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Self Care 

Whilst Running will undoubtedly maintain a healthy body / cardiovascular system it can lead to a little wear and tear on the body if you do not take the time to prepare and maintain yourself before and after a run. Thankfully we have Vikki, our own in house Personal Trainer and Coach in Running Fitness to offer advice and tips. Vikki is happy to offer guidance on your gait, running technique, improving your distance or speed during our group runs. She has also kindly authored some very useful runners guides drawn from her training and experience. 

 

She started running in her mid-twenties, and has successfully completed marathons, triathlons and endurance events in the UK and abroad. She quickly discovered an enthusiasm for health and fitness that inspired her to study to become a Personal Trainer and therefore share her passion with others.

 

Warming Up

We've all seen those people at the start of a race, or indeed at a park run, skipping, stretching and running short laps before the main event. You may have silently asked "why are you wasting your energy?!". 

 

But all evidence points to the fact that spending some time warming up, not only before a race but before any run, can significantly improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury. So what purpose does the warm up serve? It should gently stretch the muscles and gradually raise the heart rate in order to prepare the body for exercise. 

 

As a runner there are a few elements you may like to include in your warm up.
 

Dynamic Stretching
 

You're about to start moving for a significant period of time so it's better that your stretches also involve some element of movement. If you do nothing else, do these three stretches before your runs. You don't need to spend long on them but it will help.

  • Heel pumps (calf and achilles) - Lean into a wall or similar and pump the heels up and down in turn for 20-30 seconds.

  • Leg swings (hip flexors) - Steady yourself side on to a wall. Swing the leg nearest the wall back and forth, increasing range of movement for 20-30 seconds. Turn and repeat on the other side. 

  • Hamstring swoops - (hamstrings) - Take one leg out straight with the heel on the floor and toe pointing up. Keeping the leg straight, lean down and swoop the arms down and up, coming up to standing. Switch legs and swoop again. Repeat 8-10 times on each leg.

 

Drills

Pick a point 20-30m away, perform the drill to this point and take an easy jog back. Repeat each one 2-3 times if time allows.

  • High knees - Whilst jogging your thigh should raise to be parallel to the floor, knee and ankle at right angles.

  • High heels - Whilst jogging your thigh should raise to be parallel to the floor, with the foot coming up underneath your backside.

  • Skips - Think Morecambe and Wise! High bounding using opposite arm to help give you lift.

  • Bounds - Leaping forward from one foot to another, aiming to cover as much ground with each step as possible.

  • Fast feet - Taking small steps, aiming to keep the feet turning over as quickly as possible.

 

Accelerations
 

Pick a point 20-30m away, accelerate to this point, maintain the speed for another 10-20m and then decelerate. Take an easy jog back. Repeat each 4 times aiming to reach around 60% of your maximum speed to begin with, then 70%, 80% and 90%

 

Now go and enjoy that run!

 
Post Run Stretches

Stretching after running serves an important purpose, that is to return the muscles to their original length and possibly lengthen them further. There are two common types of stretches:

 

Maintenance stretches (to return muscles to original length) which should be held for 15-20 seconds. 

Development stretches (to further lengthen the muscles) which should be held for 10-15 seconds, relaxed and then held again for a further 20-30 seconds.

 

Here are six stretches that I would recommend as a minimum after running. It may surprise you to see upper body stretches included, but we use our arms a lot in running, especially trail running!

 

  • Hamstring stretch: Straighten one leg out in front of you with the heel on the floor and foot flexed. Put your weight on your other leg and lean forwards, pushing the hip of the outstretched leg backwards to feel a stretch through the hamstring and into the glute (backside). Hold for at least 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

  • Calf stretch: Step back with one foot, pressing the heel to the floor. Move your body weight forwards until you feel a stretch in the lower leg. Hold for at least 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

  • ITB: Take the right leg behind the left and raise the right arm up and over head, leaning to the left slightly. Hold for at least 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

  • Quad stretch: Lift up one foot towards your backside holding it in place with the hand on the same side of the body. Use your other hand to help you balance if need be. Make sure the knees are together and the hips push forwards to increase the stretch. Hold for at least 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

