I am a Chartered Physiotherapist with over 10 years’ experience in private practice & in elite sport. Over the years I have noticed the real benefits & importance of pre-competition preparation & post-event recovery strategies.
I have listed the strategies I feel are most important & vital to minimise the risk of injury, optimise your performance & speed your recovery;
A dynamic warmup prepares your body for the demands of running by increasing core body temperature, improving range of motion, and boosting blood flow to the big muscles you’ll rely on most while running—your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
Do each dynamic exercise 10 times each side & repeat 2-4 sets prior to activity
Ice Bath Therapy
One simple way to offset the risks inherent to long bouts of running is cold-water immersion; the ice bath. It constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow. Ice baths don’t only suppress inflammation, but help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles.
Although scientific research exists to support the use of ice baths to promote recovery, no exact protocol has been proven better than others. In general, water temperatures should be between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and immersion time should range from 10 to 20 minutes.
Deep Tissue Sports Massage
Massage relieves muscle soreness, promotes circulation, flushes toxins and lactic acid from the body, and eases joint strain. Bottom of FormMassage causes the fascia tissue to soften and make clenched muscles relax, It also removes adhesions between fascia and muscles (places where the two stick together and restrict muscles’ movement).
Studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that massage after exercise reduced the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and other research suggests that it improves immune function and reduces inflammation, while also decreasing levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone” linked to chronic inflammation).
Massage can certainly let runners tolerate more training, and harder training, because it will improve their recovery and speed up their ability to go hard two days later. The other factor to consider is that muscle stiffness can throw off your gait, which leads to problems over time. Getting a sense for how your body should feel when everything is in balance, allows you to notice small issues before they turn into chronic problems. Even beginner runners can benefit from massage.
Self-massage with foam rollers and other tools like tennis balls can be beneficial in between visits. They can also help runners prep for workouts, since they loosen muscles. Just don’t overdo the pressure.
Fuelling correctly pre & post-race
Whether you’re running a 5K or a marathon, the food you eat and the fluids you drink on race day can make or break your performance.
Since every race scenario is different, having experience doesn’t necessarily mean you’re immune to questionable food-and-drink decisions. Watch out for these six diet mistakes that afflict even the most well-intentioned runners.
- Not scheduling the time for breakfast
Eating too close to the race can cause cramp, heartburn and bathroom pit stops, and it will cause your body to use its energy digesting rather than racing. Skipping breakfast is not an option either: low blood sugar can cause fatigue and dizziness on the course.
Eat at least two to three hours before your race starts. For a shorter event, such as a 5K, that meal should provide 150-200kcals; longer races, such as marathons, require much more (500kcals and up). Runners going 10 miles or longer may also need a snack about 60 minutes before the start to keep blood-sugar levels up.
- Overdosing on protein, fat or fibre
An egg-and-cheese omelette isn’t the smartest pre-run choice: its protein and fat take too long to empty from the stomach and can delay the absorption of the carbs you eat. Even if you can normally tolerate it before a morning jog, you’re likely to be going harder and faster on race day, Also watch out for high-fibre breakfasts, such as wholegrain cereals, which can cause cramping and GI distress.
Eat an easy-to-digest, carb-based morning meal, such as a plain bagel with a little peanut butter and a banana, or toast with jam. Porridge is a little higher in fibre, but if it has worked for you in training, stick with it.
- Drinking all morning
Dehydration can wreck your race, but so can having to run for the toilet at mile two (and mile six and mile 12) with a sloshing stomach and full bladder. Drinking too much water without also taking in electrolytes can put endurance runners at risk for hyponatraemia, a sodium imbalance in the body that, in extreme cases, can be dangerous.
Get most of your fluids (up to 750ml) at least 90 minutes before the start, and then chill out. Take a final few swigs (175-250ml) before the race starts. (On very hot and humid days, plan to slightly increase your fluid intake.) Use the colour of your urine as a guide: it should be light yellow, but not totally clear.
- Skipping water stations
You’re several miles in and feeling great – why waste time walking through a water station or wrestling with a gel? Because by the time you no longer feel great, it may be too late. During races, we don’t get normal hunger signals. We often find out by cramping, slowing or getting dizzy that we didn’t fuel or drink properly.
You don’t need to chug a full cup at every aid station. But make sure you get at least a couple of sips every two to three miles, and take in at least 30-60g of carbs (120-240kcals) every hour after your first 60 minutes of running. Practising your fuelling during long training runs will help you perfect your race-day plan.
- Trying a new gel
It’s hard to predict how your stomach (and your gag reflex) will react to something new in a strenuous environment such as a race. No matter how enticing that mocha caramel cinnamon gel sounds at mile 20, today is not the day to sample it for the first time. It may power you through until the end; but it’s just as likely to power you straight to the bathroom.
Sample brands and flavours ahead of time, and travel with your own trusted nutrition in a pocket or waist belt.
- Heading for the beer tent
Congrats, you’re done! By all means, you deserve a beer – but not without first refuelling with some real food and water. Alcohol has a diuretic effect, so the more you drink, the more fluids you actually lose, Although beer is full of carbs, they’re not the best carbs for replenishing glycogen stores and aiding muscle repair.
‘You’ll recover faster if you get in some solid nutrition first,’ A sandwich, yoghurt or protein bar (with a bottle of water) 30-60 minutes post-run is ideal.
Compression wear is close-fitting clothing, with a high Lycra content that squeezes the muscles that are key to efficient running. Here are list of the benefits;
Compression Tops: The Benefits
- Core support: Compression tops provide core support around your stomach, sides and lower back, which can become fatigued – particularly on long runs.
- Better breathing:Tops train the breathing by gently squeezing and supporting the chest with each inhalation. This encourages a more focused breathing style and can even reduce the risk of a painful stitch.
- Improved posture:Support is delivered through the back for a more upright approach to the run. Better posture equals better breathing, and this in turn equals improved running.