The more you run, the more you realize that overuse injuries are imminent. Plantars fasciitis, runner’s knee, tight IT bands, tight hip flexors, weak glutes, shin splints, piriformis and TFL woes, Achilles woes, tendonitis and tendosis (if you don’t listen to your Physical Therapist), fractures, breaks, and pulled muscles OH MY. Running injuries are the worst and the best way to treat running injuries is to prevent them in the first place. That means building mileage slowly, strength training at least 2 days a week to strengthen weak areas (I’m looking at you hips!), recovering well, understanding how to train with your female physiology (the difference between how you recover in your low hormone phase and high hormone phase OR, if you’re peri or post-menopausal, understanding the importance of more recovery days), and then utilizing recovery tools to help your muscles pre and post-exercise. (I know, there were a ton of words in that paragraph that you might not know. Deep breath. Don’t worry. You don’t need to understand everything yet. Just keep reading.)
If you’re a runner looking for recovery tools to help you stay injury-free and run strong, here are 5 recovery tools that every runner should have.
Foam Roller –
WHY DO WE FOAM ROLL? I Googled it whenever my physical therapist told me to do it, I’m sure you have too. I’m a visual person so I’m going to explain what happens when we foam roll with a visual. In the book Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry, MPT, SCS, he uses a box of straws as an example. Imagine thousands of straws all aligned the same way, standing upright. Together, they can hold a lot of weight because your weight is distributed evenly amongst them. But imagine that same group of straws thrown on the floor. Now, they aren’t all aligned the same way. If you were to try to stand on them, they’d collapse because your weight isn’t distributed evenly. Your muscles are long fibers like the straws. When we run or work out, we’re stressing our bodies and tiny rips happen in our muscles and connective tissues. If you don’t foam roll or break up the adhesions that occur when your body tries to repair, you’ll end up with scar tissue which limits your mobility which looks a lot like the straws thrown every which way. But when you foam roll or do soft-tissue work, you help your muscles regrow the way they’re supposed to (looking like the straws standing upright). When they do, they can hold more pressure, work the way they’re supposed to, and you stay injury-free. Does that make sense? This is why we foam roll, get massages, and use many of the recovery tools listed below.(Not sure how to foam roll? Check out Coach Amanda’s “How To Foam Roll” series available to members of the Badass Lady Gang training team and training experiences.
Lacrosse Ball –
Just like a foam roller, a lacrosse ball can help break up fascia in your feet or muscles to target adhesions and help your muscles recover. It’s cheap, efficient, and a must-have (and must use!) item for every runner.
VooDoo Band –
Compression is a valuable tool in your running toolbelt. Voodoo Bands work by first constricting blood to an area and then pushing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood into the area to aid in recovery. Let’s say your calves are overused, under recovered, and hard as rocks. They hurt when you run and foam roll. Compression can help the recovery process. In this instance, you’d use a VooDoo band on your calf before moving your muscles in the same way as you would when you’re running. Maybe you’d do some calf raises or squats, and then you walk around. Then, you take off the voodoo band and walk around. Compression, coupled with soft-tissue work will help mobilize scar tissue so that you can get your mobility back.
Calf Rocker –
The calf rocker is the cheaper alternative to a calf board and a great way to stretch your calves.
Calf Board –
Similar to the calf rocker but the calf board does more than just stretch your calves. You can work on balance and mobility while you stretch. *A note on stretching. Stretching is important and has its place! But stretching scar tissue does not break up scar tissue. Stretching is separate from foam rolling and while it feels good to stretch, it is possible to overstretch. ESPECIALLY, when you’re injured and doing everything you can to resolve an injury. (Remember those calves? Stretching your strained calves won’t resolve the problem. It might bring you a moment of relief, but you need to break up the scar tissue so that your fascia glides the way it is supposed to. The only way to do that is by mobilizing the scar tissue with compression and soft-tissue work.)
The truth is, the kryptonite to running injuries is a physical therapist. If you have access to one GO. And don’t wait until you’re hurt. Prehabbing injuries is infinitely easier than rehabbing them. But these recovery tools are wildly helpful in your quest for pain free running!
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