As we go full steam ahead into the winter months and our runners look back on a great fall season of racing (whether it was half marathons, marathons, triathlons, 5K races, etc) many are now preparing for their next season of training.
For many athletes in the height of competition season, some of the "extras" (e.g. strength training, mobility training, corrective exercises, etc) start to fall by the wayside as they focus on their race day performance. As we hit the post-race season and transition into either a NEW season of running (I see you, our 3 season runners/athletes) or an off-season, winter is a great time to re-integrate those "extras" back into your routine and work on building a good strong foundation. This foundation is what will allow athletes to enhance their performance and remain injury-free in the seasons ahead. With that in mind, here are a few recommendations for how to Make the Most of Your Winter Training.
As athletes, we tend to really enjoy our actual sport, but we tend NOT to enjoy the other aspects of training that make us better at our sport. Runners love to run, but often dislike strength training, just like soccer players love to play soccer, but tend to dislike the "conditioning" (running) that makes them better, faster athletes.
So, why do we harp so much on strength training? Some athletes would argue that they have never strengthened and they have been "just fine" so far. While that may be true (for now), the odds are not in your favor. About 50% of runners are injured every year and about 25% of runners are injured at any given time! Of those injuries, a large majority tend to be due to overuse injuries. Those are pretty astounding statistics and leave a lot of room for improvement. So how do we reduce our risk for injury? Though not the answer that most people want to hear, strength training is one of the many ways that we can prevent injury. Not to mention the many other invaluable benefits that strength training has to offer as outlined below.
Improved running performance
Improved bone health (decreased risk of stress fractures, osteoporosis)
If you are having trouble motivating yourself to incorporate that strength training into your routine, read the post below for some great recommendations.
It is important to prep our body for movement before we ask it to perform at a high level. Just walking out the door and starting your run can be very tempting, especially when you only have 45 minutes to get a few quick miles under your belt. However, making sure you give your body at least 5 minutes of mobility work before you walk out the door can be invaluable.
Using a foam roller, lacrosse ball or thera-gun for soft tissue release is a great way to help prepare your tissue for movement. Follow that up with some dynamic stretching and a few activation exercises (heel raises, standing clamshells) and your body should be ready to run!
When we think of mobility, we often just think about muscular or soft tissue mobility (how well can a muscle stretch), but mobility of a joint is equally as important. If a joint doesn't move well, the tissue around it (muscle) will continually become shortened again, because it does not have adequate range of motion to stretch at its newly improved length.
The ankle is a great example of this. Many athletes are limited with ankle dorsiflexion (pulling your toes up towards your nose). Often people assume that this limitation is due to calf tightness. While this CAN be the case, often times it is also due to limitations in the mobility of the ankle joint. You can stretch your calf every day, twice a day, but the calf will continue to shorten back to its prior length if there isn't enough mobility in the ankle joint itself.
For more information on improving ankle mobility, read the post below:
The winter months can be a great time to re-assess and prioritize mobility. Another great option to improve mobility is to start to incorporate yoga into your routine 1-2x/week. This allows for a lower impact activity that still has great value to your overall health and performance.
If you are struggling with mobility or are not quite sure where to start to improve it, having a trained professional perform a thorough movement assessment can be a great way to identify what is causing those limitations. Please reach out to us if you would like to know more or click the link below to schedule your movement screen.
Slow Down to Speed Up
So often athletes want to train at max capacity all the time. We feel like the harder we work, the more we will get out of a training session. However, our bodies are not meant to withstand this amount of persistent stress and strain. Purposeful slow running can have a lot of benefit, as highlighted below:
Slow runs let us run our fast runs faster so that we can race faster.
Slow runs build mental stamina, muscular endurance, and running economy.
Slow runs improve our ability to burn fat as fuel, allowing us to run longer without hitting the wall (and don't we ALL want this).
Finally, slow runs will decrease your overall risk of injury and illness, keeping you healthy for a lifetime of running!!
For more information on the value of running slow, read the blog post below. https://www.omegaprojectpt.com/post/slow-down-speed-up
Focus on Form and Efficiency
Runners are the one group of athletes who really do not prioritize practicing their form with their sport. They do plenty of running at various speeds and distances, but there is very little emphasis on breaking down the movement pattern of running.
We all have many reasons why we no longer run with the most efficient stride, whether that be years of sitting at a desk in school or at work, prior injuries, stress, a recent growth spurt, etc. Although there is no "perfect" form with running, there are aspects of running that can place us at higher risk for injury or that make us less efficient.
Taking a closer look at form, through gait analysis can help us to better identify what may be causing a runner to have pain and for those who are healthy, it can help us to improve and maximize performance.
To learn more about 3D gait analysis, how it works, why it can be beneficial, click on the link below.
If you are interested in scheduling a 3D gait analysis, feel free to reach out to us at 302-570-7027 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter season can be a great time to prioritize the aspects of our training and well-being that often get forgotten throughout the rest of the year. Focusing on strength, mobility, form and slowing down your training can be extremely valuable in maximizing performance and preparing our bodies for upcoming competition. Most importantly, it can assist in keeping our bodies healthy and doing what we love.