary supplements. Menstruating women should especially pay attention to their iron levels and look out for symptoms of excessive fatigue post running. Including calcium and iron-rich foods in daily diet is important for women runners.

While training for the marathon it is important to remember a few facts:

  • Recovery: It has been proven that women require more recovery time from training than men. Testosterone promotes protein synthesis which is critical for muscle repair and growth. Therefore, women (in general) require more recovery time from tough workouts than men, more rest and recovery time built into their training programs. Also, women over 40 require more recovery time than their younger counterparts!
  • Painful parts: Many women runners endure painful blistering on private parts, even between butt cheeks. Seamless performance underwear and shorts can help you solve this issue. To reduce the impact on breasts, a well-fitted sports bra is useful. Breasts move as much during a slow jog as they do during a sprint, meaning no matter what your pace, you should always wear a sports bra!
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Blood travels away from the digestive tract to support working muscles when you run leading to stunted digestion causing potential tummy discomfort. Dehydration also increases the incidence of GI complaints. Eating light rather than large meals the day before an important run or race, avoiding high-fiber foods and sugar substitutes, while reducing your intake of protein and fat can help overcome this discomfort.
  • That time of the month: There is absolutely no need to limit your training during your menstrual cycle. Don’t let cramps stop you from logging miles, as exercise can actually ease stomach pain through the release of endorphins. If feeling weak, slow down a little, rest for the day and take it light. Occasionally, women who clock a lot of mileages can suffer from amenorrhoea (lack of monthly period) in this case, consult a gynecologist sensitive to the needs of a runner.
  • Incontinence: This can be a common issue faced during long runs. Weak sphincter muscles of the bladder due to pregnancy, aging, deliveries are an important cause. Running puts extra pressure on the bladder. Kegel exercises can be helpful to keep your bladder leak proof.
  • Pregnancy: Doctors consider that moderate exercise during a normal pregnancy is completely safe. If your body is already used to running, you can continue to run during your first and second trimester provided there are no complications and your gynecologist approves. Usually, women slow down or stop during the third trimester. Keeping your body temperature under control is important during the training.
  • Injuries: Women runners are slightly more susceptible to certain injuries as compared to their male counterparts. Runner’s knee, ITB syndrome and shin splints are more common than other injuries due to factors such as wider hips, narrower feet, weakness around the hips, incorrect shoe fit and more. Consulting a medical professional at the onset of pain rather than waiting is advisable.

Running has a myriad of benefit and if women are aware of these special factors that impact their fitness they can overcome any obstacle to running and continue to run to their heart’s content.

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