As you might know, runners are notorious for running and not doing anything else. I know this isn’t everybody, but I see so many running injuries that could have been avoided it isn’t even funny. Too many runners skip the flexibility work. They rarely stretch. I actually had one runner tell me that time spent stretching is time not spent running, so stretching isn’t worth it. Here’s the thing…if you spend a little time stretching and working on flexibility, you may not have to take as much time off from running because of injuries in the future. I would think that’s more important.
Many times if I can at least convince them to do some minimal flexibility work, they feel a lot better. I know you’re thinking about stretching. Yes, stretching is important for runners, particularly after a run, but I’m talking about self myofascial release. If you combine this with a dynamic warm up before you head out for your run, I bet you’ll feel much better starting off. It can also help keep things from tightening up along the run and help to prevent injuries. Here are a couple tools I like to use that I think every runner should have in their arsenal to help keep them healthy.
If you’ve been into running for a little while, you’ve probably heard of a foam roller and may already be using one. Using one of these is great to roll out all your lower extremity musculature before you head out for your run. You want to roll out your calves, quads, hams, ITBs, inner thighs, and butt. Then follow that up with a good dynamic warm up and you’re ready to go. I started doing this before my runs and it feels a whole lot better than starting out cold and I realized my knee didn’t bother me as much while I was running.
There are a lot of options out there to choose from, so which foam roller should you get? I would suggest getting one that is made of high density foam. Foam rollers come in all different colors, but these ones are usually black. I’ve also looked all over the place to see if I could find one in a local store that would do the job and I’ve had no luck. All they seem to sell is the lower density foam rollers, which are usually okay at first, but after some time become less effective and actually begin to dent a little bit. So, if you’re looking to buy a foam roller, your best bet is probably online or maybe in a running store.
The Stick is somewhat less popular than the foam roller, but just as useful. The Stick is actually a thin, flexible stick like tool that has a bunch of rollers between the two handles. It’s used to roll out your muscles just like the foam roller, but instead of rolling on top of it, you hold the handles like a rolling pin and roll it over your muscles. It comes in a few different sizes to choose from, also. There are some other manufacturers that make similar devices, as well.
You’re probably wondering why you would need both. Technically you don’t, but it’s really useful for just before or when you’ve just finished up a race and you have nowhere to get on the ground and foam roll. It’s also great for travel, since it doesn’t take up nearly as much space as a foam roller so you won’t have to figure out how to pack it.
If you’re looking to buy one of these, the best place is probably also online, but I think I’ve seen them in some specialty running stores as well. I’ve never been able to find one in our local run of the mill sporting goods store or any other place like that, but you never know, you might stumble upon one. I certainly don’t have all the stores that might have one in my area.
So, my recommendations are to roll out all your muscles followed by a quick dynamic warm up before you go for your run. This should only take 5 to 10 minutes, so you should be able to make time for it. Then do your regular static stretching after your run. I would also foam roll any muscles that you know give you trouble at the end of your run too. And if you can’t foam roll, use The Stick. Hopefully, if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be less likely to get running injuries and you’ll feel better while you’re out for your run. Obviously, there are other pieces of equipment that are good for runners too, but these are two of my favorites. Try them and let me know how it goes.