Simple Recovery Tips for Runners

Tip # 1: Have your bed closer to the ground


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HOW SIMPLE IS THAT!!!

Runners are notoriously bad at getting into, getting out of, and ‘hanging out’ in a squat position. Why not give yourself that wonderful extra movement every single day for the rest of your life?! You might think, pfft- that’s nothing.

Up in morning, down at night, up to pee, down to sleep. You can add in naps. Either way at the very least you are squatting up and down 365 more times a year than you ever have! If you want to geek out, you can even measure the distance from your ass to the bed to see today how little range of motion you are using right now and slowly change over time.

We often think that our bodies are complicated and too hard to change, yet we don’t make the easiest changes imaginable because “why bother, it won’t make a difference”, “that looks bad in my bedroom”, “I’m not camping!”, “there’s no need for this”, add in any excuse, whatever you want.

Let’s face it, our lives are getting more sedentary and it’s crucial to find ways in which our bodies will move well for as long as we are here… And not just ‘be functional’ in our sport. Being functional only in your sport is exactly what’s going to get you into trouble in the first place.

AND, if you are having a super busy week and can’t run or workout, you still get your squats in! OR, if you are sick, tired, can’t be bothered… you STILL get your squats in!

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It’s all about making movement matter, all day/ everyday, daily positions we hold and skeletal alignment that make a significant impact on our health and performance.

 

Five Tips for X-Country Runners

TIP #1: Do some fancy footwork EVERYDAY

Having strong and healthy feet relate to your ENTIRE body health. I am sure you don’t want to get injured this year?! Get those shoes off and work your feet for 5 minutes a day, it’ll save you a lot of heart ache later on!

 

TIP #2: Do whole body mobility/movement

Running only requires ~20% of your musculature. What’s happening to the rest of your body? There’s some SERIOUS underuse.

The cardiovascular system relies on ALL your muscles to pump the blood (nutrient rich => oxygen) to all the cells in your body. If you JUST run you’re in for a lot of hurt later on in life.

AND just because you’re an Olympic calibre runner does not prevent you from CVD. It’s all about making movement matter in your ENTIRE body not just the parts you need to run.

Ask yourself everyday: have I MOVED today? If you haven’t I would move first (yes, as a priority!) before you decide to run.

Move runner move!

 

TIP #3: Walk for recovery

With all new gadgets and experts talking about everything you can do… it really can be as simple as walking more for better recovery and better health. We were meant to move a LOT throughout the day. Not just once a day (aka during your workout). It’s all about making movement matter

 

 

TIP #4: Wear less

Our goose bump muscles (arrector pili) are just as important as any other muscle in the body. USE them!

Your body is set up for self thermoregulation. If you are constantly trying to be “comfortable” with your body temperature you are achieving the exact opposite with extra clothes and/or heat.

And that’s also why, especially during colder months, it’s important to constantly move throughout the day! We are suppose to anyway.

Whether you are training or not be a little bit uncomfortable to regain optimal health.

 

 

Tip #5: Plumb line your way up those hills while keeping your ribs down to engage your glutes and hamstrings instead of exasperating your hip flexor/ quad dominant lifestyle.

Achilles straight leg hops

When I was running seriously [circa early ’90s] we did this one exercise “Achilles Straight Leg Hops” throughout the indoor track season. I actually enjoyed doing it; but, I couldn’t have told you why at the time.

There has been a lot of research, especially from the Mechano-Therapy world on loading of tissues. How movement REPAIR tissues and how we can prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.

Eccentric and concentric loading at joints effects our tissues in a positive way. In runners, the feet, calves, and achilles are discussed in nausea; and, as we all know numerous injuries stem from them!

If we load the achilles tendon we are helping the areas below [feet and plantar fascia], direct [achilles tendon] and above [calves]. You can absolutely do calf raises and drops on two feet or on one foot, which I am sure most of you have done before. OR, you can try this activity below.

Now, please do not do this if you have an injury. I am assuming you are healthy!

