Training Tip: Practice "Pre-Hab"

Try these injury-preventing strategies to stay in shape for race day.

By Alyssa Shaffer
woman stretching on a foam tube image
(Photo: Josh Titus)

Plan developed by Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of The Running Center in New York City.

Your body has pounded out thousands of steps over the past 10 weeks, and by now you might be feeling some of the stresses and strains. In fact, the closer you get to race day, the more likely you are to experience injury, as the workouts increase in both distance and intensity. So now, more than ever, it’s important to make sure that you’re treating your body right. Consider incorporating some, or all, of the following preventive therapies (a.k.a. "pre-hab") into your weekly routine.

Massage: Of course, it’s lovely to splurge for a professional treatment — most everyone likes to be kneaded, especially by hands that know exactly what they’re doing. But since a weekly rub-down can be expensive, try doing it on your own. After your workout (when your muscles are already warm) use your palm or fist to rub along the length of each major muscle group, moving in the direction of your heart. Even five minutes can help encourage the removal of waste products and speed your recovery. Research from Australia shows participants who had a brief massage after exercise reduced their muscle soreness by about 30 percent.

Foam roller: You may have seen these big foam tubes at the gym: They’re the latest rage in muscle recovery because they help to break up the scar tissue that can form in the ligaments and connective tissue around your muscles. To use one, lie down with the area you want to "roll out" on top of the roller. Slowly roll your body up or down, one inch at a time. When you get to a sore spot, stay here and roll gently back and forth for a few seconds.

Sports rub: Brands like Mineral Ice, Ben-Gay, and Tiger Balm send the sensation of warmth to heat the muscles; many also contain an analgesic (like aspirin) to relieve muscle and joint pain.

Ice bath: It’s lovely to get into a hot bath after a long workout, especially if you’re training through cold weather. But some coaches think you’ll get more benefits going cold than going warm. The theory is that cold water causes your blood vessels to constrict, which slows blood flow to the sore spots, decreasing swelling. If an ice bath just sounds too painful, try alternating hot and cold temperatures to increase blood flow to your muscles.

Next Training Tip: 3 Strength Moves for Runners (and Walkers)

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Originally published on MORE.com, January 2009.

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