When running, the muscles that work the most are your quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes and calf muscles. So, for marathon runners, sprinters, and joggers alike, it’s often too easy to find yourself with a pulled, aching, or strained muscle. So how can muscle strain be minimized, while still accomplishing a successful run?
There is an overwhelming number of recovery tools out there for post-marathon and marathon training. From products that massage and ease, to complex technological devices, there are many tools and gear that will have your muscles breathing a sigh of relief before, during, and after your run.
Whether you’re training for a marathon or not, here are five items every runner should have to reduce muscle strain:
1. Compression Apparel
Consistency is vital whether you’re sprinting, jogging, or training for a longer distance run. Compression gear, usually made of primarily nylon and spandex, conforms tightly to the body, preventing movement of the muscle and increasing blood flow to the area.
Compression apparel, such as a shirt, compression tights, or sports bands, assist in maintaining proper body alignment, ensuring less muscle movement and as a result, reduced strain. The effect of increased blood flow also ensures that muscles are receiving a constant supply of oxygen, which is critical to sustain performance, and ultimately, to enhance muscle recovery.
2. Ice Pack
This is a must-have for every runner. A reusable ice pack ideally helps reduce inflammation and strain in the acute phase of an injury. Even without injury, applying cold and ice, while following the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) principle guarantees best results for alleviating any lingering aches and strains from running. Just remember to keep an ice pack in your freezer so it’s ready for use post-run.
Stretching alone isn’t always enough to ease muscle tightness or strain. Some find it helpful to use a foam roller. These products, when used correctly, have the power to release tightness and adhesions that build up between the muscles and the fascia (the layer of connective tissue which surrounds the muscle or group of muscles).
Foam rolling can even become part of a warming up and cooling down routine, allowing increased blood flow and good running form pre-run, and restoring range of movement of muscles post-run. Textured rollers also provide additional release and can contribute to an overall decrease in risk of injury while you run.
4. Epsom Salts
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, has been an age-old recovery tool for tense or strained muscles. In addition to the many health benefits that Epsom salt provides, Epson salt baths can soothe muscle pain, reduce swelling, and increase your body’s store of magnesium, which help serve important bodily functions.
Though there are claims to the contrary as far as a scientific guarantee, there’s very little harm in treating your aching muscles to a long soak in a warm bath after a run, particularly as the magnesium will be readily absorbed through the skin.
5. Kinesiology Tape
Many runners are already familiar with these multi-colored strips of tape, but what purpose does it actually serve?
Kinesiology tape is applied along muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and can be used to change muscle tone, assist with lymphatic drainage, correct muscle movement patterns and oscillation, and improve overall posture. The tape creates neuromuscular feedback that helps the muscles to fire effectively, which make it ideal to wear while recovering from previous muscle strain, or minor injuries.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line for runners, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Maintaining a strong core and muscular balance with a regular workout routine that incorporates simple aids, equipment, or other gear can help prevent running injuries for years to come. Different tools and gear can provide different impacts to keep your running muscles in tip-top shape for years to come.
For more information about easing muscle strain, speak to an orthopedic specialist at Coastal Orthopedics today. It’s our mission to help patients manage their pain so they can live life to the fullest. Call us today at 941-792-1404 or request an appointment online.