Foam Rolling for Runners

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Foam rolling is a great way to take care of your body during race training. I really believe it was the pixie dust that got me through my full marathon without any major aches and pains. The importance of using a foam roller is starting to make its way around the running world, but not everyone necessarily knows how or why we use it. If you are one of those people, fear not! Here are some FAQs regarding foam rolling along with some examples of how to foam roll those notoriously tight muscles.

What is foam rolling?
Put simply, foam rolling is a form of stretching. The fancy term for it is “Self-Myofascial Release” or “SMR” if you like acronyms. It’s a method that involves putting gentle pressure on a trigger point or a “knot” within the muscle to increase blood flow and release tension. This is similar to a massage.

What are the benefits of foam rolling? 
There are SO MANY. Foam rolling can improve your range of motion, relieve muscle soreness after a long run, prevent injury, improve gait, decrease joint pain, correct muscle imbalances and increase circulation. It basically makes you a better, faster, less injury-prone runner, and it can make running less painful in general.

When should I foam roll?
The great thing about foam rolling is that you don’t have to be warmed-up to do it. In fact, I would recommend doing it at the very beginning of your workout. This will make you more mobile and less injury prone when you move into the actual workout. It’s also a great way to cool down after a long run.

How do I foam roll?
Slowly roll over the targeted area until you find a pressure point. You will know when you are on a pressure point because it will feel really tender and you will experience some discomfort. Depending on how tight the area is, it could be A LOT of discomfort or just a little. Stay on that tender spot for 30-90 seconds and breathe slowly. Try to relax your body. It’s easy to tense up and clench your hands and face when you feel the pain, but try to avoid that. After the 30-90 seconds, you will start to feel the discomfort subside and the muscle will relax. You want to take the time to really explore the muscle and find multiple pressure points. Try slowly rolling forward and back or side to side and notice how just a slight change in your position can locate new pressure points. Here are a few more tips:

  • Move slow. It’s tempting to roll quickly over the muscle, especially when it’s really painful but this is ineffective. It takes time for the muscle to relax and rolling quickly over a tender spot won’t fix anything.
  • Choose the density of your foam roller. If foam rolling a certain area is too painful for you, start with a softer foam roller then build your way up. If you want to really get in there and apply a lot of pressure, try using a rumble roller or a lacrosse ball. Lacrosse balls are especially great for rolling out the bottoms of the feet.
  • Remember that everything in our body is connected. For example, if you’re feeling a lot of discomfort in your IT band, it could actually be your glutes and hips that are tight. If you’re feeling some discomfort in your lower back, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to foam roll your lower back. It could be that your hip flexors or lats are really tight. Just be diverse with what you foam roll.

Foam rolling suggestions for runners:

PicCollageIliotibial (IT) Band/Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL):  Lie on one side with the foam roller just in front of the hip. Cross the top leg over the lower leg, placing that foot on the floor. Slowly roll from the hip joint down toward the knee (but avoid rolling on the knee). You can also try slowly rocking forward and back to see if you locate a more sensitive area toward the front or back of the leg.

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Piriformis: Sit on top of the foam roller. Cross one foot over the opposite knee. Lean into the hip of the crossed leg. This is really important. For some reason everyone always tries to lean toward the wrong leg. Slowly roll on the back hip area to find the tender spot. If you don’t feel any pressure points, try sitting on top of a tennis ball or lacrosse ball.

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Calves: Place foam roller under the calf. Cross one leg over the other to increase pressure. If this creates too much pressure for you, try it without crossing the top leg over. Be sure to roll the entire length of the muscle.

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Shins: This is the area that bothers me the most when I run. Place the foam roller under your shins and then put your hands on the floor in front of you. You can cross your legs at the ankles or roll both shins at once. It works best when you roll over either side of the shin bone. This is also a great one to do with a lacrosse ball.

Recommended products:

Happy foam rolling, runners!

-Amanda

Tips for Running in The Summer Heat

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I absolutely love summer and the heat. Give me warm temps, a good book, a cold drink, and a patio, and I am good to go…until I have to run. Running in the summer can be pretty unmagical. When temps in Texas hit triple digits, I feel like a melted snowman.

Here are a few strategies I use to help make running in the heat bearable:

 

1. Run before the sun comes up: I’m usually an evening runner, so this is a tough one for me. I really enjoy going for a run to let off steam after a long work day. In the hottest parts of summer evening runs are not always possible. This past week the temps were still over 90 degrees at 9:00 pm. Morning runs are a much cooler option. Even though it can be hard to win the battle with the alarm clock, I know how great it will feel when I am properly prepped for my fall races. Temps are usually the coolest before 7:30 am, so I try to finish up before then.

2. Stay hydrated: Dehydration is not a good way to end a run. When temps are high, you will need more water than usual. The optimal amount of water needed can vary from person to person. I try to drink 6-8 oz of water every 30 minutes during a runs lasting 45 min or more. More importantly I try to maintain proper hydration before and after runs. That means I usually drink my weight in water (literally, that’s how many oz I drink during the day). I’m also more inclined to try a Gatorade type beverage after a run in the summer time.

3. Take it slow: There’s no way around it. You will run slower in the summer. How much slower will also vary from person to person. In Jeff Galloway’s training program on the RunDisney website he recommends slowing your pace by about a minute a mile for temps above 70 F and 2 minutes a mile for temps above 80 F.

