Thursday, June 6, 2013

RUNNING 101: my secret weapon...

This is something I think everyone should have. If you know me in real life, you're already tired of hearing from me about the foam roller.  

You really need to stretch before and after your workout, and this is the best way to do it so your muscles are ready to work before you run, and then to release them after. It's also great on your rest days between runs, and will help with general flexibility.  (If you want the scientific details, google self myofascial release and read to your heart's content... or just trust me!)  

You can get one here on Amazon for about $25, free shipping with Amazon Prime and if you order today you'd have it in two days! (no, I don't get a commission!) I recommend the blue EVA high density, because that's the one I've always used.  I don't know if it's any better or worse than others, but I've had great luck with this one. 

I wouldn't be without mine-- even carry it with me when I travel.  Foam roller, check.  Water bottle, check.  Sneakers, check.  Ready for anything! 

Truly, an excellent investment in yourself!

I’m going to post some links that will show you how to use the foam roller, but before you get overwhelmed looking at videos, I want to try and explain the basics of my simple routine.  When I first learned about foam rolling it felt very awkward and took me a while to build up the upper body strength to do it!  (and by a while, I mean a couple of days—it’s not that bad—just stick with it!)  But in addition to feeling awkward, for the longest time I wasn’t sure if I was remembering what to do and in what order, which slowed down the whole process for me and made it kind of frustrating in the beginning.  So I’m going to try and help you avoid that! 

Here’s what you do: (without worrying about form or details, just read thru this and try and visualize the basic progression)

1.  Start with your calves, ankle to just below the knee.  Sit on the floor, and raise yourself just off the floor enough to roll your calf muscle over the foam roller, back and forth 3 times.  I like to roll the inside and outside of each calf.  Then roll your hamstrings, then your glutes (you basically sit on the roller, and lean toward one "cheek" then the other, 3x each.  (There’s a little more to it than that, but you get the idea… start at your ankles and work your way up.)  NEVER FOAM ROLL OVER A JOINT!  

2.  Flip over, and roll your shins (Again, I like to do inside and outside of each.  This is also a great core and upper body workout.  Bonus!), then your quadriceps (upper front thigh).  (You’re almost finished!  Simple, right?) 

3.  Finally, roll your IT band on both sides.  (This is your hip area.)   

And you’re DONE!!  Three simple steps—back side, front side, hips. 

Now you just have to figure out HOW to roll each area.  That’s where these videos will help.  You can find hundreds of videos on YouTube, these are just my personal favorites.  You'll notice slight differences, because different things work for different people (you'll hear me say that a LOT).  Try and find what helps your muscles stretch the best.  There is no one "right" way.  (Just don't roll over your knees-- that's a "no no"!) 

Check out the first video here.

And here is part 2.  I don't do any of the upper body stuff, and he skips shins completely (I'll get to that in a second), but you get a good idea of how to do it.  Keep in mind, the goal is to roll over all the muscles in your legs, holding on any tight spots for about 10 seconds to help them to release.

This is another really good video and she does shins (around 8:00).  I especially like her suggestions for when you hit a tight spot.  

Don't get caught up watching hours of videos trying to figure out what's perfect.  Use what you see here to get an idea of how it works, then DO IT!!  You'll figure out the best way to roll out YOUR legs!  

After watching the videos, if you’re still uncertain, do not despair.  You are in good company!  I think everyone feels a little awkward at first, but in just a few days of doing it, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it will become easier and feel more natural!    

If you just don’t have the $25 to spend right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t start running!  But make this commitment to yourself—think about skipping a few “small” things, like a soda next time you eat out?  Or maybe even the whole meal?  Clip some coupons and set aside the savings?  Perhaps you have a birthday coming up and someone needs a gift idea?  

And in the mean time, instead of foam rolling, start your run with a really good warm up—WALK at a nice brisk pace for a good 10 minutes before you even start to run.  (I’ll give you more specifics on this part later, just keep in mind that if you aren’t foam rolling, you really want to be sure you’re good and warm before you run!)  And after you run, look into some of these ideas.

If you have any experience with yoga, that’s an excellent way to stretch and recover after a run.  I love to do yoga before I run.  Try some different things and figure out what feels best for you! 

OK, Step Two: STRETCH!  DONE!  Let me know how it goes! 

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