One of the hardest parts of training for any race is avoiding the pitfalls of injuries. Even the most seasoned and wisest athletes end up plagued with some sort of ache or pain. Whether it is just something nagging or an injury that leaves you sidelined for awhile, there are a few things you can do to help yourself.
I have been injured numerous times. From nagging plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis to stupid little aches that won’t go away; I have seen my share of annoyances. Regardless of how well thought out a plan is or how well your body handles mileage, these things happen. And your best defense is a sweet arsenal. Below are some of my favorites and the best part is, most of them are super simple and easy to have around:
Lucky for us, we coach a lacrosse program and we always have these on hand. Lacrosse balls work incredibly well to get at knots in your muscles. During almost an entire marathon training cycle of 16 weeks I had horrible piriformis pain one year. It was terrible! The one thing that provided relief was sitting on a lacrosse ball. In fact, I kept one in the car and sat on it during every ride home from a long run.
Just make sure you buy the white hard balls that are used to play actual games with and not the soft practice balls. Those won’t provide nearly the same relief.
This is one of those “hurts so good” tools. We runners are gluttons for punishment and our pain management is no exception. The Stick is like a rolling pin with little wheels on it which allow the tool to get deep into painful and sore muscles. You can use it on any “meaty” area of your body. Go ahead and dig deep or have a partner help you out. This bad boy can get deep into muscles and break down knots and areas of painful buildup. Just don’t use it on a hard area of the body like your shoulders or spine. It won’t do anything to help you and it will hurt like heck!
Funny story here. I cannot type this out without thinking of the song “Going To The Chapel” by the Dixie Cups. When I was in 7th grade my buddy Anna and I were in math together and were a team for a stock market challenge. She insisted this be our team name and we killed it. So lesson learned, always look to the Dixie Cups.
Honestly though, these work super duper well for icing. Buy the size cups you would use at the dentist’s office to swish with (small). Fill them up and leave them in the freezer. When you need to do an ice treatment just pull one out, tear away the top portion of the paper and use the bottom of the cup as your handle. This allows you to work the ice around the actual injured area as opposed to an ice pack plopped down in a general spot.
I cannot sing the praises enough for these things. Skip them on the run because then you just have a sweat rag wrapped around your calves. Instead, throw these on after your run or do what I do and wear them to sleep (ladies the men go wild for this kind of nightwear!).
Compression sleeves after a run will help speed up recovery and keep swelling and inflammation away. If you are experiencing calf or shin pain, or tend to be prone to a slow recovery after long runs, these are perfect for you. I also recommend these for athletes who know they are prone to aches and pains at certain points in training. There is nothing wrong with a preemptive strike when it comes to compression.
Just make sure you buy the right size for you. You want these to be very snug on you without cutting off your circulation. And while these can be rather pricey (around $40 a pair) I truly believe they are worth every penny and recommend having two pairs if you can. If you are on a tight budget you can also find slightly less expensive brands at stores like Target. However, this is one that I don’t mess around with because I know it makes a big difference in my training.
This stuff is crazy awesome for so many reasons. In fact, at some point I will do a post on the dozens of ways I like to use coconut oil. But I have found this to be the perfect massage treatment. It comes in a jar and tends to be hard at room temperature. Just run it under some hot water and then pour a little out into your hands. Apply to the painful or tight area and go to town with your hands and fingers. The slickness of the oil allows you to really dig deep into muscles. It doesn’t dry up too quick so you don’t have to apply it over and over again. And a little bit goes a long way. Plus you will have silky smooth skin after each use.
While you are at it, wet the ends of your hair and apply some oil. I like to do this and pull my hair into a bun and then go for a run. Typically the sweat and sun dry the ends of my hair out. So I use an hour long run as my hair therapy. When I get home I just wash it out and condition my hair as usual and my ends look healthy and shiny. This one might not make you a better runner but who doesn’t feel better running when they like how they look?!