For Runners – The Most Effective Ways to Prep and Recover for Race Day
Running is a loved sport by millions of people worldwide, but hard on the body. Runners are dedicated athletes. This commitment drives many to rise before the sun or lace up after a long day at work. To pursue their passion and keep their muscles happy, healthy, and performing, here are five ways for runners to recover their bodies and stay prepped for race day.
1.Pliable muscles are happy muscles.
Healthy muscles contract (generate force) and relax (stretch) to their fullest capacity without pain or injury. When a muscle is unhealthy—rigid or tight—it cannot produce the same amount of force nor stretch fully.
Runners ask a lot from their bodies. Finishing each training session and any race takes determination, grit, and adds a lot of wear-and-tear to the body. If you have rigid muscles and attempt to run long distances, you are at greater risk for injury.
To keep your muscles pliable and producing the force and endurance you demand of them, they need attention both before and after each run. Use pressure techniques to maintain the elasticity in your feet, calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quads. The more pliable your muscles are, the more flexibility, endurance, strength, and power they’ll produce.
Recommended pressure techniques:
- Muscle Pulsing
- Trigger point therapy
2. Strengthen your core.
Your core is comprised of muscles that span from the base of your pelvis to the bottom of your chest. Since running doesn’t appear to require a lot of upper body movement to propel your legs, a significant part of your core muscles aren’t conditioned properly during training. So why spend time training your core? Because core plays a big role in your force and ease of stride. First, the stronger your glutes, the more powerful your stride. Second, the stronger your rectus abdominus (six pack group), the easier it is for your legs to carry your upper body. Third, the stronger your obliques, the easier it is on your knees and feet to keep you balanced.
Spend five minutes before your run to activate your core (no weights needed—just use your body weight).
- Recommended exercises:
- Standing twist crunches
- Standing crunches
- Standing hip to rib crunch
- Balance assisted straight leg hip extension
- Balance assisted straight leg hip abduction
- Recommended exercises:
3. Practice range of motion.
Runners–marathon and sprinters–use a limited range of motion during a race. They flex the hip, knee and ankle when the leg is forward followed by an extension of the hip and knee with plantar flexion in the ankle as they kick. Your hips are designed to move in a number of ways, but if they are only trained to function in one direction (back and forth), they will inevitably become unstable and lead to pain and discomfort after repeated use.
By including abduction and rotation in your training routine, your hips will become stronger, more stable, and produce longer lasting power and endurance for your run. These movements don’t require heavy weights or a trip to the gym, but they do require time.
Spend five minutes a day on full range of motion movements for the following body regions (Note: When performed slowly and deliberately, these movements will provide more stability to each joint while teaching the muscles how to perform at higher levels during your run):
- Neck. Look left, right, forward, and up. Repeat five times.
- Shoulders. Do the following heart-opening cheer:
- Give me an “A”
- Give me a “T”
- Give me a “Y”!
- Hips. Squats with 5-30 lbs. of resistance (i.e., dumbbell close to the chest, weight vest, or a few books held close to your body).
4. Take your training off-road and let your feet be naked.
Since many races and much of training take place on concrete or asphalt, the impact on your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and spine is substantial. To give relief to these muscles and joints without taking time off from training, switch the environment under your feet. Running without shoes gives your feet, calves, knees, hips, and core a new challenge. Your stride without shoes not only changes the compression on your body, but it trains the supporting muscles to work a little differently. This change promotes greater range of motion and balance by asking the muscles to perform under different circumstances, increasing their versatility.
Take your shoes off, find a grassy area, turf at the gym, or a sandy beach, and run barefoot. This allows you to:
- feel each part of your stride,
- use these muscles in a slightly different way for greater activation, range of motion, and stability
- forces your heel to strike the ground first, whereas with shoes the ball of your foot hits first.
5. Fuel your body for what’s coming.
A car won’t go very far on an eighth of a tank of gas and won’t go it’s fastest on a full tank. Fueling your body to perform is a numbers game and depends a lot on each runner and the distance desired to travel. Too much water makes you feel bloated and too much food make you feel heavy and full. The key is finding the right balance of hydration and nutrition you’re your optimal muscle performance.
Think before you eat. How is what you’re consuming going to affect your muscles and the results you desire? Depending on the distance of your race, fuel requirements vary.
- 5K: Enjoy 150-300 “easy on the fat” calories a few hours before race time and 16 ounces of water a couple hours before the start. Shortly before race time, another 8 ounces of water is preferable.
- 10K: Enjoy 500-650 “easy on the fat” calories a few hours before race time and 16 ounces. of water a couple hours before the start. Shortly before race time, another 8 ounces of water is preferable.
- Half-marathon and marathons: We defer to your coach and your body for the calorie intake before a race. On average, racers burn between 70-130 calories per hour depending on weight. Since the glycogen (sugar) in your body runs out after a couple hours, it’s likely you’ll want to ingest calories mid-race to keep you going (don’t ingest 1000+ calories right before the sun rises on race day). As for water intake during the 24-48 hours leading up to your race, drink around 72-96 to hydrate your body. Drink 16 ounces of water a couple of hours before the start, and 8 ounces of water shortly before the start will keep your body fueled without feeling bloated or heavy.
Reaching the finish line is an all systems go adventure. From training your mind to fueling your body to recovering your muscles, all cylinders must fire for a healthy race. Keeping these tips in mind—proper recovery and preparation—will make for a great run any day of the week. Run smart, feel great, and have fun doing it!