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Three weeks ’til SCV race day

Fitness: Now is the time for make-or-break performance

Posted: October 14, 2010 7:16 p.m.
Updated: October 15, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Glute foam roll.

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In just three short weeks, roads will be closed and the Santa Clarita Valley will be taken over by runners. These are people have set a goal and, on Nov. 7, they’ll try to accomplish it. Some will be completing a 5K, others a half marathon, and those who are really inspired will be running a full marathon.

A full marathon is more than 26 miles, and to say it tests the physical boundaries of the human body is an understatement. For many people, 26 miles is a long way to drive.

When running, the human body takes approximately 1,500 steps per mile. That’s 1,500 repetitions on each leg to run one mile. Doing the math means if you have been training for one of these events, you have put your body through a significant amount of pavement pounding, step after step.

These last three weeks leading up to the race can be crucial to make or break your performance. This is not the time to try to make up mileage or workouts you missed. Your last long run should be this week at the latest. In the final two to three weeks before the race, you should be tapering off your mileage and focusing on recovery.

A number of athletes will make the mistake of thinking they want to get one last workout or long run in, but this will only be detrimental to race-day performance. Instead focus on these three things:

1. Massage, using a foam roller to reduce adhesions.
2. Stretching, working on range of motion and flexibility.
3. Recovery workouts, including muscle-activation exercises.

Foam roller
Since you may not be a professional athlete with your own massage therapist, I recommend you learn how to use a foam roller. These last three weeks the foam roller should become your new best friend.

What is a foam roller? We at Results Fitness call it the “poor man’s massage.”

Give yourself a massage from head to toe using a foam roller. Obviously, having someone else massage you is much nicer, but using a foam roller is beneficial and can be done twice a day in the last three weeks leading up to a race. 

You can pick up a foam roller at Results Fitness, where we teach all of our clients how to use them. It becomes a part of their daily routine.

One move on the foam roller that will be particularly important after all of the miles you’ve been running is working on the band of fascia that runs along the outside of your leg. This band is called the IT band (short for Iliotibial band), which in runners and cyclists can get extremely tight and even cause knee pain.

Lie on the roller on your side with the leg you are massaging straight and the other leg bent for support. Roll up and down the side of your leg.

You can also use the roller to roll out any knots in your hips. If you have adhesions in your gluteus maximus, you won’t be able to use your hips properly when you are running, which will lead to a less efficient stride and more likelihood of injury.

Sitting on the roller, cross one leg over the other and lean to the hip that is crossed over the top. Roll back and forth on that hip. Switch sides.

Stretching
In addition to using a foam roller, you should also include stretches to loosen up some of the muscles that have been pounding the pavement. Ankle joints tend to get extremely tight on runners. Many injuries start from the bottom and work their way up. If you have tight ankles, then each step you take will create more impact further up the body, eventually leading to a hip injury or back injury.

I recommend an ankle-mobility stretch, where you stand facing a wall with your foot just a few inches away and bend your knee to try to touch your knee to the wall. This will make you feel a stretch in your calf and really works on the ankle joint’s range of motion.

Another stretch is for the hip flexors, which are the muscles on the front of your legs that have to contract each time you take a step while running.

With this stretch, step back into a lunge position and really push your hips forward, until you feel a stretch in the front of the back leg. You can also reach your arm up to increase the stretch.

Muscle-activation exercises
As part of your pre-race plan, you can also include exercises to wake up the muscles that don’t work as well as they should. What do I mean by that?

Many runner’s have what we call “gluteal amnesia,” which is when their nervous system has a hard time using their glutes and instead relies more on the quads. Waking up the glutes can lead to better running form, more power and less injury.

Performing an exercise with body weight only — such as a single leg reach — will help activate the glute to get you ready to have all of your muscles firing for the race.

Not just for runners
Even if you are not racing any time soon, all of the above methods are beneficial for anyone. You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from foam rolling and stretching, which can really improve your posture and reduce your risk of everyday injuries.

Visit Results Fitness to pick up a foam roller and learn more about how to use one, or to check out our natural shake café, now open to the public. 24420 Walnut Street, Newhall, CA. 91321. (661) 799-7900, www.results-fitness.com.

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