I’ve been a runner essentially my whole life. The sweat, adrenaline, and sense of accomplishment of a good run have had me hooked since my first mile fun run at age 8. I progressed through high school cross country, 5ks, 10ks, and eventually found the marathon in my 30s — likely because the longer mileage provided much-needed breaks from the chaos of my house. I crossed races off the bucket list and imagined doing so indefinitely. Truthfully, I had always secretly scoffed at the different qualifying times starting at the magical age of 40. And if you’re in this blissful decade or beyond, I’m guessing you’re laughing right along with me now. I had had nagging injuries before–IT band, plantar fasciitis, and the occasional ankle sprain–but this was a new decade of actual injuries that required more than ibuprofen. I needed *gasp* time off and my new best friend, the physical therapist, gently let me know that most of my injuries are mobility related. Good news: no immediate need for new joints; Bad news: I have to actually do all the things I preach.
As a coach I am uncompromising about warm up, cool down, and mobility work. But in my own running workouts I struggle to budget even a simple five minutes of work that would make a world of difference in my old lady ailments. I’m a runner because it’s so darn easy…put your shoes on, step out the door, put one foot in front of the other. Mobility seems more complicated…how long do I have to hold each stretch? Is static stretching bad? Is foam rolling better? And where is that damn thing, anyway? I’ll just do a couple of toe touches and call it good.
Why do runners fight mobility so adamantly? Here’s my personal take on it: We live in a society of immediate gratification and overscheduling. I squeeze as much into each day as possible, often at the expense of sleep, making it to everything on time, or being a decent human being to my family. On the days that I run, I set the alarm as late as possible, try to squeeze in as much mileage as I can, and often find myself still sweating after I hop out of the shower.
The run is like buying the must-have shoes, the new car, or investing in a dream home; it offers an immediate sense of having accomplished something. Mobility work is your less sexy money market, 401k, or life insurance — your investment in the future. I’ll spend 5 minutes today so I can run injury-free tomorrow, next year, and if we’re doing it right, the next decade or two. But no matter how good it is for us, we will never get the adrenaline rush or sweaty gratification from mobility work that we get from a good frothy run, so we skip it…or promise ourselves we’ll do it tomorrow.
And this, my friends, is why running no longer feels good in my body.
In case you’re struggling as well, here are a few things that have worked for me (even though I’m still a work in progress):
1. Find a yoga class you love (or you don’t completely hate). I can’t tell you how many people have told me they don’t do yoga because they’re too tight, or they’re bad at it. THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD GO! And if you don’t like your first class, keep going. If you don’t like your first 10 classes, find a new studio; no two are alike. Are all yoga classes beneficial? Likely, no. But if you’re a runner who does no mobility work, chances are whatever non-beneficial things you are doing there will be outweighed by an hour of stretching, breathing, and strengthening. I love the flow of vinyasa, but I also recognize the value of an ashtanga class with longer holds (that I hate but I probably need). I fought hot yoga for a long time, but leaving class in a sweaty puddle gives me that needed sense of having accomplished something. On a perfect day, I’ll sneak in a run before class for the perfect combo. How much yoga do you need? Ideally–daily, realistically–3 classes a week, but honestly, I’ve found benefits in just once a week (ps…Catalyst has a kick-ass yoga class every Friday morning).
open the gate
dog n’ bush
And for a quick cool down…set your timer for 5 minutes and play with breathing, nodding, rocking, rolling, and crawling. Not in a space where you can play on the ground? Just walk!
3. Still too much? Perfect is the enemy of good. How about just ONE minute pre and post run? Start with 5 down dog/up dogs to lengthen the hip flexors and calves. Then warm up with 10 walking steps on your toes and 10 steps on your heels followed by 10 walking lunges with a slow rotation toward your front leg. Work up the sweat you’ve been craving in your run, then spare another minute for after your run for this stretch (consider it an extra minute to finish sweating before showering). No time to watch a 10 minute video about a stretch? Check out the abridged version here.
Ready to learn more?
Join us at Catalyst for our 2-part Strength and Mobility for Runners. Part one (breathing and mobility) is THIS Saturday, April 6th. Come back Saturday, May 11th for mobility continued and runner-targeted strength work.