Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “foam-roller”

Rub it Out!

Just to be clear, I’m talking about your legs. What did you think I was talking about? This really isn’t that kind of blog…although that is my area of research, broadly speaking of course, so I’m sure we can work it in somewhere. Wow, the puns just keep coming, don’t they? Ok, seriously, it’s time to get down to business. Ahh, I just can’t help myself!

Deep breath…

With Mother Nature finally beginning to relent (knock on wood) and clear away some of the debris from the roads and sidewalks, my runs are once again much smoother and less treacherous under foot. Winter running is definitely excellent training for my legs, and it helps keep me in shape for trail running, but I’ve definitely noticed that it can be harder on my calves, thighs, and IT bands. The uneven surfaces, ice patches, sand, salt, and pot holes all present additional stress on my legs in various ways. On the plus side, recent research has found that runners are more likely to run on their forefoot on hard surfaces, so perhaps the winter running has helped my forefoot strike consistency. These facts have made me focus a lot more on foam-rolling my legs and making sure I am stretching properly after my runs.

Is it finally over?

Is it finally over?

I will admit with a modicum of guilt that I have historically been pretty inconsistent when it comes to using the foam roller on my legs. Intellectually, I know it can help sustain my legs and ensure that I am doing my best to prevent injuries. However, when I get back from a great run, I am usually looking to jump straight in the shower, and then relax. The last thing I want to do is sit around in my sweaty clothes and roll out my legs (even if that’s exactly what I should be doing!). However, the intense pain I’m met with on the occasions when I do roll my legs out makes a pretty clear case for consistency. Thus, I’ve been trying to focus on using the foam roller when I get out of the shower, as well as using a more dense rolling stick before bed. We affectionately call the roller massager the “pain stick” in honor of the screaming and tears it elicits during a vigorous massage. It can be hard to remind myself that it is for the best sometimes, especially when I’m screaming into a pillow, but my legs always thank me the next day!

The "Pain Stick"- very effective if you can stand it!

The “Pain Stick”- very effective if you can stand it!

There seem to be quite a few specialized foam rollers on the market claiming to provide added benefits due to different contoured forms or raised portions. In my experience, and in speaking with several PT friends, the only benefit is in your head and in your smaller bank account. The simple white foam roller I have has worked incredibly well, and has proven very versatile for all of the various massage techniques I utilize. I will spare you the detailed descriptions of each of the routines I implement, mostly because Runners World does a much better job, and they include videos as well!

My nice and simple foam roller.

My nice and simple foam roller.

A few simple exercises

A few simple exercises

Aside from the foam roller and the pain stick, I try to utilize some simple DIY massage techniques throughout the day to try to keep my legs as relaxed and stretched out as possible. This is especially important because I spend a lot of time sitting in front of my computer. After transcribing interviews for my dissertation for several hours, some stretching and leg massage is a welcome break!


The weather is warming up, and there is talk of 50 degrees by the end of the week, so I couldn’t be happier. I’m going to be ramping up my training in some new ways in the coming months, and experimenting with some new things, so stay tuned, and happy spring!

Stuck in Limbo: Running On Tired Legs

After successive training weekends with back-to-back long runs, I’m finally beginning to hit my stride again as I look ahead to October 27th. The more I complete these training weekends, the more I get to thinking about the best way to prepare myself during the time in between each run. In essence, I’m stuck in limbo- not fully training, but not able to fully recover yet. I certainly give a great deal of thought to my preparation for long runs and races, making sure that I have my nutrition, rest, and gear ready to go. However, I haven’t necessarily altered my lifestyle in between Saturday and Sunday long runs. I know that the idea behind this training technique is training your legs to run when you are tired, and pretty much any mileage within a 24 hour period feel fairly similar to a continuous run as far as your leg muscles are concerned. However, when I get back on Saturday, I tend to go about my day like any other. Perhaps I need to put a bit more thought into this decision?

You know this popped into your head!

When I get home back on Saturday morning, like I did yesterday, after 24.5 miles, it’s pretty standard for me to shower, eat a hearty breakfast (fresh fruit, whole grains, protein) and kick back with my coffee to relax for a bit. Then I simply launch in to the tasks for the day, which seem to be many. I was having a conversation just this morning about how I no longer differentiate the weekdays from weekends because there is always plenty of work to be done. This is only going to become more true as the semester starts ramping up (starting tomorrow!) and the workload increases. However, I think I need to take a step back in order to maximize my training and my productivity.

I’m becoming more aware that I need to be smarter about how I use the time in between long runs to partially recover, and refuel properly before I go back out on a long run the next day. I can’t alter my schedule too much because things need to get done, but there are a few simple things I think I can be more conscious of as I move forward.

#1- Hydrate: It should go without saying, but I need to make sure I’m sucking down plenty of water (without over-hydrating, of course)

#2- Refocus nutrition: In essence, I should be treating the time in between in part as though I am still running, and focus my food intake on carbs, with some protein thrown into my diet (25% or so). I can eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but should keep things fresh and clean. If it wouldn’t sit well with me during a run, I don’t want to eat it during my limbo period. I probably want to limit my fiber intake too 🙂

#3- Foam Rolling: I am trying to be better about doing this consistently in general, but I need to make sure I roll my legs once or twice on Saturday afternoon to help keep them fresh for Sunday.

#4- Rest: I woke up at 5:50AM today, after getting up at 4:30AM yesterday. This just doesn’t leave enough time for my body to get the rest it requires- perhaps a new Saturday afternoon nap ritual is in order!

