Click here to read about the first 5 Tips I recommend for getting back into running either after injury or a long layoff.
6. Rest in-between your workouts
This is key. If you run one day, rest those feet and legs the next. The body works by gently over-stressing things, then building them back stronger. Especially in the beginning, we need to give the body extra time to recover and build the systems for quicker recovery to come.
Note: on your in-between days you can still go into a pool or do a workout that does NOT involve weight-bearing on the legs. This gives your legs time to recover and grow back stronger, while at the same time promoting blood flow, which helps improve the recovery process!
7. Focus on your recovery
When you’re getting back into running and your muscle get stronger, they often get tighter as well. And these tighter muscles like to pull on our joints and old injuries. So in the beginning, for every minute running, you want to do at least a minute stretching, particularly with the foam roll and tennis ball.
You want to use the foam roll to roll out all of your large muscle groups, from your calves and Achilles, up to your quads and hamstrings, plus your IT band (on the side of your upper leg). Then use the tennis ball to sit on and roll out under your glutes as well. We’ll cover this more shortly, and you can get our Barefoot Running DVD for a video demonstration.
8. Work on that core
Want to stay injury free and run faster than ever?
Then get a strong core. I can’t emphasize it enough. When your core’s strong and engaged while you run, you’re not leaning, wobbling, or putting any extra pressure on your small muscle groups, which were never meant to support your entire body weight.
The simplest way to do this is to sign up for a beginner’s Pilates class. They’re not quite as in vogue as they used to be, but are incredibly powerful. With the right instructor, a Pilates class can be a lot of fun, and can teach us how to keep our core engaged for everything we do.
No class available, don’t have time, or just want to do it yourself? You can find workouts online, or check out our one-legged core work we demonstrate in our Barefoot Running DVD. The one-legged work helps strengthen your legs at the same time you’re engaging your core.
9. Listen to your body
Listening to your body is the most important thing you can do for it. This truly is a mindfulness exercise, or an exercise in being present with your body. Coming back from injury, I use mindfulness in two key ways.
First, I lay down for five minutes before each run, breathing slowly and checking in with my body. I want to know if there’s any soreness I’m not aware off, any fatigue or tightness that I need to watch, and if my immune system may be getting low. By focusing on my breath, I also help relax myself before my runs. That’s a key to staying injury free. Tight muscles, are injury-prone muscles. And limber muscles, such as those relaxed by breathing slowly and deeply through the nose, before or during a run, are more supple, relaxed, and injury resistant.
Second, when I run I’m continuously scanning my body. I’m focused on my breath, but aware of how my feet meet the ground, how they’re doing, how my ankles are doing, my knees, hips, back, shoulders, neck, and every part of myself. I try to drop all extraneous thoughts, and focus solely on being in my body and sensing how I’m doing. This means better form, greater efficiency and far less chance of injury. It also helps let me know if I need to turn for home early, and what to do the next day.
10. Practice positive mantras
This is a powerful way to heal, get stronger, set new PR’s, and run light and free. I do this both before and during my runs, when I tend to repeat a mantra of “I grow stronger with each step” or “Thank you for my strong, healthy, happy run.” Picking up the speed, I may shorten the mantra to “Strong, Healthy, Happy, Run,” “Strong, Healthy, Happy Feet” or even “Strong Healthy, Happy Knees” depending on what I need. Repeat this over and over as you run, and you can’t help but bring about that result.
So there you have it, the top ten ways to sneak back into your runs this spring, stronger and healthier than ever before, and with the foundation to set you up for a lifetime of healthy running and new PR’s. Be the tortoise for now, so you can be the hare for the long-run!
Let me know how it goes, have fun and run free!