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Warding off injury: Five key recovery techniques every runner should know

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My breath is steady, my pace is naturally beginning to descend and in my mind I’ve got this run in the bag. I’m so ready to crush my next half in May!! My quads, hamstrings and calves, which felt like lead blocks during the first four miles are now warmed up and are ready to tick off the remaining miles on my weekend long run.

By mile 7th I feel it slowly emerging. It’s difficult to describe the tight, yet tender feeling that develops in my calf, about three inches below the inside of my right knee. While I’m not sure what’s wrong, of if anything really is wrong for that matter, I sense it. I know it’s there, a dull pain that is going to cause me problems miles down the road.

At mile 10 my hamstrings begin to cramp so badly that it feels as if a softball has been jammed into the back of my leg. Fully aware that this isn’t right but refusing to be defeated, I run on and attempt to further descend my pace into the very challenging land of sub-7:30s.

Somewhere in the 11th mile the hamstrings in my right leg are so tight that my leg begins to kick out to the side (rather than straight back). Today my legs clearly had their own agenda. Frustrated with my mutinying legs I think to myself, “Why won’t my body just do what I tell it to?! Bah, it’s not that hard!!” …. But today it really was that hard.

My body refused to listen to my barking orders so my pace hovered around 7:30’s for the final miles- not bad at all for the remaining three miles of a long run, but also not what I had hoped. By the end of the run I accepted that something is clearly going on with my bum knee and that it’s time to make some changes in my training if I don’t want to get injured.

 

What happened??

The question remains- was this just a simple muscle cramp, or is it the beginning of a running injury?

The longer I run, the more I learn about my body and how it reacts to different workouts. I am quickly learning that shorter, faster workouts, like 800 repeats and hill repeats, tax my body to a whole new level. Athletes are bound to get push back when they push their body harder than it is accustomed. That’s what I think happened here. I have actually ran for a week and a half since the run described above with zero cramping and/or calf pain. But I refuse to leave the state of my body up to chance. It is time to re-institute injury prevention techniques that in recent months have gone to the wayside.

It’s time to be proactive, not reactive, right?

 

Injury prevention techniques

 

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1. HYDRATE! I promise I’ve been hydrating… ahem… with caffeine. It’s time to focus on staying hydrated with water throughout the day!!

*While recent studies on fluid intake and cramps have produced mixed results, it is traditionally proposed that dehydration is closely linked to muscle cramping (similar to what occurred in my hamstrings). Even though it is not 100% guaranteed that proper hydration will eliminate cramping, remaining hydrated on the run is essential for peak performance.

 

 

 

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2. Stretch, roll out, R8: Roll Recovery… all of the above 🙂

Research suggests that stretching post-run is linked to a higher range of motion, muscular coordination and increased recovery times. And it only takes about 5 minutes. That’s it!!

While I don’t always skip post-run stretching, I can always be more diligent! In the past I found that post-run stretching and pre-bedtime stretching really helped keep my muscles feeling loose.

 

 

 

 

IMG_20130819_0922403. Ice 

While training for the 2013 NYC Marathon I regularly attended physical therapy at Kennedy Brother’s Physical Therapy in Braintree for my knee issues. My physical therapist told me that any severe changes in temperature (ice or heating pads) on the body encourages blood flow to the affected area, thus expediting repair. Truthfully, I have not iced my knees since the height of marathon training. Guess it’s time to bring it back.
 

4. Massage

Like rolling out and using the R8, deep tissue massage stimulates blood circulation and reduces inflammation after rigorous workouts. Competitor reports that deep tissue massage, also known as Active Release Techniques (ART), is an effective treatment method for hamstring injuries, plantar fasciitis and shin splints (Article).

Even though I try to get a massage once a month life has been super busy- and taking the time schedule a massage has felt somewhat silly :). Then again, my bum knee has been starting to bug me again. So, if I absolutely have to schedule that monthly massage, then I suppose that’s just what I’ll have to do 🙂  hehe. 

 

 

 

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5. CEP compression socks on the run

During long runs blood tends to pool in the feet and lower extremities. Compression socks offer a graduated compression that increases blood flow back to the heart, thus reducing cramping, leg pain and soreness during and after a run. 

I typically use my CEP Compression socks for post-long run recovery, but I wanted to try them out on the run. While out in sunny California I tested the socks out on a 19 mile long run and feel in love! My calves and knees felt more supported and experienced minimal soreness on the run. I loved them so much that I wore them during Monday’s tempo run too!

**I am confident that by following through with these four recovery techniques I will be able to push harder and longer in upcoming workouts!!**

2 Responses

  1. the R8 looks interesting. Do you think it is any different than using a foam roller and a stick? Great post-I have to force myself to remember to stretch after every workout even when I am in a rush.

    • thelonerunner

      There is ZERO doubt in my mind that the R8 is a better recovery tool than the foam roller and the stick! Zero! With very little effort the R8 provides incredibly deep muscle massage all over the legs, butt, etc. You know how you have to use your arms to prop yourself up on the foam roller and while it feels good on your legs to massage the area, your arms also get tired? … Not with the R8!! I actually used one and was surprised at how easily (and yet deeply) it massaged my legs, with very little effort! I am hoping ot get one for Mothers Day or my Bday!!

      I always forget to stretch… or rather I’m always in a rush and don’t make time! I have even tried to rationalize shaving my legs in the shower as stretching.. no Kass… not it’s not the same thing.. we WILL be better about this!! 🙂

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