It’s mid-January. How are those resolutions going? Yeah, yeah…me too.
Instead of nudging you to make or keep resolutions, I’m just going to offer some simple pointers to help you reach your running potential during the upcoming year. There are three considerations from which we can all benefit regardless of our experience, mileage, and motivation: injury prevention, rest, and variety. The next three weeks, I’ll address these three ideas and how putting them in play can help you be your best in 2016.
First on the list:
Now, before you say, “But I always try to avoid injuries,” ask yourself what you do every day (other than not stepping in that pothole) to keep in top shape. Oh, sure, you might take a day off when something doesn’t feel right, you stretch if you think about it and have time, and you do some strength training sporadically. (Or when your coach is giving you that look.) I’m betting that you massage, stretch, ice, and soak only when you get injured. That means that your response to injury is mainly reactive. While you have a good idea about how to respond therapeutically after injury, you aren’t really doing what you can to prevent injuries.
I want you to be more proactive and create the conditions for running health. Owning the massage stick and foam roller is not enough; you need to use them every day. When you complete your run, stretch –– the workout isn’t over until you have. When you return from a tough effort, ice acute pains immediately, consume a good balance of protein and carbohydrates, and hydrate. Soak your feet and lower legs to help relieve muscle soreness. (Some people swear by Epsom salts, although the evidence of whether this really works is inconclusive: https://www.painscience.com/articles/epsom-salts.php). Do all of these things consistently. It might take some additional planning and time, but it will be well worth it in the long run. Keeping your muscles loose and supple –– particularly the calf muscles –– helps to prevent injury.
Ready for next-level prevention? Consider using a Strassburg Sock while you sleep to keep your foot slightly dorsiflexed, thus preventing the plantar fascia from contracting while in a prone position. Over time, this will help to strengthen your foot’s arch.
The good news is that you probably can skip the ice baths to reduce inflammation and speed recovery. Some specialists are beginning to question whether reducing all inflammation is a good idea. New studies support the growing belief that ice baths may actually decrease training adaptation because they minimize fatigue and inflammation. Essentially, to make fitness gains, muscles need to be stressed and fatigued and soreness is ultimately a sign of building strength. (And I’m not just saying that because it’s winter and I hate ice baths…)
Here’s a bulletin just in: to reach your running potential in 2016, you will have to do things other than run –– mind blown! Developing strength and flexibility is a key to being a healthy runner. To reach your running potential, do some strength work. This means burpees, squats, mountain climbers, and planks, just to name a few. If the mere mention of core workouts makes you tired and defensive, then it’s probably time to reconnect to some sort of strength training routine. (To the common complaint of “who has time for all that?” I concede that you might be running fewer miles. Don’t worry, you’ll be exercising more and the miles you do will be of better quality.)
Ultimately, injury prevention routines need to be customized to what works for you. Keep track of what appears to work for you in a training log. Perhaps you feel better and can avoid injury when you concentrate on hydration and nutrition. Maybe frequent sessions on the foam roller are your “magic bullet.” Keep track of what works for you, do it consistently, and reach your potential in 2016.
Did you gain confidence and leave some nagging injuries behind when you did strength training consistently? What’s your magic formula for injury-free running? Let us hear from you in the comments.