flexibility

Stuck in a Running Rut

Our cover model for our April issue (on newsstands March 13!) is my abs-piration to get me through long runs.

I’ve been pretty diligent in my training so far, but last week it finally happened. I skipped a run. I realize there are far more serious and concerning things in the world that could happen, but when I decide to sign up for a race I tend to beat myself up if I don’t stick to my training plan. But between a busy week at work, fickle weather and just the overall desire to hit the snooze button, I found myself lacking serious energy to power through almost all of my runs last week.

Instead of dwelling over the fact that I missed a run, I decided to be proactive and get to the bottom of my recent sluggishness. I realized that I had zero energy only when running, and the rest of the day I was fine. This is a clear symptom of a running rut, or as Danny and Katherine Dreyer call it in the book CHI Marathon, an energy leak. In fact, they say missing a training run is an energy leak that happens to almost every runner (whew!). Here’s how they suggest getting back on track:

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Feeling Good with Pre and Post-Run TLC

Foam rolling keeps my legs in tact to tackle those long runs. (Photo courtesy of EcoWise)

Week two ­– done and done. This week for me was all about logging the miles. I’m still in the beginning of my training so it’s not a huge amount of miles yet, but it’s still a lot of time. Sticking with my trusty plan, I’m thankful that at this point, outside of the usual soreness, I haven’t had any injuries. Staying injury-free is a big goal for me during this process, and one thing I learned from The Biggest Loser is that sidestepping injuries when you are training has nothing to do with crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. That sounds silly, right? But when you think about it, how often have you really taken the time to concentrate on prepping your body for a run, or any workout for that matter? I know in the past the most I ever did was maybe a side bend or two. After injuring my IT band last spring I quickly realized the importance of taking care of my body not only before a workout, but after as well.

One of the best tools I have been using for the last two weeks is my foam roller. If you are unfamiliar with the foam roller let me first apologize for being the one to introduce you. Yes, “rolling” using the roller is not pleasant and in the beginning hurts a quite bit. It takes a few tries to get used to it, but I can truly say has saved my IT bands.  If you find you’re experiencing similar problems, pick one up at a sporting goods store of even online, they are pretty cheap!

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Sticking to a New Stretching Routine

For the flexibility challenged like myself, this rope stretch proved impossible at first. (Photo courtesy of Karen Pearson)

Prior to training, I was beginning to feel a bit achy after my runs, no matter what distance they were. That paired with some serious back pain from sitting at a desk all day landed me in Dr. Shure’s chair at Madison Square Wellness. I wanted to get a consult on my alignment and what was going with my muscles in general so that once I started training my issues wouldn’t worsen. Below, Dr. Shure’s evaluation and course of action as I start to train in the upcoming weeks:

Interesting Findings:

  • My alignment is really out of whack! Dr. Shure had me lie down and reach my arms up over my head. The left side of my body did as it was told, elbow snug against the side of my head. The right side, however, was a little out of line (literally). Because I use my right hand to handle my mouse at work all day I had serious tension on the right side of my body, especially in my shoulder and upper back.
  • You might think alignment issues aren’t important to training, but Dr. Shure told me that by not stretching and planting myself in front of my desk without taking any breaks during the day, this would quickly affect my posture while running, which could then lead to other aches and pains down the road.

Stretches:

To help maintain vertical alignment, Dr. Shure gave me a series of stretches to incorporate into my workouts. Here are some you can do at home:

  • Pec Stretch: Start by standing in a doorway or next to a fixed object with arm lifted to the side at 90 degrees. Put full forearm on the door frame or object and step through, creating a stretch in the pec region. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with other arm.
  • Rope Stretch: Start by standing, holding rope with the right hand over and the left hand under. Actively reach right hand down back and give gentle assistance with left hand, exhaling and holding stretch for two seconds. Actively reach left hand up back as high as possible and give gentle assistance with right hand, exhaling and holding stretch for two second. Repeat for 10 repetitions, then switch hands and repeat.

Read more to see Dr. Shure’s stretching recommendations for my legs.

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