Roll-With-It-Mirafit-Foam-Rollers

It's rare to find runners down at the gym. For many, running has that mental burn as well as physical. You run, you get somewhere, you progress. And when you reach the finish, your body rewards you with a rush of endorphins – a bit like a massive cake, but without the calories.

The thing is, all too many runners have injuries of some kind. Muscle tension, trigger points, tight glutes, stiff joints and lower back problems. And the more you run, the worse they get. Running is a massively high-impact sport and it can really take its toll on your body.

Granted, there are lots of health benefits to running. But over-training weak muscles spells injury.

 

Muscle tension

When people complain of muscle tension – particularly in-between their shoulder blades, they often refer to themselves as "having knots". This is a common phrase used to refer to one of three things:

  • Muscle tightness – this is when you have tight postural muscles which have either been over-used, under-used or held in a bad position for a long time. 
  • Trigger points – fascia is the sheet of connective tissue that lies beneath the skin and separates muscles from other internal organs. If the fascia becomes inflamed, it can start to thicken and we feel these as sore spots and often identify them as the source of the tension. 
  • Part of your anatomy – we can sometimes feel lumps and bumps in our back muscles. Our backs are very complex, and all the muscles and bits of tissue are very carefully intertwined. Where they join the skeleton and where they cross over – especially when the back is tight – can feel like a knot, but it usually isn't. 

Understanding what is happening when you work out will help you identify issues that are causing you pain, as well as address them.

Running causes a lot of issues. Not only because it is so high-impact – especially if you run outside. But also because many runners just run. They don't complement their training with a strengthening routine. This means that muscle gets eaten into and over-worked, without the proper support that strengthening provides. In addition, running can leave you dehydrated – which is also attributed to muscle tension.

All coupled with hunched shoulders and the repeated impact of pounding concrete, it's no wonder that runners end up so sore!

The question is: if you're feeling muscle tension – what can you do about it?

Getting your muscles back on track - as well as fueling your run with extra power and speed - comes from caring for your muscles and giving them what they need.

 

How to stop aching muscles

Taking care of ourselves is about more than just taking one approach. It's quite common for those with tight muscles to get a sports massage; but then a few days later, they will feel tense again.

Massages are in fact a very important part of the recovery process, but they are one step in the process of taking care of your body.

If you have trigger points and tight muscles – wherever they are on your body – try these five steps to help them improve:

1) Reducing tension – for recovery to begin, you need to first reduce the tension and restore mobility. Once your muscles are working properly, you will be able to strengthen them. However, if it is tensed up, you won't be able to use it fully and you might even make things worse. Massage is a great way to release tension in your muscles.

Self-massaging with a foam roller is the perfect way to regularly target trigger points and keep muscles relaxed, so you can get the most out of your workout. The Mirafit Hi-Density Foam Roller has sections which are smooth and those that are raised. The smoother areas can be used on more sensitive areas around your hips, hip flexors and inner thighs to release tension – ideal for runners.

The raised parts are perfect for accessing deeper muscle tissue – such as around the glutes, in-between your shoulders, along your forearms and on your hamstrings. You can use a foam roller on a daily basis but try not to use it on sore areas for too long. Often, by kneading the area, you increase the blood flow to the muscles – which aids recovery.

However, even though it can feel like the "knot" is going down, work on the same area for too long and what you're actually doing is inflaming the area. So, the soreness feels like it's gone down – until the next day when you're even more sore!

 

2) Strengthening – the most important part of recovery is strengthening. This will allow your muscles to grow, become a lot more dense, and as a result, give your body the support it needs. Not just for power or speed when running, but this strength is good for your posture and securing your joints. It also helps to prevent injuries.

Weak muscles are more "slack" and are prone to falling in line with bad posture. Sedentary positions - such as hunching over a desk or sitting in a car for a long time - are going to encourage your joints to seize up and your posture to deteriorate. Along with strength comes mobility and regular movement.

