Run, Eat, Work, Sleep, Repeat? Well no, not really. It’s a catchy phrase no doubt, but no where near the truth; if truth be told. It takes a lot to be a runner, as every runner knows. In addition, every runner is just their last run away from not being a runner anymore ( due to possible injury during their outing). Becoming unable to toe the starting line, due to injury, can happen as quickly as the bang of the starting gun: if, a runner doesn’t squeeze a lot more than just miles, food, and sleep into their work day.
I never gave much thought to fighting through an injury. I always ran pretty decent, little stretching, diet was a type of soda people ordered, sleep was something I got if I was bored, and miles were fun……so I ran a lot of them. This worked pretty well for me, until I met some pretty talented runners, and I wanted to keep up. My dig-deep-and-gut-it-out toughness kept me keeping up. My curiosity kept me asking questions of those better than me. My inquiry to go where the fast kids went, kept me within eye shot of their turns and moves. And then my injury, humbled me, and finally taught me how to listen to all I had been observing.
Runners don’t just wake-up injured. There were probably days, weeks, maybe even a months worth of warning aches and pains. This is where the new running routines will begin for me. A blank journal. I don’t get a do-over, but I do get a do-from-here-on-out. I’ll not only use this blank journal for collecting my running stories, but my running lessons as well. Keeping track of the miles, the distances on the shoes, the terrain, the rest in between runs, the aches, the icing, the foam rolling, the stretching; it is all a start for collecting the running data that ultimately serves as our running puzzle pieces. When we see what pieces we need to put together in order to create the healthy running picture we desire; it all just becomes a little easier and a lot less painful.
The runner is often meticulous about pre-run choices and routines. Many of us have a set time we run, a route for the day within the training, clothes assigned to different temperatures and conditions, and shoes to match the terrain. We also may or may not give ourselves time to warm up, often tugging at our laces first then followed immediately by tugging at the door. We hit the pavement and expect our muscles to just go. Personal Trainer and Running Coach Stefanie Heyser says that if you do three good stretches prior to running out the door, your muscles are less likely to revolt.
She goes on to speak about the benefits of runners strength training, “I think runners understand the value of strength training. I think they just struggle with finding the time because it doesn’t result in instant gratification the same way running does. As we all know running is a very repetitive motion, therefore, most injuries are a result of muscle imbalances.”
What she offers runners, like me, are carefully select exercises based off of what she sees when she watches their form. I went through a full body assessment and she suggested adding 3-6 exercises 3-4 times a week to me, which I’m hopeful will be key in not only preventing injury but also making gains in performance. She says she keeps the list small so that it takes 10-15 minutes. “I give them exercises they can do when at the office or at home watching t.v. I even came up with exercises runners can do in their kitchen. ” Stefanie Heyser ATC, CPT, CES a USA TF Certified
Everyday can’t be a race. Inevitably, that can make it so no days can be a race. I met Meb once, in Billings, Montana when he was there to light the torch to signify the start of the Montana State Games. I’m not sure too many people really knew who he was, but I did and so I asked a lot of questions. Through my visit with him, it was easy to see why he’s loved by the world. He stood just a smidge taller than me (at 5 foot) but his positive outlook and kindness was as big as the big sky under which we stood. Through his discussion I walked away with the impression that every runner needs to find balance. Balance between our lives, running, and racing. His advise to me was that not every run needed to be on a clock, but if I was looking to improve I may want to consider clocking runs that we’re comparing like runs. If the route was the same and conditions were the same, keep time on that and use it to monitor progress and what factors supported a stronger and faster run (how did I hydrate, fuel, sleep the night before, etc).
How we fuel is also critical to how our muscles are going to respond to our athletic demands. What we put into our body contributes to what it can put out for us. Runners will often keep food journals, paying particular attention to what, when, and how much they eat prior to race days. Despite the buffet of supplement choices on the market, I, myself, still prefer real food. I do whatever I can, and sweet talk whomever I can, to help me out along distance race routes to hand me real food. I’ve PR’d tough courses under the power of oranges, lean turkey, and frozen grapes thanks to my sister and her husband who chased me around the course.
I am a fan however, of the hydration drink, Nuun. Since being introduced to this product I’ve not only personally felt more hydrated during races, but I feel better daily because I’m consistently consuming more liquids. Thus, not becoming dehydrated during the day and then trying to make up liquid intake right before a run.
Now, finally, we get to run. Often, with a very rewarding jont because of all we’ve done in our time in between runs. Yes, there’s so much that goes into being able to take those first strides out the door, but by being mindful and diligent we can stride more feeling healthy, strong, and hopefully injury free. There’s nothing better than that perfect run. Runners know it’s not every run, but the more we keep our puzzle put together, the more chances, I believe, we have to experience them.
And when we think we’re done…..we’ve really just begun:
The post work-out stretching is that not-so-magical activity that every runner knows they should do, but often, for various reasons, doesn’t; until we do. Jeffrey Kong, at Tri-Covery Massage and Flexibility offers a simple, yet powerful explanation to the benefits of fascial stretching after workouts. “By stretching the fascia, it allows the muscle to expand more thus allowing for more blood flow within the muscle. More Blood = Faster Recovery. Faster Recovery = Better Training. Better Training = Better Performance.”
Finally, there is the recovery that allows us to heal, so we can once again make our way out for the journey that inevitably brings a runner back to the treasured starting line. Recovery looks and sounds different for every person and for every race. In matters of the marathon, “Generally, it takes a minimum of two to three weeks for the body to recover from the strain of running 26 miles 385 yards. Return too quickly and you increase your risk of injury.” Says Hal Higdon at halhigdon.com. “Some experts suggest resting one day for every mile you run in the marathon, thus 26 days of no hard running or racing!” Olympian Frank Shorter states: “You’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten the last one.”
Ashley Watterson of Tocca Massage in Brighton, MI says a powerful reason for any runner to have a massage is because it’s a way to, “really get to know your body, muscles, and how they are working together. Pay attention to where there is discomfort in order to better focus on those areas in the recovery period(s) of every training program.”
So yes, we run, but in truth, we do oh so much more than that; to make sure we can run. And even if we get sidelined, we can recover, doing all that we know we should, in order to get laced back up and out the door.
Nevertheless, no matter how long we may be away, the starting line recognizes our soles, and allows us the opportunity to ready……set……go……