A few pointers:

1. STRAIGHT legs for the entire exercise except to start (mine are not exactly straight)

2. SPRING with the achilles. You are just plantar flexing and dorsiflexing the foot (nothing else is moving)

3. ARM swing for momentum

4. COORDINATION is needed because you are suppose to land in same spot every time (I didn’t)

5. BALANCE helps too 😉

As a side note, they have found achilles tendon injuries are not inflammatory, they are degenerative in nature, meaning a huge loss in collagen fibres. One of my favourite quotes is “Turn movement into repair” ~ Dr. Khan

Orthotics or not=> Our limiting foot beliefs are hurting us

 “If we have been bamboozled long enough we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge- even to ourselves- that we’ve been so credulous. So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the new bamboozles arise.” ~ Carl Sagan (Astrophysicist)

Our highly specialized, homo sapiens, feet have been around for over 120 000 years, in addition to evolving hundreds of thousands of years before that! The many intricacies of the foot are still beyond the scope of science; yet, we are tricked into believing “one brand of shoe” or “a pair of orthotics” can fix our feet. Really?

ORTHOTICS

Orthotics= Artificial support

When you think of artificial what comes to mind? Artificial sweetener, artificial colour, artificial flavour, artificial intelligence, artificial personality. The likelihood of artificial having a positive connotation is doubtful.

I HAVE to wear orthotics because:

  • My feet are flat
  • I have high arches
  • I’m genetically flawed
  • I always get injured
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Fat pad syndrome
  • My parents, grandparents and great grandparents had them

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Taking my shoes for a walk

Unshod studies

Research on European, Indian and Asian adults who had never worn shoes in their lifetime all showed fan shaped feet with variations in arch height. Flat feet, middle arch or high arched unshod adults were all asymptomatic. That means no foot problems.

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Most people in their lifetime will never even come close to moving their feet in 860,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 different ways {Katy Bowman, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief}. Yes, that’s all possible foot ‘formations’.

Our feet have 100,000 to 200,000 receptors each that sense our environment as we stand, walk, run, skip and jump our way through the day. However, if we are shod our receptors (information coders) cannot transmit vital feedback to the brain in order for the brain to decide how to move our body, our feet, appropriately. For example, how often have you sprained your ankle? I bet it was in a shoe!

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Enough about the FEET!

Well, foot health is 100% indicative of whole body health. How are you knees, hips, pelvis, back, shoulders? How’s your cardiovascular health or your immune system functioning? How are you? Think about that for a bit.

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Do your jeans fit the environment? Or, does your environment fit the jeans? Does the environment matter? Do your jeans matter? Yes! Both matter AND the environment far outweighs your genes, unless they are skinny jeans then you win (or lose because you’re cutting off input to your feet instantly!). Yes, in the excellent picture I drew I wrote jeans for ‘genes’, just for fun.

Epigenetics, how the environment influences if, how and when your genes may be expressed, is a hot topic today. Sometimes certain genes will be turned off your entire life while others will be turned on, like when you wore those skinny jeans! If you didn’t get that, it’s okay. I am bad at jokes!

My dad, and all my dad’s family have osteoarthritis in the big toe (hallux). My brother has it and I have it too. Did I get it because of my dad? No! The environment-> cushy, heeled shoes with orthotics, tight calves, too much sitting, poor skeletal alignment, lack of proper movement. I absolutely believe if I knew then what I know now I would have never acquired osteoarthritis in the first place, 15 years ago. Sure, I might have a slightly higher tendency to acquire osteoarthritis than you… but, without those skinny jeans, I’d be fine! I’m done with the skinny jeans joking. 

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Are you asking me to stop wearing orthotics or go barefoot?! No, I’m asking you to do more work on your feet and think more of a whole body approach to your health. Top 10 things to do for better foot/overall body health.

1. The first thing you need to do is make sure ALL of your shoes (home, work, sport, dress) fit properly. Trace your feet and cut it out. See if that paper fits in ALL your shoes without coming up on the sides, the front or the back. If it does, give those shoes away. NO exceptions. Period.

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2. Your toes are often overlooked. If you can’t interlace your fingers inside your toes there’s dysfunction. Do as much as you can now with slow ankle rotations. It doesn’t matter if only a bit of your fingers are in between. Slowly increase movement over time. You can also buy correct toes or happy feet [I am not a distributor if you are wondering]. Note: Correct toes can be worn ALL day long and adjusted to your toes. Happy Feet are usually just worn at home for a little while.  

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3. Your calves have been adaptively shortened over time. It doesn’t matter if you wear orthotics or not, have shoes or not. I would 100% recommend you do calf stretches several times a day because your calves do not have their full natural functional capacity. AND calf tension plays an direct role in foot and toe tension. While standing, place the ball of your foot on a rolled up towel or a half dome (DON’T press your foot into the towel) to stretch your calf. Keep your ribs down, your hips in line, relax your shoulders and the front of your quads. [BUT my FEET hurt barefoot! No problem. Lie on your back on the ground, take a towel, wrap around the ball of your foot and slowly straighten your leg (or keep it bent) pulling towel (toes) towards your head. You ought to get that calf/back of knee/hamstring stretch]. The calf stretch is the #1 corrective exercise in Restorative Exercise, under the umbrella of Nutritious Movement. It can change your body!