These steps certainly don’t seem like rocket science, but the need for intentionality is what seems to be crucial for me. Logically, I know these things need to happen, but I need to translate that into a consistent routine. Doing so will ensure that I accomplish my training goals and the rest of my professional goals at the same time! Do you have an suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

Tapering and the “Injury Gremlin”

Running is a physical and mental sport. After several marathons and other races, I am very well aware of this fact. In order to go out and run a race or train for any sizable amount of time, regardless of the weather conditions or your excitement, you need to play the mental game. You are ultimately fighting the Gremlins in your head. For me, one of the worst Gremlins is the “injury gremlin” and he typically emerges when I begin to taper close to a race. Suddenly every small pain and creak in my body has more meaning than it should. I’m not a fan of him.

Did I mention that I just entered my taper?

After hitting the pavement harder than ever before over the past three months, the time has finally come for me to enter the simultaneously coveted and difficult period of tapering before my race on April 21st. I have thoroughly enjoyed pushing myself with weekly mileage increases and I’ve seen marked improvements in my endurance and speed along the way. However, I’m not going to lie- I’m a bit excited to regain a bit of time in my life for other activities! This is especially important since Spring  has sprung early and there is plenty of work to get done outside so the lawn doesn’t turn into something out of a children’s horror film.

Up until now, I haven’t given tapering all that much thought prior to a race, aside from knowing that I had to ease up on my mileage. However, I know I’m not alone when I say that this is when every runner’s mind starts to mess with them. I don’t want to ease up too much and find myself losing momentum leading up to the race. On the other hand, I certainly don’t want to over-train and not have enough energy left when race day rolls around. Additionally, the “injury gremlin” starts to emerge. I know you know what I’m talking about. I may have been accustomed to some aches and pains over the last couple of months, but now that I’m tapering, every twinge and muscle cramp suddenly becomes significant and I get paranoid and think it’s much worse than the reality seems. For this reason, the last few weeks leading up to a race are as much about mental training as the rest of your training cycle, if not more. After my first marathon, I assumed the “injury gremlin” would go away with subsequent races, but I’m fairly certain at this point that I’m always going to be dealing with my mind’s attempt to psych me out! Perhaps it’s simply a manifestation of our brains telling us we shouldn’t be working this hard 🙂

At any rate, I’m going to be working very hard over the next few weeks to taper intentionally. I’m going to be following a strict running schedule, and not succumb to the temptation to squeeze in a “few more miles” even though I know the competitive spirit in me is going to want to push on. I’m also going to try and squeeze in some more cross-training, with cycling being my preferred method. It can be a great low-impact workout that helps to maintain your cardio and endurance, and strengthens your legs without the stress of pounding the pavement.

In doing some reading on tapering, I was happy to confirm that my 3 weeks of tapering seems just about right for the 40-mile distance I’ll be tackling later this month, although I’m sure a few more days would be ok as well. In general, the timeline breaks down something like this:

Marathon Distance: 19 to 22 days

15K to 30K: 11 to 14 days

5k to 10K: 7 to 10 days

This period is also a great time to start making sure you have all your ducks in a row. Are your shoes still holding up? Do you want to change out your laces? Have you ordered the nutrition you’ll be using during the race? Do you have all of the gear (water bottles, sunglasses, socks, etc.) that you need for the race? Do you have your travel plans confirmed and know the location and time for packet-pick up? What are you going to be eating the night before the race? Can you tell that I’m a planner? 🙂

So, as I maintain my level of fitness and endurance and prepare myself for the race to come, I’ll be doing my best not to let the “injury gremlin” creap into my head and mess with the hard work I’ve already put in. As is always the case when defeating a gremlin- just add water!

Other Tapering Resources

Runner’s World- It’s Taper Time

Marathon Tapering The Ultimate Marathon Tapering Guide

Marathon Training Tips- Slow Down For Maximum Performance

Stop, Drop, and Roll: Post-Run Work

Stop, drop, and roll. We all remember the age-old mantra from elementary school for fire-prevention. Clearly enough idiots had caught fire and decided to run around screaming, feeding oxygen to the very fire that was killing them- hence, children are encouraged not to follow in their footsteps (literally and figuratively!). As it turns out, that same advice seems to have some credence when it comes to running as well.

Whether you felt like you were on fire during your last run or not, you no doubt thought about doing some stretching when you returned home. If you are anything like me, thinking doesn’t always mean doing 🙂 So often, after a long run, I’ll get home, find some chocolate milk (insert whichever recovery nutrition you prefer), and want nothing more than to relax- on the floor, in the bed, in a hot shower. Before I know it, I’ll have completely forgotten about the important final maintenance step- stretching and rolling.

However, I’m trying to “roll over” a new leaf, and a new study released this month provides even more evidence concerning the benefits of massage post-run. Popular knowledge has always told us that massaging an area releases built-up lactic acid in your muscles, and while that might not actually be the case, evidence now suggests that it does reduce inflammation and increase the repair of muscle cells. Now, as much as all of us would love to have an in-house massage-therapist, the feasibility for such extravagance is usually not there. Enter the foam roller.

Many runners are well aware of the impending evil that is the foam roller. Rolling out your IT band is probably listed somewhere in the CIA’s handbook on torture techniques, in fact. I’m sure that has nothing to do with why I’m so quick to conveniently forget to use it though. However, for many runners, this form of massage continues to prove useful, and now we have even more evidence as to why. For those of you looking for techniques, Running Times has a great article on simple foam roller exercises. Awhile ago, I also picked up the Pro-Tec Roller Massager, which works great for more pin-pointed massage. You can think of it as a condensed foam-roller, which also means the wonderful, healing pain you feel is condensed!

So, as we increase our frequency and distances with the emergence of spring, let’s try to make a commitment to end every run with the words of our elementary school teacher ringing in our ears- stop, drop, and roll!

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