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Health advice from Shepton Mallet NHS Treatment Centre ahead of this weekend's Frome half marathon

Company news

The Frome half marathon is nearly upon us and in the run-up to the big day Liz Jones, Head of Nursing and Clinical Services, Care UK’s Shepton Mallet NHS Treatment Centre, looks at how to make sure you have a good race that doesn’t take a toll on your health.

Running is a fun and healthy activity, which is why Care UK sponsors the Frome Half Marathon. However, it is important to run only to your capabilities and training. It is also important that you wear professionally-fitted footwear that compensates for your gait - and that you have run similar distances many times before. At Shepton Mallet NHS Treatment Centre we have seen a number of joint conditions that have been exacerbated by people doing too much or wearing the wrong trainers and I would urge anyone not to take on events for which they have not trained properly. You should think very seriously before running if you have a heart condition, are overweight, have asthma or are carrying a current injury. In fact, it is advisable to consult your GP if you are in any doubt about any aspects of your health.

Looking at the weather maps for Sunday, we have a mixed and unpredictable weather front. Whether you have a child running the 1km fun-run, or whether you are an adult running the 5km, 10km or half marathon, you need to be prepared. Often people think that cloud cover protects them from the sun. It doesn’t. Even with cloud cover, use a sun screen of no less than factor 20 and ensure it is long-lasting.

According to researchers at the University of Graz in Austria, marathon runners have a higher than average risk of developing skin cancer, and the more miles they run the greater the risk they face. This is because of the ongoing exposure to the midday sun.

It goes without saying that staying hydrated is vital to good performance and health, which is why my colleagues from Shepton Mallet NHS Treatment Centre will be handing out goodie bags to runners which include bottles of water.

If you are running the 10km and half marathon your hydration regime will need to begin before Sunday. Avoid alcohol for several days before the race and drink plenty of water. You should aim for your urine to be a pale straw colour and you want to be urinating good amounts of water six or so times a day.

If you are running on Sunday it is advisable to have an alcohol-free Saturday night this week if you want to avoid the dehydrating effects of alcohol and potentially a nasty headache.

On the day, drink to what your thirst tells you. This way you avoid dehydration as well as over hydration, which can lead to hyponatremia. This happens when the salt levels in your blood are diluted due to having too much fluid on board. This is particularly a problem in the heat as your sodium levels will already be depleted through sweating.

If you are running the half marathon, you will need to “carb up” for a day or so before, with lots of pasta, rice, potatoes and other complex carbs including yogurts and juices. Steer clear of too much protein and fat on these days as they will fill you up faster than the carbs. If you are running one of the other races, you should have a carb-rich - but not a heavy - breakfast on the day, such as a bagel and banana, following on from pasta or a jacket potato the night before.

Don’t forget to warm up before the gun goes off. You need to set off from the start line with your muscles stretched and your heart rate elevated. Try a good ten-minute stretch and jog session and do not go out to break any records in the first mile.

During the race do not be a hero. Yes, personal bests are laudable, but they are not worth causing an injury that will see you out of training until November or beyond. Listen to your body. Paula Radcliffe and Mo Farah have never been scared to quit if they are in trouble - why should you? We love welcoming people to our treatment centre but if we can help you avoid a visit, in this instance, so much the better.

After the race cooling down is as important as the warm-up. Do a little light jogging to give your legs a chance to cool down. This helps to prevent cramping. Stretch: the longer you do it the better off you will be. If you need some suggestions for stretches come and find a member of the Care UK team who will be delighted to give you some ideas - as well as a goodie-bag.

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