  • Chest stretch: Place your hands in the small of your back and squeeze the elbows towards each other. Push the chest forwards to increase the stretch. Hold for at least 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

  • Shoulder stretch: Straighten one arm and bring it across the chest, holding either above or below the elbow with your free hand. Try to ensure there is a gap between your shoulder and ear. Hold for at least 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
     

 
Conditioning Exercises

Caring for your Achilles

 

There are some injuries that the running community seem more prone to than any others and one of these is achilles tendinitis. The achilles is the large tendon that runs down the back of your lower leg and is the largest tendon in the body. It connects your calf muscles to your heel bone and is used when you walk, run, climb stairs, jump, and stand on your tip toes. Although the Achilles tendon can withstand great stresses from running and jumping, it is also prone to overuse and degeneration sometimes resulting in tendinitis. Tendinitis can occur at anytime, even in people who aren't regularly active but more commonly results after years of overuse (e.g. long distance runners and sprinters). It's more likely to occur with a sudden increase in the amount or intensity of exercise activity or from having tight calf muscles.

If you do develop tendinitis, rest and ice along with anti-inflammatory medication (always consult your doctor before use) are the first steps in recovery. But there are some exercises you can do to help.

 

  • Calf stretches : Lean forward against a wall with one knee straight and the heel on the ground. Place the other leg in front, with the knee bent. To stretch the calf muscles and the heel cord, push your hips toward the wall in a controlled fashion. Hold the position for 10 seconds and relax. Repeat this exercise 20 times for each foot. You should feel a strong pull in the calf during the stretch.

  • Heel drops : Stand at the edge of a stair, or a raised platform that is stable, with just the front half of your foot on the stair. Lift your heels then slowly lower your heels to the lowest point possible. Repeat this 20 times with both heels together and also with each heel individually. This exercise should be done in a slow, controlled fashion and can be made harder with the addition of a weight in each hand.


But of course, prevention is better than cure so try to avoid sudden increases in your running distances, particularly if you're moving from road to trail running, and always do your stretches after running!!

 

In addition you could try three sets of 10 repetitions of these exercises for strengthening your achilles tendons.

 

  • Heel raises : similar to the heel drops above but done on solid ground. Raise yourself up and down on your toes, first on both feet and then on one foot at a time

  • Towel stretch : sit on the floor, legs extended with a towel draped around the soles of your feet and push your toes against the towel

  • Leg press : using the leg press machine at your gym or a strong resistance band, using both legs together and each leg separately
     

 

Caring for your Lower Legs

One of the benefits of running trails as opposed to roads is that our ankles, lower legs and core muscles get a greater workout with the stabilising muscles being engaged more. The advantages of strength training for runners is often cited, particularly in relation to those large muscle groups in the legs of quads, glutes and hamstrings. But what about those smaller ones in the feet, ankles and calves? Spend a bit of time on these drills and stretches to improve strength, stability and help prevent injury. Your legs will thank you!


Start with bare feet on a solid surface (preferably not soft carpet). Stand straight with feet hips distance apart. Lift all your toes and place them down one-by-one starting with the outside (pinky!) toes first spreading them out nice and wide. Lean from the ankles forward/backwards and side to side a few times eventually finding what feels like a comfortable centre.

 

  • Big toe presses: Press ONLY your big toe down for 5 seconds x 5

  • Bit toe lifts: Lift only your big toe x10. Do this 3 times

  • Alphabet balance: Lift one leg in front of you and write the alphabet with your foot (like a paintbrush!) Repeat with the other foot.

  • Walk forward on your toes 30 steps

  • Walk backwards on your toes 30 steps

  • Walk forward on your heels 30 steps

  • Walk backwards on your heels 30 steps

  • Raise yourself up onto your toes with feet facing forwards and slowly lower back down 15 times.

  • Raise yourself up onto your toes with feet facing outwards and slowly lower back down 15 times.

  • Raise yourself up onto your toes with feet facing inwards and slowly lower back down 15 times.

  • Lay a towel on the floor and try to scrunch it up using only the toes on one foot. Repeat with the other foot.

 

Take care of your body and it will take care of You

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© 2020 by Patrick Kerry, Berkshire Trail Runners