Running is an even playing field. Whether you are amateur or a professional the roads are always open. You can run as long or as fast as you want and you can replicate the exact same workout a pro is doing–granted you are capable of running that speed or distance. There are no barriers to entry in training. However training is not where the gap forms between amateurs and pros–it is in the remaining hours of the day where this occurs. While you may go home to a nap on the couch and a self massage on the foam roller, they have a team of massage therapists and trainers to insure they achieve maximal recovery and are ready to go the next day. Thus they can train harder and more often and are bound to perform better in the long run.
We have two options if we wish to match their out of training lifestyle. We can spend exorbitant amounts of money on the technology and resources that the pros take for granted. We can but whirlpools, pay for daily massages, and maybe even an altitude tent for our houses. This of course would require lots of money but that is what it takes to be good at running, right?
No. We have another option to achieve almost identical results. We can recreate those recovery methods through household methods. This will save us all that money as well as keep us matching the professional lifestyle. Here are just some of the things we can do.
Ice and Cold Tubs
We all are aware of the uses of ice and cold therapy. Even a normal person will prescribe an ice bag to treat a sore knee. Professionals however have better ways of administering cold treatment than us amateurs. First off they tailor their treatment method based on the specific diagnosis. Let’s say a professional runner is experiencing soreness in their calf. They will most likely pack on a bag of finelly crushed ice, use some sort of ice massage, or use a “game ready” device which combines cold and compression. How can we recreate this at home? Well first off lets say you are just going to go with the ice bag. The ice you have is probably in cubes as opposed to the finely crushed ice the pros have to create an optimal administration of heat. What you can do it put your ice in a blender before putting it in the bad. This way it will have ideal consistency. If you live in a cold climate just put some snow in a bag since this is already the perfect consistency!
Now let’s say you want to do an ice massage. While you can purchase a device made for this there is a much easier method. Simply take a Dixie cup, fill it with water, and put it in the freezer. Once it is completely solid, strip off a little bit of the cup at a time to expose some ice. You then can massage your sore or injured areas for up to 15 minutes.
Ice compression is a little tricky but can still be done. Simply take an ace bandage or compression sleeve and put it on before administering ice. It should have the same effects as the game ready machine.
Ice can also be used simply to make your legs feel fresh and recovered rather than treat am injury or soreness. In this case pros often seek out their whirlpool ice baths. Although I’m sure your bathtub at home does not have the jets that these therapeutic tubs have but you should be able to attain the same benefits.
Some professionals out there swear by the benefits of massage. It is said to increase blood flow and loosen up tight muscles. While it is not possible to self massage all areas that may be sore you can acquire cheap tools that can be as or more effective than a massage therapist. The first tool is the handheld stick. These are great for flushing out tired muscles. If you don’t want to spend the twenty plus dollars, a rolling pin can be just as effective. There are various other rollers that can be bought but again, if cost is your limiting factor you can pick up a large PVC pipe from the hardware store. I find my 2 dollar PVC pipe roller to be far more effective than the ones on the market! When performing self massage always be sure to keep it gentle and perform long slow movements– you are trying to help your legs recover, not bruise them for the next day.
Another great recovery aid is elevation. Kenyan runners have actually been found to spend the majority of their time not running with their legs above heart level. One way to engage in this is make sure if you are sitting on the couch or at a desk that your feet are up on another chair or table. It will help to keep the blood circulating so fresh blood can rejuvenate your legs. After a run I usually elevate my legs up against a wall for about 10 minutes just to get the recovery process started. You can even repeat this process a couple times a day if you had an especially tough day of training.
Not being a professional is no excuse not to recover like a professional. Its not a matter of money–its just a matter of getting a little bit creative. Who knows, if you do everything like the pros do, maybe you will be able to race like they do some day too.