If you happen to be a long-time runner, then you will understand what I mean by the term “run down (I enjoy a good double entendre).” This ugly feeling rears it’s head at the most inconvenient times, specifically when you’re on a roll, it’s your fifth day in a row running, your endurance is up and your stamina is increasing. Suddenly, you feel it—that ache in your hip, that tightening in your shoulder, that incessant cramp in the arch of your foot. Is this something to be concerned with? Well, it’s nothing to lose your mind over–I wouldn’t consider it a devastating injury–but it means you’ve managed to stress your body out to the point where it had to scream STOP along the way. This is a common issue for many runners who have been working out consistently and are slowly pushing their limits with each run. There’s no need to fret, it simply means to have to scale it back a bit. But in the meantime, I’ll be here to patch you back up:
- Bad hip? Ah yes, we’ve all been there before. You’re mid-run, feeling the wind in your face, hitting that runner’s high, when suddenly you feel it. A hook in the front of your hip, towards the inside of your thigh. The pulling does not make your run unbearable, but it’s irritating as hell. Perhaps you’re one of those folks who feels a pain in the back of your hip, instead, in the lower back area. All I can recommend here is stretching and icing. Sit on the ground and cross one leg over the other at a 90 degree angle, then lean forward. You should start to feel the stretch deep in your hip. Ice it, massage it, and stay off of it for 1-2 days.
- Cramped foot arch? Don’t even get me started on this one. Okay, I’ll start. Take it from a girl who has Plantar Fasciitis, a pain in your foot arch is more unbearable than a majority of running pains you will experience. It makes sense, after all. Your foot is hitting the ground over and over again, the last thing you need is the support structure within your foot to throb with pain. A quick fix? Freeze a water bottle, take it out, place it under your sore arch and roll it. Do this for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, and switch feet. Give each arch two turns and you’ll be right as rain.
- Sore calves? This is typically more a more common, universal pain that all runners experience at some point. Try purchasing a “roller” at a store (they usually go for 15 bucks a pop…nothing too crazy) and use the roller on your tight muscles. Don’t wanna break the bank? Walk up to the nearest wall, place the ball of your foot against it, while leaving your heel on the ground, and lean into the wall. You should be able to feel a deep stretch in your calf. Hold for 30 seconds, switch to the other calf, and pray those suckers feel better in the morning.
- Lung pain? This seems to be more of a “during” the run issue rather than an “after” the run issue. You’re running, but you’re not exactly tired. You have more energy to keep going, your legs feel great, but your lungs are burning up. What can be done about this? Well, you need to build up your lung capacity, which only comes with time (similar to endurance), but you can also time your breathing. Try this: Breathe in, count 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, then breath out. It will be tedious at first, but eventually your breathing will develop a rhythm and you will no longer feel the need to desperately gag for air. Sounds nice, right?
- Pulled back? People believe that runners only injure their legs or hips because those are the main body parts used to run, but most people don’t understand that running is a full body sport. Every part of you should be engaged, from your legs, to your arms, to your back, to your head. You may sprint too hard one day, resulting in your shoulders locking up, or perhaps you tried too hard for perfect form and pulled your neck. Maybe you just have bad posture (which can be extremely detrimental to running…I’m not one to talk, just pointing it out). My fix? Keep your legs firmly planted and straight, but lower your front half and hang all the way over a chair. It sounds too simple to be true, but I’ve found most complex issues actually have incredibly simple solutions.
- Overall fix: Salt or ice baths are always the way to go. A hot tub can work too, depending on how sore your muscles are. If you’ve pulled a muscle, ice it first, wait a day or two, then feel free to hop in a jacuzzi. Do not enter a hot tub right after a workout….your muscles will expand and you will be sorry. Dipping your body into baths of extreme temperatures will always work, but if you want to avoid that, choose the simple route (remember what I said earlier about simplicity)? STRETCH AND REST.
Make sure that everything else in your life is in order. If you’re doing everything right, such as pacing yourself, stretching regularly, resting when your body needs it, and tending to your body when it’s injured, there may be an underlying issue. Make sure you’re getting the correct amount of sleep, eating properly and staying hydrated. Any of these issues could cause your physical soreness and any of them could also be the culprit for a delay in healing. You heard me. Poor sleep and a poor diet can and will hinder your muscle recuperation. Always remember this: if you’re feeling run down, take a break from running. One run is not worth having to miss out on many runs from an injury that could have easily been avoided.