Complete body care guide for runners

What is body care?

Body care for a runner, means doing exercises preparing for, as well as recovering from a run. Body care is a vital part of effective training, as it enables you to take care of your muscle balance, avoid overloading your body and help improve your performance.

Post-run exercises entail recovering drills, which serve a purpose of speeding up a process, where lactic acid retires from the muscle and the muscles are restored in their resting length.

These recovering drills can be performed immediately after a run, or a few hours later. And like the name says it helps the muscles to recover from the stress caused by running.

Pre-run exercises helps you to reach better performance and improve as a runner. These exercises entail mobility drills for the spine and joints.

Good mobility enables a good running posture as well as economical and efficient power usage. As an example, when your hip is fully mobile on its extension path it allows a better power usage of your glute. In case the joint doesn’t provide its full potential, the muscle cannot provide it either. A confined extension of the hip may also cause pain in your lower back.

The human spine folds in all directions, and a healthy spine shouldn’t have to be guarded in any folding direction. The spine gets its nutrients throughout its movement. By taking care of your spine being mobile in all possible directions, you enable its nutrition. The structure of the spine is strengthened when it’s used.

Modern day people mostly sit throughout the day. This weakens especially the mobility of the hip. Staying still as well as tense muscles also have an impact on your fascia connections. So, in a way we freeze into the position, we spend most of our time in, whilst awake.

 

Body awareness

 

In addition to monotonous strain, also stress and hurry keep our focus off the feelings of the body, and due to this we have lost part of our capability to be aware of our own bodies. That is why as a part of the runners pre- and post-workout exercises it’s also important to focus on improving your body awareness as well as doing some breathing exercises. By learning to listen to your body, you can also learn to monitor your workouts – you feel when it’s necessary to rest or when you can go full out.

 

Practicing body awareness:

A mindfulness body scan, duration 5-10 minutes

Lay down, arms by your sides and close your eyes. Start with focusing on your breathing. Feel how the air flows in and out of your nostrils. Let go of the stress and heavy thoughts, just focus on breathing. Concentrate on feeling where in your body you feel the breathing. Scan your body from bottom to top, start from your toes and the bottom of your feet. Listen to your body and respect its feelings.

You might feel slight tingling or strong sensations. Whatever you might feel, notice it without classifying it as good or bad.

Next, move up to your ankles an instep. Let your breathing flow and notice what you are feeling.

Move on up to your calves and chins. To your knees and thigs.

After that move on up to your hip area, lower and upper back and finally to your stomach and chest area.

To your shoulders, arms and hands.

Neck and throat area, face, back of your head and the top of your head.

All the while breathing in and out and listening, how your body is feeling. Is there tension or pain? Is there a good and warm feeling?

Whatever your feeling, register the feelings without categorizing them. When you notice your mind wonder to other matters during the exercise, gently bring it back to your breathing and continue scanning the body.

Rehearsing your body awareness improves your ability to understand your own body. You learn to feel when your body is up for a wearing exercise and when it’s smart to take it easy. At the same time, you learn to perceive the healthy position and direction of the body while running, you also learn what helps with maintaining a good running position and technique.

Also ‘tension and release’-exercises help you relax raise awareness of your own body. The ability to relax is important for recovering properly. Tension and release exercises enable you to identify better, how your body feels like when it is tense in comparison to it being relaxed. This skill helps you to engage

your muscles appropriately. Like the name says the exercise is based on flexing and releasing the muscle.

 

Tension and release exercise

Focus on flexing different muscle groups for 5-10 seconds. After this let the flexed muscle relax and the tension sort of melt away. You can start the exercise from a supine position. Try to set yourself up in a tranquil environment, where you can focus only on your body.

Close your eyes and start flexing your muscles by pulling you ankles up and pushing your hams towards the platform under them, by straightening your knees.

The tension does not have to be powerful, a slight flex counting to five is enough. After that let the muscle relax. Breathe free in your own natural manner.

