There are a lot of things that can make you a more complete runner including mileage, intensity, and form. One of the key ingredients that running coaches often fail to mention are ALL THE LITTLE THINGS that enable a runner to run more at a higher intensity.
Much of what I am about to share below stems from my days of rehab at my local physiotherapy clinic. Personally, I have grown to love the idea of prehab instead of rehab. Taking preventative measures to ensure a healthy running life will not only give you more healthy running days, but it will save you money!
I recommend introducing each of the following slowly and during a non-competitive phase.
First off, although some doctors are coaches, not all coaches are doctors. Therefore, it is vital to assemble a health care team to ensure that if any injury presents itself, you will be equipped with a sound approach to get you back on the road as soon as possible.
Health Care Team:
- Massage Therapist
- Family physician
- Active Release Therapist
Strides: Distance (mileage) does not kill speed, not doing speed, kills speed. Implement 4-6 strides following recovery runs and 4-6 strides as part of your warm-up and cool-down on greater intensity days. I like to keep a stride counter in my training log. For example, last week I created a goal of running 40 twenty second strides for the week.
Running Drills/Plyometrics: Running drills are a great way to enforce or introduce proper form in order to increase efficiency. Plyometrics can be an integral part of any training plan from the 100-meter to the marathon. Speed and agility training is border-line essential for endurance athletes in order to remain athletic with traces of fast-twitch capabilities.
Stretching (Flexibility): This is somewhat of a no-brainer, nevertheless, I am not referring to your 4 five-second stretches you perform at a stop light during your run. Before a run I recommend some dynamic stretches to simply warm-up the muscles. Following your run is a great time for static stretching in an effort to increase range of motion and flexibility.
Core AND Hip Strength/Mobility: A lot of muscle imbalances occur in the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. Over the past few years runners have become borderline obsessed with ‘core work’ that will unquestionably provide them with abdominals that will impress their friends, but, will it make them better runners? Correct me if I am wrong, but the goal of core stabilization is to enable runners to maintain good posture throughout the race, workout, or recovery run. Therefore, more attention must be given to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. If more attention is given to the kinetic chain, we will notice an improvement in postural alignment which inevitably provides us with the desired product…greater stride length and greater stride frequency, equaling greater running speed.
Self Myofascial Release: Get out the BENGAY and give your calves a little rub down. Grab a tennis ball and get rid of the knots in your glutes. Buy a $15 foam roller and attack those IT bands and hamstrings. You will thank me later when that hiccup in your stride turns into a gallop.
Ice Bath: Enjoy your post recovery snack and re-hydrate while you prevent and reduce inflammation. The water should be approximately 60 degrees. Stay in the ice bath for 8-15 minutes, and then elevate your legs for 5 minutes.