Mostly I find Nick Paterno to be quite motivational.
He runs fast and far, and teaches others to do the same.
But when I saw him gliding smoothly toward me on a recent Saturday morning, I have to admit I was a little jealous. It wasn’t his flawless form or even his speed that I coveted, but rather his indestructibility.
My body, my left foot to be precise, broke down 5.5 miles into a 10-mile run for the second time in 10 days and was enduring the walk of shame back to my car. Paterno had just finished the 10-mile run with his group’s fastest runner, run a mile back to walk with me and then planned to head out again to support others finishing up a 16-mile run.
Oh, he’d showed up an hour before all of us to put in eight miles, and now he was debating whether to run 20 or 30 miles the next morning.
I love running, but I’ve never been able to stay at it for long without pain. This is precisely why I started training with a group coached by Paterno out of the Bonney Lake Fleet Feet Sports store.
It was time to get back to basics. Time to learn how to overcome these injuries (back, ankle, foot, etc.) that always seem to keep me from being able to run on a regular basis.
In the two months before Paterno stopped to walk with me, he’d already helped me work through two annoying injuries and I figured this, too, would eventually pass (although my left foot is packed in ice as I write this).
But I was still jealous and I told him so.
Paterno understood. When he isn’t managing the Fleet Feet store or training for a 100-mile race in May, he teaches at Pierce College. He teaches statistics, so he’s certainly used to dealing with bewildered pupils.
He didn’t always log crazy miles. He spent years training his body to get to the point where he could enter a 100-mile race.
Here’s the thing about running, pain might creep up on you now and then, but there’s almost always a way to overcome it and teach your body to keep it at bay. (Or, at least, that’s what runners like Paterno tell me.)
But here’s the tough part. The way is different for everybody. Pain doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t built to run, your body can’t take it, your too big or any other common excuse (I’ve used them all).
Pain is just a problem to be solved.
It might take more or better stretching. It might take new shoes. It might take a tweak of your stride or an overhaul of your diet. It might take a coach, a podiatrist, a physical therapist or all of the above.
But pain can be conquered if you don’t let it become an excuse. Or so I’m told.
So I’m setting out to solve the problem and I have no clue how long it will take.
“It might take a year,” said Sabrina Seher, another Fleet Feet coach who overcame her own litany of injuries to become a nearly 100-mile-per-week runner who twice ran four marathons in four days. “But you’ll get there.”
So, where to begin? With the basics, of course. I recently met up with Paterno and asked for an outline of a good pre- and post-run routine. Something that will help keep pain away.
Here’s what he does:
1. An hour before longer runs — more than 8-10 miles or more than an about an hour — Paterno recommends having something to eat. One of his go-to meals is a bagel and orange juice.
2. Depending on how far or how hard he’s running, Paterno may loosen up first by using a foam roller. This is a dense cylinder that essentially allows you to administer a self massage.
3. A light warm-up, usually a mile jog. If you’re just starting out and worried about overdoing it, Paterno says walking for about five minutes will suffice.
4. Stretch. Some light static stretching and maybe some dynamic stretching, especially if you’re doing speed work.
Here’s a stretching routine Paterno uses with the group he coaches. Do each of these for about 10-15 yards:
• Toe walk to warm up your calves and Achilles tendons.
• Heal walk to warm up the muscles around your shins.
• High knees for your hip flexors with some added benefit for your glutes and hamstrings.
• Butt kickers (kicking your heels toward your butt) for hamstrings and glutes.
• Frankenstein (walking while swinging your legs upward on each step) for your hamstring and glutes.
• Lunges for your glutes, quads and hamstring. “This is the best beforehand stretch that I have done,” Paterno said.
• Karaoke (moving laterally while turning one leg in front, then behind the other). Repeat facing the opposite direction. (Singing is optional.) This is for the legs and core.
• Warm up and stretch your legs some more by finding a support to hold on to and spend some time swinging each. A forward-and-back motion loosens the hip flexors. Swinging your legs side to side stretches the iliotibial band on the outside of the leg.
5. If you’re still tight, add in a little static stretching to loosen that area.
1. Eat and drink to help your body start recovering. There are plenty of recovery drinks to choose from, but Paterno says chocolate milk works well, too. He also suggests eating a little protein within 30 minutes of your run.
2. While the hot tub might sound nice after a long run, ice is better. It helps reduce swelling and speeds recovery. Sound unbearable? It doesn’t have to be that miserable. Some local runners wade into Puget Sound for 10-15 minutes. But if you’re in the tub, you don’t need to add ice, Paterno said. “Just really cold water works for me.”
3. Paterno often hops back on the foam roller after a run. If it was a long run he might follow that up by using a trigger point kit. “The foam roller gets the top layer of muscle and the trigger point kit gets a little deeper.”
He’ll stretch again, too, and stretches any areas that feel tight during the day.
Before bed, he uses the foam roller one more time.
4. Drink lots of water, he said, “but you ought to be doing that anyway.”Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 firstname.lastname@example.org thenewstribune.com/fitness theolympian.com/fitness @AdventureGuys