A Runner’s Three Best Friends

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Recovery is an essential part of any workout plan, yet hard-headed distance runners often think themselves exempt.  I count myself among these ranks…well, at least until I turned 40.

I can no longer ignore recovery elements of my training.  I have three best friends with whom I spend a lot of time during the week.

My first friend is the foam roller.

I love
this basic foam roller
because it works well for myofascial release– that’s fancy for massage that helps the muscles return to their optimal position– as well as a back relaxation and chest opening prop when aligned under the spine.  It’s really the self-massage that most people think of when they grab a foam roller.  Runners can use the roller to get into tight glutes, hips, and IT bands.  But as this Runner’s World article very thoroughly demonstrates, the foam roller can be used for warm up and cool down, as well as rehab.   I like to roll in the evenings while I’m watching TV, and I’m finding that just 5-10 minutes a day makes a big difference in keeping my low body happy.

My second friend is someone I knew back when I was a teenage runner but I lost track of over the years.  It was re-introduced to me by my massage therapist Sara Illig of Integrative Massage here in Austin.  Sara told me of the importance of magnesium in muscle recovery.  She uses magnesium oil to lubricate the body for massage, and while I never seem to mind mag oil when I’m getting a massage, I found it a bit stingy when I tried to use it at home.  So I went to the source: epsom salts.  

Because I’m too lazy and too busy to sit and soak in a tub of epsom salts regularly, I use them in the shower daily instead.  I scoop a cup of the salt as I get into the shower, and then I mix a handful of epsom salt with shower gel and massage it into my legs.  It feels so good! I like to use
a high-quality, USA-sourced epsom salt
so I know that I’m getting the best mag into my muscles.

I feel a little silly recommending epsom salts, as it’s such a fuddy-duddy treatment.  But there really is merit in simplicity here.  When the muscles are tight, magnesium helps.  Why not deliver it transdermally with a little massage?

The final friend I want to introduce to you today is even more humble than salt. It’s ice. (Well, technically, it’s gel.)

For stubborn sore muscles (like the giant knot I had in my right calf for a week), I return to the icing protocol I learned years ago: fifteen minutes of ice on, thirty minutes off…repeat as many times as possible. Having a big ice (gel) pack like the one linked above makes it easy to cover a lot of muscle at once.

(Please don’t ever put ice directly on your skin for an extended period.  It’s a bad idea.)

By foam rolling, massaging with epsom salts, and regular icing, I can keep my legs running 40-50 miles a week….and still have energy left for work and family.  Take care of your body, and it will take care of you.

Who are the friends who keep you running?  Introduce them to me, please!

Good health and great happiness to you!

PS– Is there a runner on your gift list this holiday season? These three items would make a great runner’s care pack!


The links included in this post are Amazon Affiliate links– that means if enough of you click on it and buy something, I may earn enough money to buy a Gu packet someday.


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