I started running before the internet was something we carried with us all day long. In those days, if you wanted to share news with a friend, you didn’t post on Facebook. You called them on your flip phone.
So, for a couple of years I ran with no idea how my pace measured up, if my shoes were right for my feet, or if running a marathon was laudable or laughable. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
And sometimes it’s not.
While social media has changed the landscape of recreational running into what feels like a never-ending competition of pace and power, it has also opened up a world of information that has made me better, stronger and wiser.
I used to get injured like clockwork. Every November it would start with a twinge. By December it was a roar. For a few years, I never worried about January snowstorms because, predictably, I was sidelined with injury. Not anymore. These days I know what my body needs before it needs it. I focus less on rehab and more on prehab. What works for me may not work for everyone, but if even one suggestion keeps runners healthier, my work here is done.
Not the nice vacation-type massages. We’re talking sports massage. There are a variety of different methods, but I subscribe to the Kumetz method. Well-known to Salt Lake Valley locals, Return to Harmony is where I go once a month to keep my legs healthy. I have a standing appointment. Owner Angel Kumetz developed this technique that has helped not just runners, but any athlete, manual-laborer, stressed-out human. It doesn’t always feel good during my appointment, but it does after. Four years after my first visit, I have run through every Salt Lake winter.
2. Strength training
Focusing on hips, glutes and core has made all the difference in my performance. Not only am I stronger, but faster, too. After incorporating consistent strength training to my weekly routine, I shaved off 50 minutes on my marathon. Keeping the muscles firing correctly is key.
At the same time I dialed up my strength training, I added in yoga. My intention was to relax. I never expected it to make me a better runner, but it did. It opened my hips. Strengthened my core. Taught me to focus and breathe. No longer was I walking around stooped over after long runs. A few yoga poses each day and a longer session once a week was enough to keep my muscles happy.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with pleurisy. While in the hospital waiting for my test results, the doctor told me he was less concerned with my lungs and more concerned with my kidneys. Like so many, I was chronically dehydrated. These days I aim for 75-100 ounces of water a day. I’m less tired in the afternoon. My skin looks better. My muscles are less sore after intense workouts and recover faster. I won’t say I don’t crave diet soda anymore, but my body is appreciating the change.
I can’t emphasize the importance of sleep enough. I make it a priority. Sometimes that means leaving tasks undone. But usually I find I get more done and am more efficient if I get the sleep I need. I feel best with nine hours, and can feel pretty good with eight. Anything less and I’m not fun to be around. Our bodies recover and heal when we sleep. There’s a reason sleep deprivation is a toture technique.
Injury prevention takes a little time. So does a game of Candy Crush. A small investment of time in ourselves pays back big dividends.