After that squeeze your thighs together and hold the position counting to five. Relax. Notice how it feels, when your muscles are flexed and when they’re released again.

Squeeze your fingers into a fist and push your arms towards the floor. Count to five and slowly let your muscles relax again.

Notice the feeling in your arms and legs now. Notice how your breathing feels.

Lastly squeeze your mouth and eyes shut. Now let you face relax and let all the tension melt away. Enjoy the relaxed feeling on your own for a bit.

Body awareness & breathing

Noticing your breathing helps you relax and is also beneficial for performance. Nowadays when people go about their life in a hurry for most people their breathing is shallow, and they’re only using the top part of their lungs.

Shallow breathing effects our performance, because that allows us to use only part of our lung-capability. Profound breathing helps the carbon dioxide to leave our body easier. The key element is boost exhalation.

Let your lungs be fully empty and let the inhalation happen automatically. Exhalation should take approximately twice as long as inhalation. Feel the inhalation also as movement on your sides, back and diaphragm. In exhalation the stomach flattens, and the pelvic floor muscles activate more.

Test your breathing

One of the disadvantages of too much stress, frequent breathing, can be telling of the over functioning of your sympathetic nervous system. You can test the rhythm of your breathing easily.

Sit in a tranquil location and let our breath flow freely. Don’t try to change your current breathing rhythm. Relax and calm down, but breath normally and measure how many breathing cycles (an inhalation and an exhalation = one cycle) you go through in a minute.

A normal rhythm is approximately 10 cycles in a minute. If you measured nine or less cycles, you most likely are not suffering

from a stress based shallow breathing. However, if you measured ten or more cycles, you do most likely suffer from a too frequent breath rhythm and a shallow breathing due to stress.

Aim to recognize the cause of stress and think how you could control them.

 

Body awareness and taking care of your body

The best way to avoid injuries is by improving your body awareness skills, and by taking care of your muscle balance, good position and sufficient recovery. By learning to identify, when it’s necessary to rest and when you can go all out, you can reach you can reach your best performance and avoid injuries. You learn to understand when your body’s in balance, what has to be strengthened and what needs taking care of.

Avoid too wide changes in workouts, add load a bit by bit and let your body get used to the strain. Also, the variation of load is important – a rule of thumb could be: every fourth weeks should be taken a little bit lighter and let the body recover fully by having at least one or too full recovery days. And in workouts the value should be kept in the mobility of joints as well as taking care of the resting state of muscles.

  1. A Runners mobility exercise

    Instead of static and sustained stretches, a runner is better suited with short and highly dynamic stretches. In dynamic stretching, the movement is the key and each stance are not kept for long. This improves the ability to carry out the active movement in the whole trajectory of each joint. The movements are calm and from a stance to another is moved without deconstructive movements.

     

    An Exercise: dynamic stretching

    Move 1. Rotation of the ankle while seated

    Sit on the fl oor, legs straight in front of you and back upright. Start rotating your ankles from outside in and go for the broadest trajectory viable. Switch the rotation direction.

     

    Move 2. Calf stretch while standing

    Bring your other leg in front and bend your knee a little bit. Keep the leg remaining back straight and see that the ankle and foot are direct and that the heel stays touching the ground. You should feel the stretching on the upper part of the thigh in the leg that is positioned behind. The movement can be done dynamically, let the knee of the leg in front slowly bend more.

    Notice how the stretching sensation increases on the leg that is positioned behind. Then slowly straighten the leg in front and repeat. Remember calm movements.

    Move 3. Calf stretch by modifying the angle of the knee Start by standing upright and step your other foot forward. Maintain a straight lining of the legs on both sides. Start moving your hips forward and at the same time let the front leg bend from the knee. You should feel a stretch on the upper part of your calf (gastrognemius). By letting the behind leg bend from the knee also, you stretch the lower half of the calf (soleus).

    You can time the movement by letting the leg behind you bend during exhalation and straighten during inhalation. This move is particularly good for runners, because it also stretches the soleus-muscle, of which tightness is connected to the arch being too low, thus among other things exposing you to plantar fasciitis.

