You may not know this about me but I used to be a Pilates instructor. I LOVED it. I was a super hands-on, passionate, small group class (max of 4 participants) teacher. During this time and as I have become more passionate about running I have noticed certain themes that crop up. Especially around what runners and athletes shouldn’t do. Things that in my own experience have had a tendency to cause more injuries than you would think or steal away the joy. So here are my top 5 things runners and athletes should NEVER do!
- Stretching Cold – Have you ever seen what happens to a frozen elastic band when you try to stretch it out? The frozen elastic will give only a very small amount and then promptly snap. If you stretch your muscles when they are cold, stiff or first thing in the morning normally you will do more damage to your muscles than you envisage. To get the most benefit out of stretching you want to make sure you stretch when your body is warmed up. Thing along the lines of after a walk, run or other exercise or later in the day. Often you get the most benefit from stretching as part of your cool down after movement to get the most benefit.
- Ignoring the niggles – Two or three days of niggles is normally fine especially if the niggle is dissipating or improving. Pain killers are not your friend – they can often mask exactly what is going on especially long term. Remember you should only have to use painkillers or anti-inflammatories for a handful of days. If you have persistent niggles (lasting longer than a few days) or the niggle gets worse please seek the help of a coach, physio, myo, sports physician, podiatrist or whatever works best for you to get it investigated and solved. Niggles are your body telling you something isn’t right. If left untreated or un-investigated instead of being off for a little bit you might be off for months or worse.
- Only ever static stretching, never strengthening & have no idea how to use a foam roller – Educate yourself about dynamic stretching or stretching with a strong elastic band or wrap rather than traditional static stretching. Dynamic stretching when done properly not only releases and lengthens the muscles but it also strengthens and works the muscles. This makes them limber and strong. Stretching is only a third of the equation though. You want to strengthen and work the muscles that are weak or not in balance with your dominant or overworked muscles. If you can get all the muscles in your body working in unison you will be strong, efficient and fast! Thirdly learn how to use a foam roller properly. NEVER roll over bones or joints and keep to the muscle parts of your body. Rolling is about releasing the myofascial covering around your muscles to allow them to stretch and move without restriction.
- Justify or limit yourself using the words only or just – This one is a huge pet peeve of mine. You might normally run 100km in a session or have friends that smash out marathons every week. It might even be possible that you run a 4 min kilometre for a normal week. I want every runner and athlete to banish the words only and just from their vocabulary. Just because one session isn’t your normal session length or speed, or you aren’t doing what everyone else in your circle is doing doesn’t mean that you aren’t working as hard as you can be. Or you aren’t working at your limit for the session or day depending on what is going on for you at the time. Alternatively, maybe an easy cruise session is exactly what you and your body needs.
Never impose limitations on yourself and that is exactly what having the words just or only do in regards to your training and active life. Own it. Own your distance, speed, session or active life! You do not have to be arrogant you can still be humble, be proud and own it.
- Ignore incontinence – Most cases of incontinence are due to the pelvic floor not working as it should. If your pelvic floor isn’t working properly, it means your insides are not being supported, your core isn’t firing properly and your nice stable base to move from is non-existent. I could go on and on about this. If you have any incontinence, urinary or other (yep, I totally know it isn’t a pleasant thing to talk about – or have) seek help!!! There are amazing pelvic floor physio’s around that will have your pelvic floor back in tip-top shape in no time.
Do yourself a favour, swallow your pride and banish your embarrassment – get it looked at and sorted.
If your pelvic floor isn’t functioning properly, you can’t create that super strong, dynamic and stable core and base to move from. This simply means you aren’t moving as efficiently, effectively, strong or anywhere near as fast as you could be. It can also increase your chances of getting hurt or injured and nobody wants that.