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4. The top of your feet and your shins have been taking a beating… you have noooo idea. Now, if you are a dancer then forget this one, it’ll be too easy for you! But, everyone else do the top of the toe/foot stretch! Make sure you are plumb line (i.e. not leaning forward) and take a SMALL step back while placing the top of your foot on the ground… gently at first and then with 50% of your weight. Over time move your foot back a bit more. [But, I LOSE my balance! No problem. Sit down and point your toes with your hands (don’t point your toes with your toes!) It’s a passive exercise. OR sit on a chair with butt cheek slightly off so you can bring that one leg back and place the top of your foot on the ground. This is less pressure and you are not on your feet!].

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5. Grab some balls! Yoga Tune Up Therapy balls to be exact!!! I used to have tennis balls lying around everywhere but now all I have is YTU balls. They are the only balls specifically designed for muscle and fascia. Honestly, they are brilliant! Roll on your feet, calves, shins, hamstrings, butt, back, shoulders, neck, everywhere!

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6. When you sit [hours on end] do you sit on your ischial tuberosities or on your tailbone? Sit on your “sit bones/ ischial tuberosity” not on your coccyx! Nerves run down your spine into your feet! Don’t CUT the flow off! And, think about sitting beside your furniture while at home. It’s healthier!

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7. Most people that have “bad” feet are not so great at squatting. Start by squatting everyday on the toilet! It’s a DAILY dose of I love you body! If you can’t do it… start with one book and slowly add more books to the mix. Ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion and hip flexion are vital to your whole body and foot health!

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8. Be uncomfortable! If your feet are weak, so are many other parts of your body. You have got to go beyond comfort to get to health. YES, our “comfortable” lives are impairing our bodies. Go barefoot several times a day (even if it’s only for one minute at a time), go for walks on rocks (even if you can only stand there for 30 seconds), sit on the floor more often, lie down 15 minutes on the floor before going to bed to have a different kind of ‘loading’ on your body, get textured mats [floor mat, bath mat, tub mat, kitchen mat] at home to use on your feet, step on objects purposefully to gain more proprioception, crawl, move! Pick up marbles or objects with your feet! Do the alphabet with your feet as you walk around your house OR as you watch TV. Be uncomfortable! It’s the only way you know you are changing.

9. Find your foot playground! Yolande and I are taking in the beauty of this PARADISE before moving for two hours. Honestly, this was the BEST barefoot WHOLE body workout I have ever done. My feet, legs and all my body were shaking after moving around, crawling, jumping, playing.

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10. Are your feet MORE sore when you wake up in the morning? Your body position while sleeping is fundamental to your blood circulation and electrical flow. If you can, sleep on your back with a towel under your pelvis (at least for a bit). Place a towel just below your iliac crest (just below your low back. FEEL the bony pelvis and go below that). Now, touch your crotch and the front of your pelvis (either side). You can see I have a LEVEL. You don’t need one. BUT, I can almost guarantee anything you THINK is ‘straight’ is actually in posterior tilt, meaning your crotch is higher than your pelvis. Why does this matter? Innervation to your feet needs to happen 24/7! You will also find your calves and hamstrings aren’t so darn tight when you wake up :)

Bonus: Work on sitting down and standing up without using ANY body parts except your feet!

I just want people to understand if they take away their foot health, they are reducing their bodies function by 25%. Is working 75% of your body good enough for you?

 

As a side note: I had orthotics for 16 years. Over time I became FED up, I just quit! Quit believing that I HAD to wear them all the time, that I needed them for life and that I couldn’t do what I wanted without them. I was just too young (early 30’s) to rely on orthotics to “fix” me.

I s-l-o-w-l-y weened over the course of 2 years. I cried many many times because doing barefoot work was painful, tiring and taxing on my whole body. There was NOTHING easy about the process and it was 100% uncomfortable. AND, it was the best thing for me! 

To add, it took another 7 years to truly understand the implications of “comfort” shoes and heeled shoes (that includes ALL shoes~ running, dress, home, slippers, sandals, etc). 