     

    Move 4. Front thigh stretch standing up

    Stand upright and bend your other leg behind you. Grab your foot with both your hands, and bring you heel towards you buttock. Switch sides.

     

    Move 5. Hip flexor stretch on your other knee

    Place your other knee on the ground and the other leg in a 90- degree angle in front of you. For the technique of the movement it’s important to see that you shouldn’t let your pelvis or the lumbar spine to compensate for the tenseness of your hip

    flexors.

    See that you extend your back straight upright, don’t arch it. Don’t allow you navel to be too far in front of you, take care that

    your core is under control. Tilt your pelvis backwards, sort of like you are pulling a tail between your legs.

    In a dynamic stretch push your pelvis as far front as you can and then revert it back. Remember calm movements. You can time the movement with inhalation and exhalation. Let the hip flexor stretch during exhalation and return during inhalation.

    Boost the exercise by adding movement for the arms. During the stretch lift your arms straight up, or slightly on your sides. This practices elasticity of the frontal fascia lines. See that you core is controlled, and your back is straight.

     

    Move 6. The cross stretching of the body

    Lay on the fl oor on your back. Move your other leg across your pelvis to the other side of the fl oor. Keep your shoulders attached to the fl oor. Repeat on the other side.

     

    Move 7. Adductor stretch

    Start by standing upright. Take a wide stance and rotate your feet slightly outward. After this bend your knees and descend towards the floor. You can press your knees more outward with your forearms, that should enhance the stretch. See that you core is controlled, and your back is straight.

     

    Move 8. Thorax and adductor stretch

    Sit on the fl oor legs spread to the sides. Rotate your upper body by moving your left hand toward your right ankle. While doing this, also move your right hand back and up. Follow your right hand with your look. Repeat on the other side.

    Move 9. Buttock stretch while sitting

    Sit on the fl oor reclining back leaning on your arms. Bring your other ankle on top of your knee. By changing your position more upward, you enhance the stretch. Repeat on the other side.

  2. Weight training for a runner

Until today, weight training for a runner is still often an intimidating and unnecessary feeling affair. Weight training isn’t considered to bring anything positive into running – on the contrary, it is thought that the growth of muscles caused by weight training is leading to a larger consumption of energy, and a heavier performance.

These assumptions, according to modern science, aren’t true and the newest research indisputably shows that weight training is beneficial also to runners.

The growth of the muscles is also not to be afraid of, endurance training disciplines the growth. The belief, that a maximal weight training would deteriorate the capillary connections beneficial in endurance training, is also not true.

Nowadays is known, that the capillary connections won’t wither, if endurance training and weight training are practiced at the same time. Thus, the oxygen is efficiently transferred to the muscle and the removal of metabolic waste won’t be endangered due to maximal weight training.

An endurance athlete might easily be tempted to practice only the endurance power qualities. However, it’s important to remember that maximum strength is the base of all power qualities and is especially highlighted on behalf of endurance and speed strength. That is why an endurance athlete should practice maximum power qualities, where the power levels of

the muscle are elevated by focusing the exercise more on the nervous system.

By raising their maximum power reserve, a runner also raises their endurance qualities. This combined with sustained weight training as a part of sectioned workouts, lands a runner in the best possible outcome. For the best possible result, it’s important to take care that the weight training is sectioned, and that basic strength and endurance exercises are included.

A runner exploits the increase of strength in multiple ways. When the strength levels rise, the ability to produce power and effectivity grows, speed increases and agility multiplies. Weight training also helps improve muscle endurance and helps with the co-operation of the muscles and joints. This in turn enhances the muscle power to transition to movement. At the same time, the risk of injuries decreases, because the body becomes more sustainable.

