Thursday, October 18, 2012

Run Recovery

After my first Hill Work session, I was inspired to write a post about stretching.  I wanted to throw up a bunch of stats about how many people don't stretch and how they injure themselves more often.  Imagine my surprise when my Googling brought up articles about studies that show stretching may be useless.  

However, from Runner's World: "Few running practices are as hallowed as stretching. And none have been debated as much in recent years. Studies have failed to reliably show that the addition of stretching to a warmup before activity reduces overuse injuries. "The jury's been out on stretching for about a decade," says Michael Ryan, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And as far as I can tell, it hasn't come in yet." Yet few experts in the field are ready to abandon stretching. The reasoning: Runners are tight in predictable areas, they get injured in and around these areas, and therefore they should increase flexibility in these areas. The muscle groups at the back of the legs—the hamstrings and calf muscles—stand atop most lists of "best muscles for runners to stretch." Hamstring and hip-flexor flexibility seems to improve knee function (several reports link poor hamstring and hip-flexor flexibility with "larger knee joint loads"), and calf flexibility may keep the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia healthy."

I am a faithful stretcher, due to the work I did with a Personal Trainer for years.  My favorite stretches include:
Calf Stretch
Photo found at Mayo Clinic

Hip Flexor Stretch
Photo found at Mayo Clinic

My favorite Hamstring stretch
Photo found at Runners World

Sometimes regular stretching doesn't quite relieve you of the stiffness and muscle knots that can come with endurance training.  That's when you need every runner's Best Friend: a foam roller.


Foam rollers are high density foam cylinders 6" in diameter.  You use your own body weight to massage out the knots in your hard worked muscles.  Its a good alternative to weekly massage therapy visits, saving you tons of money, and it can be done while you watch tv.  Easy AND inexpensive!  Sorry for the Cheesy Video from, but foam rolling is best taught through example.  

When regular stretching and foam roller use isn't enough to keep up with your training, you can use Sports Massage to help rid your body of lactic acid build up and to help your muscles recover faster.  I'll be trying massage therapy for the first time soon.  I'll make sure to post all about it and let you guys know if I survive.

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