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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Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!
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