 

The importance of rest times in weight training

In weight training it is important to take care of the necessary rest between sets. The length of the resting period depends on the power quality being trained and it’s more and more normal nowadays to strive for almost a full recovery between sets. This means almost a 3-8-minute resting period, when it comes to the main movements. During basic- and maximum-strength periods the resting length should be determined so that the body has time to recover enough, without having to elongate the workout to absurd lengths. During an endurance-strength period, the resting time between sets can be significantly shorter, from somewhere around 45 seconds to a minute.

Planning weight training for a runner

While planning a weight training schedule for a runner it’s, like before mentioned, important to take into consideration the demands of the main sport, and the pacing of weight training. Also combining the weight training with the actual running exercise is important to ponder, so that it is possible to be certain the recovery time is long enough. A good rule of thumb is once a week slows declining down, twice a week maintains current standard and three times a week develops strength.

The varieties of weight training

 

Variety Reps Resistance

Maximum strength

1–4

90–100 % / 1RM

Basic strength

8–12

70–80 % / 1RM

Endurance strength

15+

< 65 % / 1RM

(RM = the maximum resistance/maximum weight of one repetition)

 

The scheduling in endurance training

 

Variety (in order) Duration, Reps

weeks

Basic strength

4–8

8–12

Maximum strength

3–4

3–5

Endurance strength

3–4

15–20 or 20–30

(start with the basic strength and move onto maximum strength etc.)

Building an exercise program

 

In running, a triple extension is typical for a step; the hip, the knee and the ankle extend and carry the runner onward. This is combined with the assisting work of the upper body. Exercising the profound muscles helps maintaining the body upright, even when the muscles are drained. It takes mainly endurance strength qualities. During the pace contact speed strength qualities are also needed. Due to the body’s muscle balance it is also necessary to exercise the upper body muscles diversely.

Main muscle-groups a runner should exercise in order to progress: buttock, thighs (front and back) and calves.

 

A movement bank for a runner

Here is a dandy bank of exercise moves for a runner, where you can pick the most suitable ones for yourself. This list is by no means consummate, or to be taken word for word, but merely an example of different movements and exercises, which would be good for a runner to concentrate on.

Profound muscles

  1. Plank (try to keep the superficial muscles out of the game). Avoid planking too long, because that is when the work easily transfers to the more superficial muscles. Start with shorter, about 10 second planks and add the duration little by little.

  2. Leg lift laying on your back. Lay on your back with your other leg knee up. Start lifting the bent leg from the floor, without moving your pelvis. Repeat 10 times and switch legs.

  3. Pelvic floor muscles. Attempt tensing your pelvic floor muscles, hold the tension for a few seconds and release. Start with short, around two second tensions and add duration little by little.

Weight training

  1. Core muscles: abdominal muscles, back muscles: 2x 20-30 repetitions

  2. Buttocks: deadlift, press, bend in the leg extension machine

  3. Hamstrings: deadlift, press, bend in the leg extension machine

  4. Quadriceps: press, extend in the leg extension machine

  5. Calves: tiptoe with additional weight and heels touching in the upward position

  6. Back: rowing machine, low row machine

  7. Chest: bench press

  8. Shoulders: shoulder press

In addition to basic weight training, dynamic exercises are worth doing. A good runner friendly exercise is lunges while reaching upward.

Step your right foot forward while lowering yourself closer to the ground, reach your left hand straight up and let your back arch back a little. This is good for activating the body’s spiral line.

Repeat the exercise on the other side.

But how do I go to the gym and what to do there? Star by thinking what a good gym scheduling for your weight training is. Once, twice or three times a week?

A workout should be assembled so that it takes around 60 to 90 minutes to do, including warmups and cooldown/stretching. The basic starting point could be following:

  1. Warmup on a stationary bike approx. 10 min. Add 3 to 5 dashes that are around 10-15 seconds long, to get your heart rate up and prepare your body for the upcoming workout.

  2. Test your mobility and the readiness state of your body by doing a few dynamic stretches. Do one stretch per movement.

  3. Weight training approx. 50 min. Depending on your weekly gym routine you can either do the whole-body workout at once or emphasize the lower body and the upper body in different workouts.

