Saturday I completed my longest run since the Richmond marathon. The 8 miles weren’t easy – I felt a little bit out of shape and the wind proved to be an added challenge – but it felt great to be out on a Saturday morning for a longer run again.
I felt especially fortunate to be able to do this run because I knew so many runners would be doing exactly the same thing to honor Meg. I didn’t know Meg and my heart and thoughts go out to all those who did. Every loss of a committed runner resonates strong throughout the running community and, at the same time, demonstrates how beautiful and supportive this community is. I am so grateful to be able to enjoy the hobby I love everyday and to be a part of this community.
The return of the Saturday long run was so enjoyable that I am even more determined to keep moving forward with the healing of my injuries and remain injury free down the road. Here are some of the ways I hope to do that.
Take more rest days.
Ever since I started running, I have typically taken two full days of rest per week (four days of running and one day of cross training of some nature).
This past marathon training cycle I continued to run four days a week but added on yoga and strength training and was working out six days a week and resting one. Some weeks I also would decide to do an extra run with my running group on Wednesday afternoons which would tack on yet another workout.
Even though it didn’t feel like I was over-training at the time, the way my body has responded since tells me otherwise. So now I am back to two full days of rest a week because it is what my gut tells me is best for my body.
Incorporate more effective strength and cross training.
Just because I am taking more rest days, doesn’t mean I need to eliminate my cross-training. Cross training to keep core muscles strong and flexible is extremely important to help prevent injury during training. So I want to make my cross training more effective so that that time I do put toward it has a greater impact on my running and general fitness.
Since I recently joined a new gym, I am lucky to have classes at my disposal that I think will be helpful in achieving this. I used to go to the gym on cross training days and inefficiently move from exercise to exercise with little direction because I couldn’t decide which muscle groups I most wanted to focus on. Doing weekly BodyPump classes will allow me to work every major muscle group in just an hour per class. I also have access to yoga classes at my new gym and having everything available in one location will make things more efficient as well (I used to go to a separate studio just for yoga).
Continue Active Release Therapy.
I have scaled back my ART sessions to once a week now, but I plan to keep them as a part of my routine until everything is 100% back to normal. Even then, I will be prepared to set up an appointment if I ever feel like any of my muscles are suffering. I will also try to work in sports massage sessions after training weeks that are particularly tough on my body. ART and massage are going to help break down the muscle adhesions before they build up and cause me pain again.
Stretch and foam roll more consistently.
I do stretch and foam roll, but I need to make sure I am more consistent with both. They are easy things that I can do on my own to help my muscles recover from the tough work that I put them through. I have to make sure I am not waiting until I have aches and pains to get serious about stretching and rolling.
Be more intentional about warming up before my runs.
My pre-run warm up routine has tended to be pretty scarce. I always do a mile slow jog before starting any speedwork and I try to start intentionally slow for at least the first five minutes of any other run. What I should be doing on top of warming up my body with a slow run is warming up my muscles with dynamic stretches. Jesica wrote a great post recently with a start to finish warm up routine that incorporates dynamic stretches for all the important muscle groups.
Pay more attention to my nutrition.
I consider myself to be a mostly healthy eater so I am not talking about flipping my whole diet upside down here. I think that it could be beneficial to me to be more focused on my nutrition during my runs and after.
My last marathon was the first race where I trained to incorporate fuel at all. I learned a few things but certainly haven’t mastered the complexities of what my body needs during a 20 plus mile run. After a race or long run my stomach varies from being horribly unsettled to ravenous which leads me to either eat nothing at all or eat whatever I can get my hands on no matter how poor it is for the refueling process. What I refuel my body with after a run is an important part of recovery and I hope to be more attentive to that fact.
Try to take my easy runs a little easier.
Many runners struggle with this, I think. The easy runs are meant to be run EASY so our bodies can be recovering from the harder days while still experiencing the additional mileage.
I don’t set out on my easy runs planning to set a fast pace but often will look down at my watch and see the pace I told myself was ‘comfortable’ and only then realize that I am huffing and puffing more than I should be.
During my easy runs I am going to attempt to at least start out going obviously slower than my body tells me to run. Of course my body can run faster paces somewhat comfortably for shorter distances but that is not what is supposed to be happening on an easy day.
What do you believe are the most important steps to preventing injury? How many days a week do you run? How many days do you take for complete rest?