Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week 10: Running - bio mechanics and best practices

[Caveat: This post is about internals of running in all its gory details.. For status updates, you can safely ignore this post]

Have you noticed that Olympic swimming has now got to do more about techno-wears than about your natural ability? Who would have guessed that there will be technology involved in something as straight forward as swimming? I mean, "Water.. jump.. drown or swim" - right? Wrong! Allright, I am just setting this up to making my point about running.

I used to think running is just that. Wear a friggin shoe and throw some clothing (optional) and get out. But the difference between running with pain and running with complete comfort is getting educated about the best practices in running. The advantage of joining a training group such as TNT is just making this education very natural based on day to day advice from the coaches than my doing the background research myself (which I would never do in a million years). So, I thought I would share the 5 simple techniques that helped me avoid any injuries / discomfort in my running routines the last 10 weeks. All of them originate from the same guiding principle, namely, "Tomorrow’s training session is only as good as today’s recovery"

  1. Stretching done the right way: I think most of the runners know about stretching and there are good sites such as this that give detailed instructions on various stretches. But it is also very important to know when to stretch. Get your body warm (run for 1/2 to 1 mile) and then stop and do your stretches. We all want to get the runner's high (that kicks in anywhere from 2-4 miles for a novice runner) and it is incredibly hard to stop after the 1st mile for stretching. But try this and you would see a marked improvement in stretch efficacy. Also, when you complete running, the last thing in your mind is probably doing 10 minutes of stretching. But the post-run stretch is even more important than the pre-stretch to flush out the lactic acid buildup. So, do not skip it if you want to minimize your injuries / discomforts
  2. Eat right before, during and after running: If you have faced muscle cramping, fatigue during the run, there is a high chance that you did not eat right prior to or during running. If you are doing your run in the morning, make sure you have a healthy snack (dry whole grain toast w/ Peanut butter, low in fat, sugar and high in good carb) an hour before the run. If you are doing your run in the evening, make sure you have a good meal - no skimping, 3-4 hours before running and a smart snack (similar to the one mentioned above) 1 hour before running. Take Gu gel 15 mins before the run and one packet every 45 mins during run. Drink 4-6oz of water with every packet. Sip (not gulp) your favorite electrolyte drink every 2 miles (have you seen kids' drinking cups in parties? 1/2 of that cup constitutes sipping). Replenish immediately after exercise with a glass of juice, banana or a bagel and within 30 minutes, have hearty food rich in good carbs (Fiber rich, brown rice, whole grain pasta etc.,) Doing stretches post run and replenishing salt (electrolyte) will flush down the lactic acid and will prevent muscle soreness
  3. Ice.. Ice.. baby: Attached is a photo of yours truly getting ready for icing. Icing numbs the pain area and reduces inflammation. You can either use the ice pack such as the one I am holding (or) simply frozen peas packet on the pain area. Apply directly for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Sleep tight: For a good recovery, you should sleep 8 hours - no compromise.
  5. Dress right: This is adequately covered in one of my first posts - the right shoes, wicking garments, cap, neck buff, gloves and the works. Check that post out for details. Do not assume costly shoes are better than cheap ones. Go check yourselves in a shop. Any decent running / gears shop will fit you with the right shoe based on your wear-pattern.
Happy running

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