Taking care of the small details related to running adds up to big gains
Whoever said running was simply putting our left foot in front of our right has never seriously trained for a race. There is SO much that goes into healthy running – it can very easily be a full-time job just staying healthy! It’s no wonder there are careers built around keeping runners healthy – from acupuncture to massage therapy, cryotherapy and everything in between, there is an entire ecosystem of help to keep runners upright.
Since there is so much more to running than just the running, I’ll outline some of the important areas that we can focus on to see bigger results from the running that we do.
6 Strategies to Get or Stay Healthy
These tips are all things we can do – and they don’t take a lot of time, either – that add up and make a huge difference in our running. Not only do I do indulge in these quick actions, but I ask my runners to perform them as well.
Whether you’re going out and getting a sports massage or using a self-massaging technique, something to break up built-up scar tissue is a great use of your time. Use a foam roller before or after a workout for even 5-10 minutes breaks up knots and adhesions in your muscles. A massage stick or a lacrosse ball can also be used in place of a foam roller.
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Following a hard or intense session, take an Epson Salt bath or soak in cold water to reduce inflammation. There’s no secret that an ice bath is, well, uncomfortable. In college, we did ice baths at least once a week. Not fun, but certainly tolerable. Not sure how to make this happen? I’m sure a quick google search can help.
After every run, do a quick stretch of your major muscles. Give the quads, glutes, hamstrings, IT bands and calves a quick once over for optimal flexibility and to eliminate tightness. One strategy to follow is this: active stretching prior to run; static (stretch and hold) after a run/workout.
Have really heavy and tired legs? Try elevating your legs for even 5 minutes to help pump the lactic acid out of legs, through your heart and eventually removed from your system. To do this, put your tailbone against a wall and let your legs relax facing the ceiling.
Mix It Up
On a rest day from running, spend 30 minutes doing low-impact cardio to flush waste products. This might be swimming or jumping on an elliptical. It could also be great for a strength class or yoga.
Not feeling like a workout? You’re probably due for a day completely off from workouts. There’s nothing wrong with allowing your body to rest and recuperate. If your heart rate is elevated when you wake up, this is a good sign you might need a day off.
To be a healthy and happy runner, we don’t need to do each of these 6 tips every single day. That would require LOTS of free time (hello professional runners)! And since very few of us are pros, the next best thing is to be varied with our recovery options. Some days will indeed require an ice bath, but certainly not every day. And we obviously can’t take a rest day every other day or we’d never get fit enough to crush our goals. The best thing to do is keep this in your back pocket and use it when you’re feeling run down or sluggish. A few minutes using one of these tips could save you a few minutes off your marathon or a week off of running because you’re in a funk.
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21 thoughts on “6 Ways to Keep a Runner Healthy”
I love that massage was first on your list – I am SO overdue for one, lol
I was just talking to someone about overtraining. It is so important to listen to your body and rest! I’m also a fan of epsom salt baths and sleep 😉
Great tips. In addition to massage I would add assisted fascial stretch therapy. It’s a pain-free way to break up those adhesions and scar tissue, plus it hydrates and restores the fascia throughout the body, which actually improves performance.
I remember having my runners take ice baths when I was coaching cross country. They weren’t crazy about it. 🙂
Haven’t heard of FST, but did some research and it looks like a very good option to use.
Wasn’t always a fan of the ice bath –> walk back to the dorm rooms in winter…. But we got ’em done 🙂
I think there would be a lot more healthy runners if they only slept more and took an Epsom salt bath once a week… But hey, what do I know?!
That’s it! Go make an appointment and get it done.
all GREAT tips. Definitely want to stress tip #1 but hey I am also a certified and licensed sport massage practitioner 🙂 I wish I had a bath tub because even though I know it’s probably uncomfortable, there are so many times I wish I could have had an ice bath.
I’ll finally get to start training again soon, so I’ll be sure to follow the rest of these tips!
I love the idea of massage for keeping healthy! I am always down for a good massage. Also, ice baths are great and can be so healing!
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my goal this year is to be injury free! So far so good. I’m getting better at stretching after every run, and I have scheduled rest days, but for some reason, I really have a hard time remembering to foam roll.
Of course, massages are so good for runners!
You could use a trash can, a clean one obviously, and put ice and water in that.
Good luck in your comeback!
Ice baths are great, although not always pleasurable:)
Elevating the feet is my go-to when I feel in need of a little bit extra TLC. That and more sleep!
This was exactly the post I needed after starting to get back to consistent mileage over the last month. I’m definitely guilty of often focusing on the workout more than the recovery. Thanks for the great advice!
Oops…totally forgot about the “feet up the wall.” I’m not doing long training runs right now, but I know my legs would still benefit from some elevation.
I started getting regular deep tissue massages about a year ago and it has made all the difference in the world.
Massage and cross training work for me!
Now that I’m done with PT I need to get back to regular massages. I am a big believer in ice baths, but epsom salt baths are so much more civilized!
I really have to get better about resting and stretching. I’m getting a massage tonight, though, so yay!
You betcha! Even 10 minutes of stretching and foam rolling will benefit you tremendously!