All my shoes are now flat and I will never go back. 

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Kristin Marvin is a Performance Recovery Specialist, helping athletes achieve their best through proper recovery. As a former Canadian team runner she had her fair share of foot problems: plantar fasciitis, shin splints, achilles tendonitis, hip issues and massive back pain. Sharing her knowledge with athletes is her #1 objective, so others don’t have to suffer through pain, injury and setback.  

Motivation?

motivation

Last year, 2015, I stopped running. My right big toe hurt so much I couldn’t walk without pain every time I took a step. It was debilitating. Well, it’s been uncomfortable since August 2001; but, I’ll get into that another time.

I decided to bite the bullet and look into surgery for my toe [hallux limitus, osteoarthritis, bone spurs- just in case you need a name for it]. Never in a million years would I have thought about doing this; yet, I did. Learning about how and why my body became injured on MANY occasions throughout my running career and developed osteoarthritis in my right big toe is exactly why I want to help runners today! So they don’t make the same mistakes I did!

This post is about what I’ve been doing, in the interim before I can run again. So, it’s not exactly about running… just so you know.

Last year I was lacking a lot of mojo when it came to movement, physical activity, exercise and sport. All around, I was pretty low. In a spur of the moment decision, I decided to do the Rottnest Channel Swim on Saturday, February 27. It’s a 19.7km swim from Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island in Western Australia. It’s one of those iconic events that I felt compelled to do. And, to get my butt moving a little more.

As soon as I signed up, October 14, I thought, FANTASTIC! I am good to go. Yet… I stalled on actually doing the work=> moving and swimming… I felt like I wasn’t motivated as much as I “should” have been. I knew how much I needed to do in order to be psychologically, mentally, and physically fit enough to do it, (i.e. stay injury-free and not drown) but nothing was driving me forward. I only swam a few kilometres a week. I felt a bit embarrassed, disappointed, and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t really doing the work. I mean, I paid almost $400 for the event for goodness sake.

Barely any swimming was accomplished up until my toe surgery on December 9. After the knife, I had to wait 2 full weeks before I could even touch water again! I candidly thought “You %#*^@! moron, what are you doing? Why did you sign up for this event?” Doubt. Doubt. Doubt was on my #1 list.

As soon as I got my stitches out I signed up for a few open water events: 5k on Dec 27, 5k on Jan 10 and the mandatory 10k time trial for Rottnest Solo swimmers (me) on Jan 26, because I hadn’t qualified yet. I also made an important decision of joining a swim club, Perth City, the ultimate turning point {social atmosphere, many Rotto swimmers, all masters swimmers, accountability, set routine, variable pacing, and fixed time in the pool}.

Even though it’s only been a few weeks I feel much better in the water, I’m getting my mileage in, and I am enjoying it! Imagine that! Doing the work and getting results. I would have never thought 😉

I was a sport psychology consultant for almost a decade helping athletes with their mindset; and, I couldn’t do it myself last year. It was tough to swallow. When you google scholar motivation and running you come up with over a hundred thousand articles providing definitions, ideas, types, strategies, tips, and tools. And, my motivation today is different.

Look, when I was younger, I had a single track mind, pursuing my goals with seemingly nothing in my way (when I wasn’t injured, of course 😉 ). I was in the pursuit of excellence, personal bests, national team, Olympics, etc. Motivation was a different beast back then. Today my life is about the pursuit of fun with a challenge.

Here is a quote I recently read from an online businessman, that perfectly shows what motivation is to me right now:

Motivation disappears at the first sign of doubt.

Get yourself some discipline. 

~ Nathan Hague

It is exactly what I needed to hear. And, it has helped me understand my lack of luster pre- swim club. Sometimes it’s good to go outside of the sporting world to find answers or gain advice.

And any of those interested~ a few days ago I had the 10k time trial. Here is a wonderful picture of the whole event. I swam relaxed, taking in the whole event [aside from getting stung a millions times!].

Swim 10k

All I have to say is, thank you to discipline through the help of a community. So many people have helped me along the way and I am truly grateful… and I haven’t even done the ‘real’ swim yet!

Back to Motivation-> what works for you? What are you doing this year? I’m planning and structuring my days, weeks with accountability buddies because I’m not gonna lie, I need help, and I am not afraid to ask for it. Let’s not beat ourselves up this year with A to Z of this and that. If you need more “motivation” like I did, just ask, and/or join a community. As a masters athlete it IS different than a junior.

Enjoy your day :)