By Alex H.
Consistently working towards a goal is the best way to continue to improve. It makes sense, right? Making a conscious effort to get better at a task, day in and day out, will leave an individual a bit closer to their end goal each and every day. In running terms, every day we run, we grow stronger than we were before, and close in on our goals. But, as any runner can relate to, injuries often leave us sidelined from the activity we love. Many runners start franticly trying to self-diagnose injuries on the internet, before ending up at the doctor with a diagnosis they wish they could have prevented. Throughout the weeks and months of long miles and hard intervals, injuries are bound to show up here and there, but instead of rehab, I want to take a moment to talk about prehab.
Prehab is essentially the process of preventing injuries before they start. You can think of it as callousing your body to the rigors of running. Often, when a physical therapist instructs a patient exercises to help strengthen a damaged tendon, ligament, or muscle head, the same exercises could be used before the injury occurred to further strengthen that same area. For example, resistance band walks are great for rehabbing hip injuries, but they are also a great exercise to perform a few times a week when healthy to strengthen your hips and help prevent injuries.
In addition to resistance bands, tennis or lacrosse balls and foam rollers are great tools to use to help increase strength and flexibility. Even an old set of marbles can be put to great use to help you avoid injury! Resistance bands can be tied around a bed post or the leg of a table and used to strengthen the feet and ankles. They can also be wrapped around the hips to isolate the glutes and hamstrings. Tennis and lacrosse balls are great at targeting pressure points and tight areas. Foam rollers are great tools to help loosen and release tight fascia, or web of muscle, in larger muscle heads, like quads, calves, and hamstrings. Marbles are great for rolling out your arches, or dumping on the ground and picking up barefoot one by one. The small muscles under your feet will thank you!
If you’re wondering how can you add these exercises to your routine, the answers are much easier than you might think. Foam rolling for as little as five minutes before a run will help bring oxygen rich blood to your muscles and increase flexibility as part of an active warmup. Using a resistance band to warm up the hips and glutes works great too, or you can implement band work post-run for a challenging strength workout once your body is already fatigued. Taking your stretch rope and holding a stretch for thirty seconds helps loosen up tight muscles post run, and tying it around a bed post and doing ankle circles while watching tv is a great way to get stronger and more flexible without having to clear out extra time in your schedule. If you truly want to help your body become stronger and more flexible, the tools are there for the taking and you can find simple solutions to make yourself and healthier and more complete runner!
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