Foam roller

By Keri Mandell

I am constantly running, training, and getting ready for races. It’s just what I do, it’s what I love. However, while fun and good for you, running can be a lot of work.  So it’s important to get the most out of your running, first by making sure that you are always able to run.

Our lives can be busy. We are constantly juggling work, family, friends, and making time for ourselves, aka our workouts or in this case running.  However, as we train for races we need to ensure that we are healthy and injury-free. So in one 24-hour period, we not only have to juggle our lives, but also begin to think about what else we can do to further enhance our runs and better prepare ourselves for our races.

Here are three different things to do to target various aspects of our running health and performance.  Maybe commit to just one of the three each week and see how you feel.

Strengthen Your Core and Increase Flexibility

Core strength and increased flexibility will make you more resistant to injury. A strong core and proper running form are interdependent. As you run and become fatigued, a strong core will help your form and allow you to run more efficiently and faster. Also, increased flexibility is important because the looser your muscles are, the greater range of motion you’ll have. This will allow your stride to lengthen, and be more powerful instead of being limited due to tightness.  A great way to get both core strength and flexibility is to take a yoga class.  However, if you don’t have time for that, here are examples of just a few exercises you can do on your own: plank (reg., forearm, and/or side plank), sit up variations, back bridges, pigeon pose, runner’s lunge, and lizard pose.

Roll Out

After each run, it’s important to work out any kinks or sore spots to decrease the chances they will turn into injuries. If you don’t have time to get a massage, a foam roller can be your best friend.  Rolling helps flush out toxins from your body, which will help with your recovery. When purchasing a foam roller, try a few out to find a firmness that’s good for you. Then, as you roll, move slowly up and down along various parts of your body, stopping to hold on tender spots.  Try rolling your calves, hamstrings, IT band, piriformis, abductors, and quads.

Work On Your Running Form

Improved form starts with getting stronger. So after you increase core strength and flexibility, begin to think about your form and what flaws you may have. For me, I tend to hunch over and bring my head down, which impacts my breathing and decreases the flow of oxygen to my lungs (and in turn, my legs).  I also hike my shoulders up to my ears which causes neck tightness and pain. So when I run, I constantly remind myself to keep my head up, and slide my shoulders down my back. This helps my body feel better and get the oxygen I need to  maintain good form and a steady cadence.  So maybe think about and pick one of your own flaws to work on and begin making adjustments during your run.  Notice when fatigue sets in and see what goes, then think about how you can adjust your body so that it gets what it needs to finish the run.