Striding to Thrive or Survive?
Over the past seven weeks, the joy of running has never meant so much to us – that escape and
freedom of putting one foot on front of the other in (an attempted!) steady succession.
For many, this period of lockdown has presented itself as the ultimate training camp - to bank mileage,
speed sessions and strength and conditioning – not to mention, in addition to working from home
while also attempting to entertain the kids!
The accumulation of these stresses on a fatigued body, being unable to adapt sufficiently, can push us
very quickly into the red – where a niggle or sniffle rapidly develops into an injury or illness. The
potential pitfalls of developing such injuries loom large right now, so our own vigilance is critical.
The following are some useful pointers to keep in mind over the coming weeks to keep ourselves in
check and managing our training load:
Monitoring your daily and weekly training is critical in managing your training load. As an athlete,
there’s an inert drive to push the physical envelope, get faster and stronger now, today, this second!
A fine balance must be struck, between your training load and your body’s tolerance levels. Selfmonitoring allows you and/or your coach to identify and forecast potential pitfalls – remember you are the expert on you – so it’s important to listen to your body
A training diary is the most simple and an integral part of self-monitoring. An extremely useful tool, a
training diary allows you to log all daily training details and subjective markers, monitoring your stress
and loading. Some helpful metrics include:
- Mileage: daily and weekly training volume. Strava can be a handy tool to chart your miles.
- Heartrates: morning resting HR and training HR’s. Your Garmin can assist here.
- Session RPE (rate of perceived exertion): how would you rate the session intensity from 0-1
- Daily energy levels: subjective measure, low/medium/high or a 1-10 measure.
- Immune markers: Persistent sniffles/sneezing, cold sores or that dam blister or cut that just
won’t heal, can identify a struggling immune system, thus allowing you to take evasive action
- Urine colour: and frequency can be a simple measure of hydration status.
- Sleep quality: Hours slept, disruptions, how rested do you feel on wakening?
- Mood/motivation: How motivated are you today? A mood scale: excellent/good/fair/poor.
- Diet – Have you fuelled yourself sufficiently throughout today? Food and fluid intake.
With this recent consistent block of training, coupled with the lack of massage or physiotherapy
contact, self-maintenance has never been more important. Our backs, hips, calves and feet are all
starting to feel the training effects leaving a lot feeling lethargic and ‘stuck to the ground’ on runs.
- Pre-Run Activation: Priming the key muscles prior to heading on your run can allow for a more
comfortable and effective spin. Such activation drills can include hip, knee and ankle mobility
in addition to some mini-band glute activation.
- Post-Run Stretching: A hotly debated topic, stretching after your run can aid improvement in
joint range of motion with a stretch hold of 15-30 seconds. Stretching some of the key muscle
groups such as calves, glutes and quadriceps can allow for a smoother recovery.
- Self-Massage: Regular use of self- massage or foam rolling during your training week can help
maintain muscle suppleness and reduce feelings of muscle soreness and restriction. Using a
tennis ball throughout your glutes or under your foot can also allow for more specific targeting
of the tissue. Even your rolling pin can be a useful tool to help loosen out those quads or shins!
- Always Stretching and rolling?: If you find yourself having to stretch/roll the same muscle
group to get through your week, it’s important to question why this particular tissue is
becoming overloaded? Are you in fact stretching a muscle that needs strengthening? This is
always worth investigating with your physiotherapist or strength and conditioning coach.
- Strength & Conditioning – The more robust and resilient your body, the more training it can
tolerate. Therefore maintaining a comprehensive conditioning programme during your
training week is important. This lockdown period provides you with a great opportunity to
strengthen that area of weakness or that niggle you’ve been grappling with. Linking in with an
S&C coach is important here. Recommended follow: @colingriffin
We load our body’s tissues with mileage and conditioning to get fitter and stronger. Sufficient rest and
recovery is a critical ingredient for these strength adaptations to take place. Without it, the body will
breakdown with illness or injury. Your recovery strategies come in a number of forms:
- Nutrition: Are you fuelling your body sufficiently for your current training and daily life?
Keeping a well-balanced and nutritious diet is important to optimise not only your recovery
and health but to maximise your training adaptations, sufficiently preparing you for your next
training session. Runners can often be operating in a calorie deficient state leading to poor
recovery and an increased risk of injury. Recommended follow: @madigan_sharon,
@FoodFlicker, @CrionnaTobin and @dtobinnutrition
- Sleep: Sleep is the foundation of recovery and crucial for efficient physiological and cognitive
functioning. It’s the cheapest recovery modality we have! Sleep deprivation has been shown
to be intricately linked to reduced reaction times, cognitive function and mood. Your immune
system is significantly affected with insufficient sleep, thus grossly increasing your injury risk
and chronic illness. The quality and length of our night’s sleep has been shown to improve
overall performance. Good sleep hygiene strategies are important to review and adopt. If in
doubt, check out the Ted Talk, Sleep is your superpower by Matt Walker!
- Active Recovery: With a lot of mileage heavy legs out there, factoring in an active recovery
day can breathe some freshness into the body and mind. Instead of grinding out that run on
heavy, sore legs, maybe slot in a cycle to offload the legs for a day. For those of you brave
enough, a dip in the sea is also recommended. For those struggling with tight calves, popping
on a pair of football socks or compression sleeves can aid some restriction relief.
- Hydration: Hydration is critical for our body’s every metabolic function and nutrient delivery.
Replenishing our fluid levels is extremely important for adequate recovery and performance.
Use of electrolyte tablets or dioralyte sachets may be utilised for those of us who are
particularly salty sweaters, aiding the replenishment of fluids and body salts.
Mental Resilience & Well-Being
Our mental health is integrally linked to our overall physical well-being, mood and injury status. The
recent, dramatic shift in our life dynamic and all its potential permutations on our families and
livelihoods has most certainly affected our anxiety levels. As much as we look out for our physical
maintenance and recovery during this time, we also need to maintain the health and well-being of our
- Social Links: Someone recently suggested it should be ‘physical distancing’ not ‘social
distancing’. It is important we maintain our social links with our running buddies and club
members during this time. Utilising WhatsApp, Zoom and the My Run Community has been
playing an important part in maintaining a positive approach during these often anxious
- Social Media Drain: In this age of social media, we are inundated with information and
updates, opinions and conjecture. For some of us, our scrolling thumb is at risk of doing more
mileage than our legs! – that said, be careful to follow credible sites and news agencies for
updates, and the important directions of the WHO and HSE.
- ‘Working from home’: A good piece of advice I got over the last week was to remember,
‘You are not working from home’, you are in fact ‘at home during a crisis, trying to work’ –
please remember you’re not a failure if you are not getting as much work done as you had
hoped be that mileage or office work – ‘this is a pandemic, not a productivity contest!’
The preverbal global pause button has been struck, our more regular and accustomed daily routines
have been stalled – while this can be stressful and disorientating, it allows us to take a breath, step
back and embrace it as a opportunity to become a more robust and resilient runner – both physically
Stay safe, stay healthy and look after yourselves!
Any questions on the article?
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Got an injury concern or niggle?
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