  4. Cooldown on a stationary bike, approx. 5 minutes.

  5. Stretch, return the muscles to their resting length, approx. 10 minutes.

  6. Relaxation for the end, approx. 5 minutes.

The workout above takes about 90 minutes.

4. The most typical injuries for a runner

unning is an amazing hobby, but sometimes it comes with pain and a few gray hairs. How to avoid injuries and get past them? We have gathered a packet of knowledge about the six most common injuries concerning running and directions on how to deal with them.

As a general rule of thumb can be said, that if you feel intense pain during a workout, should the workout be discontinued immediately, and the pain be evaluated. Generally, it is also wise to abstain from intense exercising during the next few days.

Light exercising can be done within pain limits. If the injury doesn’t heel in a sensible time you should consult a physiotherapist or a doctor.

General factors concerning injuries:

  • Faulty positions

  • Restrictions on joint mobility, muscle tenseness, muscle weakness and lack of muscle balance

  • Too much strain on exercises

  • Too fast modifications on the exercise strains

  • Insufficient preparation for an exercise

  • Insufficient taking care of your body

Most common injuries

  1. A Runners knee is a general term to more than one injury in the knee area, that cause pain in your kneecap aka patella. According to its name the runner’s knee is a common problem for runners, but any activity that targets the knee with a lot of strain, can cause a runner’s knee. In addition to running also sports as walking, skiing, jumping, biking and football are extremely stressful for the knee.

    Usually the pain is felt on the outer edge of the knee, and swelling, restrictions of movement and cracking can be occurring in the knee.

    Can I continue working out? Rest is recommended. Let your body recover at peace and after some time try moving again, but carefully and within pain limits. Don’t try returning to your old workout pace too quickly.

    How can I prevent it? Strengthen the muscles supporting the knee and look after both, a good running posture, and the legs correct lining. A regular gym routine and caring for good mobility can also help. In this Fasciawear is a tremendous help, because it helps in finding and sustaining a good position for your leg, lining your legs and knees correctly and maintaining your muscle balance during a run.

     

  2. A Hamstring strain according to its name is a structural defect of the muscle, that is due to too much exercise, a tired runner’s faulty stances, dashing executions with a not fully warm body or unbalanced muscle strain.Usually the pain feels either at

    the enthesis’ of the muscle at the back of the knee or under the buttock.

    Can I continue exercising? Running is not recommended especially if the workouts entail high-intensity-exercises. After the most acute state light movement can be exercised within pain limits. However, let your body have enough time to recover before returning to your normal high-intensity-training.

    How can I prevent it? Look after sufficient warming up before working out and regular muscle maintenance. Emphasize versatility and keeping up the body’s muscle balance in weight training. Fasciawear helps prevent strains by balancing the muscle function and by helping the body sustain a healthy running position even when the runner is tired.

  3. Shin splint. A usual cause for shin pain is Syndroma tibialis medialis. When too much pressure is added to a certain muscle group it can cause pain, that can appear on the fronts, back and sides of your shins. Untreated, Syndroma tibialis medialis can become chronic. It usually originates from too much exercise, adding strain too fast and unbalanced muscle activity, which leads to faulty stances and strain mounting to a certain muscle group.

    Usually the pain is felt as tenderness on the inner frontside or the furthest outer edge of the shin. When the ankle is extended, the pain worsens.

    Can I continue working out? To prevent the symptoms becoming chronic, 2 to 3 weeks rest is recommended.

    How can I prevent it? Take care of sufficient warming up and stretching while working out. Also, significant or fast adding of

    strain should be prevented. Fasciawear helps prevent shin splint by balancing out the muscle activity and maintaining a proper lining of the muscles, also in the final stages of the workout, so that any muscle group isn’t overworked.

  4. Piriformis syndrome. A burning pain in the middle of your buttock that is formed when the piriformis-muscle is pressing against the sciatic nerve. Syndrome is used to mean piriformis, which is a profound muscle stabilizing pelvis on top of the sciatic nerve, spasming too much.

