There are plenty of good reasons to run.
For example, I got an email from Seattle-based Brooks Running this week that read, “two in three runners think running as a couple leads to more sex.” (By the way, the third runner thinks running with the other two is really awkward.)
But if you don’t do it regularly (running, I mean), the sport can beat you up.
For example, I’m writing this column while wearing a post-op shoe after getting abused by last weekend’s Rainier to Ruston Relay.
If you’re one of the more than 6,000 people who ran Saturday’s Sound to Narrows, you might understand this all too well. Maybe you woke up this morning with sore calves, thighs, hamstrings, shins or feet after pounding the pavement for nearly 71/2 miles.
Don’t let these aches turn into regrets or they’ll eventually become an excuse to stop running.
Jena Winger ran the steeplechase for Willamette University’s track team from 2005-09, and like most college runners became a recovery expert. Now, as the manager of Tacoma’s Fleet Feet Sports, she passes this knowledge on to runners.
She recently helped me solve a shin splint problem, so I thought I’d enlist her help in compiling some tips that might help you recover from Saturday’s race.
FOAM ROLLING: Various types of foam rollers and other self-massage devices are available at most sporting good stores.
“Calves tend to be especially painful,” Winger said of runners who push themselves too hard. She says foam rolling can help.
Most foam rollers come with directions and recommended techniques. But workers at running specialty stores such as Fleet Feet, Route 16 and South Sound Running are usually happy to pass along advice.
STRETCHING: Winger doesn’t recommend doing too much static stretching before races, but says it can be a great way to help muscles recover in the hours and days after a run.
REST: The R in the running recovery acronym RICE stands for rest. After giving your muscles a workout, they deserve a break. Make sure you give it to them.
The rest of RICE stands for ice, compression and elevation.
ICE: “An ice bath can help with the microtrauma in your muscles,” Winger said. “Ice reduces swelling.”
You can load up your bathtub with ice water, but it can be easy to make the water unbearably cold. If it’s convenient, Winger recommends heading to Puget Sound.
“It’s the perfect temperature, about 50 degrees,” she said. “Go barefoot and just stand in the Sound for 10 minutes.”
Strapping ice packs or bags of frozen peas to your legs for about 20 minutes can also do the trick. Just make sure you don’t put them directly on your skin.
Freezing water in a small paper cup is a good way to target a painful area such as your shins.
COMPRESSION: “I love compression after a race or even if I’m just standing around a lot,” Winger said. “It promotes circulation. I know that sounds like the opposite of what you are doing by reducing blood flow with icing. But once you’ve iced, compression promotes circulation that brings the nutrients that comes with blood flow.”
Winger wears knee-high compression socks when she runs, while she is recovering and even while she’s working around the store. Some people even wear them when they sleep, she said.
Compression socks and sleeves have become quite popular among runners, even though a pair of socks can set you back $60.
ELEVATION: This is as easy as lying down and using pillows to elevate your legs above your heart.
DO IT RIGHT NEXT TIME: The Sound to Narrows is the second Saturday of June every year. It doesn’t wait for you to get into 71/2-mile shape, so it’s understandable if you push yourself a little too hard to avoid missing this 41-year-old race.
But, on the other hand, June 14 shouldn’t sneak up on you in 2014.
Winger says the most common problem she sees in inexperienced runners is not warming up and cooling down after a race.
“Going super hard off of nothing (without warming up) increases the risk of injury,” she said. “And give your self a chance to walk a little afterward so your legs can start recovering from the shock you gave them.”
Winger recommends to start training earlier before your next race and don’t do too much too fast, perhaps the most common way people hurt themselves when starting a new sport or trying to get into shape.
“There is nothing more important than having somebody to hold you back,” Winger said.
Who knows, perhaps the perfect running partner to hold you back is your spouse. If so, you might find the lack of aches and pains isn’t the only reason you enjoy running together.
Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via firstname.lastname@example.org
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