And these are just as important to keep your joints loose and healthy. This means doing regular hip-opening stretches, shoulder rolling, wrist/hand rolls and hip circles. If your day job requires you to sit down for long periods of time, make sure you get regular breaks to loosen off your muscles and change position. A lumbar support for your chair will also help. A straight posture is good but holding it for eight hours a day can strain it and cause it to tense up. So, support your back when needed.

When strengthening, you'll want to target common areas of tension including: the glutes, hips, quads, hamstrings, upper and lower back (as well as your abs) and shoulders.

Try these exercises for starters:

  • Squats (including squat jumps and at the squat rack) 
  • Lunges (including alternate jump squats and Bulgarian split squats) 
  • Bent rear kick backs 
  • Weighted hip lifts 
  • Toe touches 
  • Bicycles 
  • Box jumps 
  • Lat pull downs 
  • Bent over barbell rows 
  • Back extensions 
  • Crunches 
  • Shoulder presses

 

3) Repair – once you have worked your muscles, it's really important to give them the nutrients they need to repair. Strengthening muscle fibres is about tearing them up and if you don't give your body the proper ingredients to grow and develop, you're unlikely to get stronger and more likely to suffer from injuries.

You may have seen people walking around the gym with a protein shake in hand. That's because ideally you want to be giving your body a dose of protein within around 20 minutes of your workout. It doesn't have to be a protein shake though – even though some of us in the Mirafit team love them, they really aren't for everyone! Tuna and milk are also great sources of protein. So are pulses, nuts and tofu.

Chicken and eggs are classics and great for helping you to keep an eye on your red meat intake. Amino acids are also really important for muscle repair and recovery. But if you drink protein shakes or eat meat, you don't really need to keep an eye on this. However, if you're vegan or vegetarian, you could try getting some quinoa, buckwheat, soy or hummus into your diet. You can also get vegan protein and amino acid supplements from My Protein.
Explore their vegan range here.

 

4) Stay hydrated – being dehydrated can quite quickly bring on a headache. We all know that feeling of having too much coffee and not enough water. The same goes for your muscles. When we don't drink enough water, muscles become tense and feel painful. The recommended daily amount for adults is eight glasses of water a day. Unprocessed fruit and vegetables can also contribute to this amount. Things like coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol however, do not.

 

5) Stretch – stretching out a weak muscle isn't going to help it in the long run. But once you have started your strengthening routine, you can start to ease tightness and elongate those denser muscles to keep them supple. You will also appreciate the fuller range of motion as you start to put all these steps into motion.

Stretching should be done at the end of a workout when the muscles are already warm (to prevent injury). Never lock your knees when stretching your hamstrings, as you can end up stretching your joints rather than your actual muscles.

So, for a hamstring stretch, keep a slight bend in the knee and push your body weight into the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, breathe and relax. Then as your muscles ease off, push yourself deeper into the stretch for another 30 seconds. Repeat one more time, then stop.

Don't forget to stretch out your back, neck and chest, and include stretching as part of your daily routine, to complement your strength work.

 

Mirafit-Fitness-Model-Doing-A-Hamstring-Stretch

Repeat these five steps to keep your muscles healthy, strong and supple, as well as to reduce tension. Your running will speed up, hill sprints will be easier, you will feel looser around your hips, your trigger points will be well-managed, and you will also be less prone to injury.

Another good thing to do is to keep an eye on your posture while running. Many people have their own running style and it's common to see curved backs, hunched shoulders and angled necks.

Be mindful of your posture and keep your chest up as you run to avoid those niggling shoulder pains. Also, make sure you vary your running routine. Running the same distance all the time – especially if it's long, will only end up wearing you down – literally.

Runners should be doing a mixture of short, medium and long runs at different heart rates, to reach their goals.

Happy running and as always, if you have any questions or would like to get in touch, you can find us on Instagram and Facebook @Mirafitofficial.

 

NB if you have any sharp pain, or have restricted movement, we would always advise you see a doctor.