Anyone who has run more than a few hundred metres understands that running is an impact sport. It’s incredibly hard on your body, and with every step, your leg joints absorb up to 10 times your body weight.
With injury rates incredibly high in runners (up to 79 per cent of runners get injured each year), looking after your body is crucial to running injury-free and performing well over the long term.
The choices you make each day regarding the type of training you do, the gear you use, the foods you eat, the hours of sleep you get and many other things all influence the condition of your body.
Look after it, and it will return the favour with good health and exceptional performance; don’t, and you’ll find yourself sick and injured.
With race day getting closer and training load increasing, I reached out to my friend Thomas Wynn-Jones to learn more about what you can do to look after your body.
Thomas is an osteopath at City Osteopathy and Physiotherapy who provide the very best in biomechanical assessment, manual therapy, rehabilitation, and complementary general healthcare.
Here’s What Thomas Has To Say
The biggest factors for improving health while preventing and recovering from injury are: good sleep habits, proper hydration and diet. The type, frequency and quality of your training also plays a significant role.
Working as an osteopath and holistic health practitioner, my hope is that by getting all of these factors right, or as close to right as possible, you’ll improve the fluid dynamics within your body.
Fluid dynamics, a term you may not be familiar with, includes arterial blood supply, venous and lymphatic drainage. Along with others, these things help to facilitate gaseous exchange (oxygen in and carbon dioxide out), the removal of waste products and the effective communication of hormones within the body.
In short, they allow your body to function at its best.
If these processes do not occur correctly, the biochemistry of your body will change, and disease, dysfunction, injury, suboptimal performance and pain will occur.
As your body becomes biomechanically more efficient by developing a good joint range of motion and optimal tissue tension, (achieved with regular dynamic stretching techniques before, but preferably after exercise and physical therapy) it allows for better fluid dynamics such as increasing blood flow to and from your organs and muscles.
With increased blood flow, performance will improve, injury is less likely to occur, and you’ll heal faster. Dysfunction and disease will also be reduced or removed.
You could say that structure and function are supporting each other in a reciprocal relationship. This is a primary tenant of osteopathic philosophy and is considered valid by other physical therapies such as physiotherapy, many massage therapists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners in their approach to treating the body.
When considering the use of physical therapists before and after training and races or due to specific injuries, two significant terms that practitioners consider when dealing with athletes are prehabilitation and rehabilitation.
Prehabilitation is the management and treatment of the body to limit your chances of injury through any activity, sporting or otherwise.
Examples of prehabilitation include:
- Carefully structuring your training programme to balance load and recovery.
- Eating a whole food diet, predominantly plant-based, rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Getting seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep each night.
- Hydrating correctly with water and electrolytes.
- Regular stretching and mobility exercises.
- Stress and anxiety reduction techniques like meditation.
- Regular visits to your physical therapist.
Rehabilitation is the process of aiding your body’s recovery from minor injury, post-surgery, or from extreme or endurance sport ‘strain’.
When you participate in endurance events like The Straits Times Run or an Ironman triathlon, an event consisting of a 3.8k swim, 180km cycle and a marathon, the various systems of your body are significantly stressed, and your body can break down.
When your body breaks down, physical therapists can help you to rehab any specific area of breakdown and build you back up to continue performing at your best.
If you wish to take your training and racing to another level (not to mention your health), consider a holistic approach to your preparation and lifestyle that includes structured exercise, high-quality sleep, whole foods, meditation and the regular application of physical therapy.