Ever just feel too good? Lately have you been thinking, "Gee, my running is going swell ... a pulled hammie would taste great right about now!" Are your quads, or calves, or IT Bands, or adductors, or glutes, or ankles, or arches, or knees just begging for relentless aching pain? Well then I've got some awesome news for you ... you can try any of the following and get your wish before too long! These are the three main things that seem cause running issues for me ... so yeah, I try to avoid them, duh!
Don't Stretch ... Ever! To be honest, I don't stretch a whole lot before a run. Sometimes I'll use my Trigger Point Performance Pro Grid Roller to loosen some of the fascia or break up the adhesions that have formed, but that's about it. A lot of runners are guilty of overstretching before they hit the road. I mean you are going to be naturally loosening up the body with a slow start anyway ... right? And overstretching cold muscles is a great way to pull something or not actually stretch the muscle you're focusing on.
However, I'm a big believer that stretching post run is almost as important as the workout itself. When I'm rushed or just plain lazy after a run and really don't stretch like I should ... that's when the problems start. Not getting a good 30-45 second stretch on fatigued muscles post workout doesn't allow your body to cool down properly and increases the potential for injury. What's worse, if you just sit or lie around immediately after a workout - and let's face it, we've all done it - blood can pool in the legs and increase inflammation. And inflammation is the enemy of proper healing. Good stretching increases blood flow to the muscles and promotes faster healing. There's also a whole relatively new science behind how fascia around the muscle fibers works and the importance of keeping it loose, lubricated, and free moving (click here to read more). Not adequately stretching is the number one way I make myself feel worse than I need to.
Run Too Fast For Too Long! I am very guilty of overdoing it with speed and tempo work, especially in the summer. I like to push my body and find out just how fast this old man can move. I've found that speed and tempo work prepare me like nothing else for shorter, faster races, and getting a couple of good high velocity workouts in per week really seem to sharpen me and push the limits. But I've also found a very direct correlation in sustaining weeks of speed work and gradual aching muscles and joints. I personally experience it the most with pain in my upper right hamstring.
There are varying opinions on the different training cycles, also known as Periodization, for endurance sport athletes. But most experts agree that they all start with building a solid base by increasing your mileage, then increasing VO2 Max & speed by adding shorter faster workouts, and then finally tapering before the event. Typically the speed building phase is only about 4-5 weeks, but I am very guilty of stretching this period out longer than I should and over stressing my legs over an extended period of time. Not giving your muscles adequate time to recover from sustained trauma in the form of constant intense speed work puts you at risk of real damage to your legs. I notice this mostly with minor bouts of tendinitis, a dull nagging pain in isolated areas, but a lot of folks experience much worse. Some theorize that running too many miles will do the same thing. That's just never been my experience. I've found that if I manage the speed properly, my body can handle the higher volumes. But running too fast for too long is the number two culprit in making me feel worse than I need to.
Never Sleep! The older I get, I find more and more old-man qualities are setting in. I'm grumpy ... especially regarding teenagers. (I'm pretty sure they're all morons and none of us were ever like that.) I watch the news ... incessantly! My wife and I have put together three puzzles over the last couple of weekends. Seriously ... puzzles. And I get up earlier ... and earlier ... and earlier. The problem with the last one is since I'm not a true "old man" and have to work, I don't have time for a nap. Which means at times I just don't seem to get enough sleep.
Some studies show that we really don't need eight hours of sleep at a time. I think the last thing I read advocated seven. I've noticed that when I can get a good seven hours or so, and then combine it with a 20-30 minute nap in the afternoon (unfortunately only on weekends), I feel the best. But like everyone else, I fall into the trap of thinking I constantly need to workout more and more to get stronger and stronger. In reality, sometimes the best thing for us as athletes is more rest. Not sleeping enough is the number three thing that makes me feel worse than I need to.
As a runner, there are many things I put my body through that increase the potential for injury. But as a general rule, when I'm stretching properly, using speed sessions wisely and sparsely, and also resting frequently, I really seem to perform and feel my best. Hope your running is going well.
... be great today!