Runner Maintenance 101

Let’s face it, look at runners of any distance, and at any level and you’ll find that most of them are dealing with some sort of injury.

They usually let it boil up until it affects their running, and then – and only then – do they do something about it.

That something is usually visiting a doctor, physiotherapist, chiropractor or massage therapist. Or they buy new shoes.

In most cases the injury goes away to the point where the runner can run again.

So they run and run and run until that or something else snaps again. Oh and they stop seeing their therapist and pack their shoes back down.

I’ve been there. And it’s an ugly cycle.

There are some easy ways to break free: buy new shoes before you squish the poop out of your current pair – and continue to see your therapist on a maintenance style schedule that they recommend.

You can also make yourself stronger and more biomechanically efficient by adding core work, squats, lunges, and glute med exercises to your program.

Most importantly in my books though, is getting you to mobilize your body before a tight calf muscle becomes a shin splint.

Here’s a list of stuff I do every day to “pre-hab” my body. On that note, if I find that my calves are nasty, I’m not hitting the track that day. I’m doing a kilometer of lunge walking or something that isn’t going to take them from sore to injured.

You also need to be able to relax and enjoy the mobilizations or you are not releasing, you’re creating damage.

If you’re holding your breath or wincing, take some pressure off.

1. Thoracic Roll.
Lie with your foam roller across your heart rate monitor line and slowly roll toward your neck (never roll over your lower spine). You want to mobilize your upper spine into extension so keep your chin and tailbone tucked. You can place your hand across your chest, behind your head or straighten your arms overhead.

I also like to rotate side to side gently and even roll out my sides a bit from my armpits to my pelvis. If you did a heap of pull-ups the day before go easy. Remember to ensure you are relaxed – and not too much pressure on those ribs!

2. The IT Band, Kinda
I say kinda because I really go in front and bank of it. The IT Band is super thick and you’re unlikely to actually affect change in it. But it gets gummed up to the tissues around it and releasing those stickers can be live changing.

Basically you’re rolling behind it and then in front of it. I go up and down in small increments, and then I roll my hips side to side, and then I kick my butt. I do each three times and then I move up.

You can do the front of your leg the same way.

I shouldn’t need to say this but please don’t roll over your knee. Just gross.

3. Tennis, Lacrosse or Floor Hockey Ball.
I listed them from least to most intense. You can even tie two tennis balls into a dress sock or tape two lacrosse balls together and then roll up either side of the spine. I prefer to use a single.

I almost always start at my hips and then work my way up. If I find a really good spot, I’ll either hang out there or open my leg to the side and back.

Don’t roll over your spine or shoulder blades (they’re actually really thin) but feel free to work around them. And as you do move your arm beside you and over head to see if you can really get in there.

4. Baseball.
These are the perfect size to stick into the back of your legs. Assume a sitting position and stick the ball just forward of your sit bones. Then rock your hips side to side. Magic right? If you need more you can reach for your foot as in a dynamic toe touch.

You can also use baseballs for ugly spots in the front of your thigh or in your hips.

5. Calves and Feet.
If you have bad feet, you probably have bad calves… and vice versa. I start by rolling a small ball just behind the bone on the inside of my lower leg. If (ok when) I find pain, I hang out there making tiny circles until it releases or point and flex my foot. Then I dig into the meaty muscly part of the inside of my calf. Lastly, I rotate my leg and do the same thing on the outside. I also really make sure to get into my Achilles’ tendon.

After I’ve done both legs, I stand up and roll back and forth a bunch on the sole of my foot – again hanging out on ugly spots.

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