Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Secret Weapon

Last night I attended the "Runner's Health and Marathon Training" event at Hospital for Special Surgery where several doctors and a nutritionist spoke to a room full of runners (and about 350 runners around the world via webcast) about training and nutrition. While we all know I'm not training for a marathon, I still took away quite a few tips from the evening and the best quote of the evening was this one from Dr. Jordan Metzl:
"A strong butt is key to a happy life."

As athletes, many of us deal with stiff muscles and stretch quite a lot. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard about experiences taking a stick through security at an airport (I've done it myself). We have quirky little 'tools' to stay limber and recover quickly from runs. I even have a trigger wheel. And now, I have another secret weapon!

This is a running blog, so when I find little tricks or tips, I'm going to share them. And I have a great one for you today!!! A few times since increasing my cardio since my latest injury I've mentioned that my leg muscles are extremely tight. Like seriously tight. I touch my toes and feel like a rubber band being pulled to it's extreme from heel to hip. My quads are tight. My hips are tight. My obliques are tight. My glutes are tight. Oh, and my shoulders have always been tight, but that's not news.

I don't have a foam roller at home but our gym has a few so I routinely use it for a few minutes both at the start and the end of my workouts there. I had to figure out something because nothing was loosening me up and I don't want to get another injury due to tight muscles. That is not ideal.

When my shoulders were really bad in college and just after, I often used a tennis ball for self-massage. Putting a tennis ball between my scapula and a wall was the only way I could get enough pressure to relief some of the tightness without the help of a professional. So, thinking back to this time I dug out a tennis ball and decided to see if it would help my glute muscles. (Woody was not home at the time, I did not want to incur strange looks until I knew it worked).

Now, the glute muscles are incredible things. Because of them, we are able to stand, walk, run, crawl. We would have a pretty difficult time getting around without working glute muscles. Because of this, quite a few doctors and athletes believe that weak or strained glute muscles can cause injuries in other areas of the lower body. As runners, we all know that a pain in one place can easily mean an injury somewhere else. This all means it's super important to make sure glute muscles are working properly and loose.

I found a bare space on the wall and grabbed my tennis ball and tried to work out the tight muscles. (I'll spare you a photo). Turns out it works really well. And not just for the glute muscles, but also for the hips, quads, and back. So, now first thing in the morning before the gym and then before I go to bed, I use my trusty tennis ball to loosen up my muscles. I've been doing this for a few weeks now and I have definitely noticed a difference in my workouts and runs. For example, on the day of the Mini 10k I woke up very stiff. While I was drinking tea and watching the weather reports, I alternated between massage and stretching and within minutes I was feeling more loose! 

So, enter into the books my secret weapon:

I guess it's not so "secret" any more!!
  • Do you have a secret weapon that helps you with your running or working out?
Today's workout -
35min elliptical
2x20sec bridges
100 crunches
2x15 hanging reverse curls
2x20 leg press
2x15 upright row
2x18 cable push-down
2x15 squats


Molly said...

I use a can of bean to roll under my arches when they're tight, works even better if you put it in the fridge first.

Callie said...

My glutes are so tight from strength training and I was wondering this morning how I could possibly stretch them before my run. I'm definitely trying this trick tonight!

Anonymous said...

that's great you found something that works for you! I signed up for the webcast of that seminar but then forgot all about it - grrr! I'd have to say I love my foam roller - use it every day!

Barbara said...

Hope you have a great time in NC ! (:

Barbara said...

Hope you have a great time in NC !

Penny said...

I just started using a tennis ball. My chiro suggested it. It has really worked for me to.