If I got as many dollars, as many times I heard from runners, that “stretching and mobility do nothing for me”, I would be rich. “I have been doing yoga for 3 weeks now, but nothing changed” . “I train my back, but still have sciatica”. The thing is, that 2 – 3 months of practice is only a minor-minor initial ‘kindle’ for the everburning fire.
As I fly through life and my friends’ age-groups change, I again here many excuses. What older runner’s say is, back in the days they did not have to do anything outside of running and were never injured, but now… ! Back in the days, they did not do any strength and conditioning and were still strong
First of all, a runner’s memory is very very short. Not mine ! There are fellow athletes I know for 25 years and when they tell me, that when young, they never were injured, I can bring up and list their yearly structural failures during two decades.
So, what I am saying here, is that age has nothing to do with injury rates, slowing down, pain, functional disabilities and so on.
The lack of practice does ! Just like aerobic capacity, health needs constant stimulative work ! I talk about health in case of sports, in case of running.
Ask a 40, 50 or 60 year old runner, when was the last time he touched weights. The last time he did plyometrics or sat down on the foam roller, than stretched down. Did yoga and pilates ? Just yesterday, I talked to fellow motor-sport athlete. He is approaching 60. Jet-ski, motorbikes, car-driving, snow-mobile, powerboat, he loves and practices all on a regular basis. Very slim and healthy looking from the outside, but struggling with a lot of physical issues. He showed me 3 – 4 movements that the kiné advised to him and he was super happy to do some sciatic glute stretch, planks and a ham and glute stretch. He should have done those every day in the last 40 years, not only now. Of course, as I know him, the moment his pain will ease up, he will totally stop them.
Wow, I am complaining about the complaints of others. Yes, it is because it is annoying to a coach to hear constantly excuses.
Everybody has their lifetime crisis, when want to do something big to get out of ordinary. Like a 100miler, the Tor des Geants or to climb the Mont Blanc. However, the moment it gets intense, problems pop up !
My advice is easy. Start right now a regular comprehensive running oriented strength and conditioning program. You might get into some focused educational period to learn the stuff that works for you. That might be one or two years or 5. That is nothing comparing the 30 to 40 years of possible joy it can give you.
I give you some base ideas:
- Move all your joints into every direction, in full range of motion, every day, under load and under tension.
- Focus on functional mobility. This simply means, that you sit down on the roller do your stuff, than do some callisthenics, then some dynamic stretch-cord routines, then again some callisthenics. Also that you learn always newer and newer routines and practice them.
- Lift weights every day. Lift heavy at least once a week.
- Always warm up, always cooldown, with some of these exercises before and after each run. I don’t talk about warming up 2min slower than marathon pace. It can be 3 minutes of rolling, 3 minutes of yoga, 3 minutes of power pilates, 3 minutes of stretch cord, 5 minutes of dynamic callisthenics. Then for the cooldown, you do again the full body stretch cord routine, a pigeon, a couch stretch and an achilles routine.
- Don’t forget tendon strength, bounce, rebound and elasticity. Plyometrics. They are obligatory for every runner. Without that the tendons are dying off and not getting stronger. This can be flat or uphill sprinting in minimalist shoes. This can be 2 minutes of skipping roping. Leaping, hopping, springing, jumping, accelerations. Do not picture those epic moves of a triple jumper. This can be 4 x 20sec of skipping roping after your warming up. This can mean the difference of completing a race or DNF. You don’t want to stop a race, cause you cannot jump and land.
- No gym needed. Get a suitable weight Kettlebell. You can do of course kettlebell training with that, but simple gym moves too. I find that a 12kg is a very good option for runners and 8kg for female ones. I do everything with the 16kg, but when in intense training, overhead moves are difficult for sure, like the turkish get up or shoulder press. 12kg is more optimal and universal.
- Here you go. Your gym. A quality cork yoga mat, a 12kg kettlebell, a foam roller and a skipping rope.
- Do not waste time. Even when at home with family front of the telly, you can do stuff. Just sit down and do some relaxed poseholds. A shin-box routine. Some old school static poseholds before bed. Maybe get on a 5euro swissball or balance board or simply practice equilibrium by standing on one leg.
Have you ever seen old people jumping, leaping, hoping ? Not to often or never ! It is not because they cannot, but because they just don’t ! Researchers work on studies of health benefits of trampolines. So outside of the tendon strength you gain with the couple of squat and lunge jumps and skipping roping, you got this ballistic health effect coming from the sudden directional changes of up and down.
(PS.: I got a very healthy and sporty friend who got a stroke. Apparently it is not a good idea to trampoline after airplane flights ! Probably due to the long seated periods and often lack of hydration. I highly recommend to anybody flying, to stand up at least once an hour, more likely twice or three times. Try to do some squatting and stretching and walking to the furthest toilet and back. Most importantly calf raises and calf stretches and more calf raises. After flights I like a long walk in very minimalist shoes and some flexibility routines barefoot in the garden)
The thing is that these routines, once you own them, can take up only 3 x 5minutes of your day. That is nothing comparing the benefits they give you. The runner who does that for 20 years has accumulated 1826 hours of mobility, strength and conditioning and health.
I also like workout snacks during the day as they are effectively bring back the range of motion to joints and keep the blood flowing and the body recovering. That can be a wall squat hold, “the chair” for 1 minute followed by a quad, ham and low back stretch. All done in 2 minutes. Then in the evening for sure a couch stretch and a sciatic stretch. Superman low back routines and so on. Seconds count !
I just finished my coffee. I will digest it for 20minutes while chilling and reading. Then go on with a 25minutes easy back-focused mobility routine. Then an ice cold shower and off I went to the local track.