    Can I continue exercising? Usually the condition is not severe, and a small warmup for the muscle might even help with the pain. Relieve the workout and feel does the pain stay away even after the workout. If the condition seems to worsen, it might be helpful to consult a physiotherapist.

    How can I prevent it? Strengthen the core and pelvis muscles and reduce the daily dose of sitting, so that such a big amount of pressure isn’t added to the sciatic nerve. Fasciawear helps prevent the piriformis-syndrome by activating the core and maintaining a good posture. Additionally, Fasciawear helps the fascia-lines to preserve their natural liquid form, that compensates for the fascia stiffness that sitting causes.

  5. The inflammation of the Achilles tendon is a repetitive strain injury, that usually has to do with long-distance running, orientation, or other similar sports. It can be caused by mobility restrictions of the ankle, the shortcoming of hip extension on the same side, excessive leaning forward in a running stance or unbalanced use of legs whilst running.

    Usually the pain appears in the Achilles tendon when it’s being moved or stretched. During motion the pain can also be felt higher up in the calf muscle. When feeling the Achilles tendon, you can feel

    tenderness on its both sides and the area around it can be swollen.

    Can I continue exercising? Usually the symptom goes away on its own in a couple of weeks. During this time is wise to restrain from movement that causes pain and replace it with another exercise form like aqua jogging, swimming or cycling. If the symptoms don’t go away on their own, it is suggested you get in contact with a physiotherapist or a doctor.

    How can I prevent it? The Achilles tendon can be exercised in movements where the muscle contracts while stretched (an eccentric exercise). Stand on the edge of a bench or a stair, and in turs lower and ascend the heel multiple times. You should pay close attention to your running position and to your balance between the right and the left side. Fasciawear helps by balancing out the differences of the different sides of your body, by increasing mobility and by helping maintain a good position even when the body starts tiring down.

  6. Plantar fasciitis. The most usual reason is the degeneration of the foot tendon attached to the heel bone. The cause of the degeneration isn’t always clear, but usually it has something to do with strain of the foot that is bigger than usual, or a powerful effort. Also, faulty stances of the foot can expose to the injury.

Usually the pain can be felt on the front side of the heel in the middle or the inner edge of the foot. Pain is usually at its

worst in the morning right after waking up, and it can cause problems for walking.

Can I continue exercising? At the most acute state of the injury, strain should be avoided. Stretches are a good form of self-care. In a sitting position the sore foot is lifted on top of the other knee and the toes are curled up into the furthest position for 5-6 seconds. This movement is repeated 20 times every morning and evening and the treatment is continued for multiple weeks. Usually the symptoms ease up after a few weeks, but if the injury is prolonged, you should get in contact with a physiotherapist or a doctor.

How can I prevent it? Take care of the mobility of the ankle and the foot and stretch before and after a workout. To prevent faulty stances, the muscles guiding the foots position should be taken care of. Fasciawear balances the side differences and muscle strain of the body during a workout. The resistance provided by the suit improves the ability of the fascia-plates to slide on top of each other, this for one improves mobility and the power- generation-qualities of the muscle. This enables maintaining a good position and prevents the formation of Plantar fasciitis.

 

Thank you for reading! May the future bring you safe, light and happy steps and kilometers beneath your running shoes.

 

Copyright Ranka Clothing Oy, 2019 www.ranka.cc

 

Sources:

Mobility-training – Controlled Strength and Mobility (in Finnish) (Mika Pihlman, Tuulia Luomala and Jarkko Mäkinen) VK-Publishing 2018

Strength-training – from theory to best practices (in Finnish) (Jukka Mäennenä, Juha Olli, Jenni Puputti, Teemu, Roininen, Marko Haverinen, Kimmo

Kuukasjärvi, Jani Parkkinen) VK-Publishing 2019 Duodecin Health-Library (in Finnish)