4. Find a friend: This is a great tip for training any time of year. A training buddy can help keep you motivated when temps and early mornings are standing between you and your training plan. If you don’t have a friend who can join you for runs, consider joining some of the Facebook groups for runners. All of the Disney races have Facebook groups filled with other runners to help you stay motivated. A simple search for running groups on Facebook will give you loads of options for virtual pals.

5. Find some sprinklers: I know it sounds odd, but I love to run in my neighborhood on watering days. I strategically try to run close to the sprinklers to get little cool off from the water. Running through sprinklers also makes me happy because it makes me feel like a kid again.

6. Consider a treadmill: When all else fails, you can turn to a treadmill. I’m going to be completely honest here. I LOATHE treadmills. I never run on a treadmill. I think they are evil robots out to get me. Seriously. I hyperventilate just thinking about a treadmill. I realize that is a completely irrational fear that is likely not shared by our friendly readers. For that reason, I decided to include the treadmill as a strategy for summer runs. Use at your own risk, friends.

7. Wear proper attire: Breathable fabric is a must in the summer heat. Look for fabrics that are moisture wicking. You don’t have to go to an expensive store to find moisture wicking workout attire. Walmart and Target are great locations to find inexpensive clothing options for summer runs. Don’t forget to look for moisture wicking socks, too!

That’s all the tips for now. Hopefully a few of these will help you stay a happy snowman… IN SUMMER!!!

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-Christine

Our Favorite Fitness Classes for Cross-training

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The three of us at Runs in Tutus have all started our training for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November! Amanda has been following a training plan she created to help reach a personal record at the race, while Melanie and Christine have been following the Jeff Galloway training plan posted by runDisney. Regardless of the training plan we are following, all of us have incorporated cross-training into our weekly workout routine. This helps keep us strong and makes us better, safer runners!

While it may not sound as exciting as running through Cinderella castle, you’d be surprised how many fun and exciting options there are out there! For example, by attending group exercise classes you can learn something new, have some fun, get in your cross-training AND meet new friends along the way. This is a HUGE perk. You won’t believe how motivated you are to make it to class when your new friend expects you to be there. No one wants to be the loser that didn’t show up!

Not sure which classes to try? Here are some Runs in Tutus personal favorites. Extra points if you show up to class in a tutu.

Princess Christine: I really enjoy dance fitness classes and ballet. I like ballet because it is mentally and physically challenging and it builds a strong core and improves flexibility.  I had the idea of trying ballet for cross-training a couple years ago. Ballet dancers seem to have pretty rockin’ bods, and the cute clothing and pinkness fit my number one criteria for starting a workout program. I have to say it has really changed my body and my core! The slow concentrated effort on the upper body, along with precise directive from a pro ballet teacher were exactly what I needed.  As for flexibility, I am pleased to say the stretching and barre work have been an excellent compliment for running. My hips feel so much better, and my stride has improved with my increase in flexibility. I take ballet and dance classes about 2-3x/week.

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Christine danced in Don Quixote last June. Ballet is her favorite form of cross-training. She also danced in Swan Lake this summer. Photo credit: Dony Dawson

Princess Melanie: I like kickboxing, dance cardio, indoor cycling, and general weight training/conditioning classes. I feel like those are the classes where I burn the most calories, but also work out muscle groups that don’t get a lot of attention with running. I also enjoy an occasional yoga class for flexibility and strength. I use ClassPass which allows me to take a wide variety of classes and also makes it hard to pick a favorite. I’m really motivated by the welcoming and friendly environment in group fitness classes, and it’s especially great when you get a fun, high energy instructor! I take 3 classes a week.

Melanie having fun after class!

Princess Amanda: I absolutely love POUND classes. It’s a class that combines isometric movements with simulated drumming. You get to rock out to your favorite songs with a set of bright green drumsticks called ripstix. Aside from the fact that it’s really unique and fun, I also like it because it strengthens your legs and hips and improves balance which is really beneficial for runners. Since I started doing POUND regularly 2x/week, it’s become easier to run up hills and I’ve been able to run faster without fatiguing. If you’re in DC, you can find POUND at Balance Gym! If you’re in another city, you can find a class by searching here. I also love inventing Disney themed workouts and trying them out with my sisters for cross-training.

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Squats are more fun with ripstix. Photo credit: Kori Kamradt

Do you love a fitness class that we didn’t mention here? Tweet us @runsintutus so that we can try it out!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Training Plans

photoThe next runDisney race on the Runs in Tutus itinerary will be the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon on Saturday, November 7th. We are really excited to run another Wine and Dine, and I’m especially thrilled that the race now coincides with the beginning of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! I am so excited to experience this ultimate Christmas Disney magic for the first time ever!

With the race quickly approaching, our crew has already started discussing costume ideas, dining reservations and park plans. Sometimes I get so excited about costumes and Disney magic that I forget one of the most important things – TRAINING FOR THE RACE!

For me personally, I’ve run so many half marathons that I can get away with very minimal training. I can always count on being able to finish the race with my average time as long as I do a couple of long runs a month or so before the race. I’ve decided that this year I want to avoid that trend and instead really challenge myself to break through new barriers. This year I will be shooting for a personal record at the Wine and Dine! My ultimate goal is to finish the race in less than two hours (this goal feels so much more attainable after finishing my first full marathon in March).

To hit this personal record, I’ve developed a 16 week training plan that begins the week of July 19th. From now until the first week of training, I’ll be continuing with my regular cross-training, and I’ll be running at least 5 miles a week. Once the plan begins, I will increase my mileage week by week. I plan to run 4 times a week with two days of cross-training and one day of rest.

I’ll be including my typical short runs throughout the week, but to really help with my PR goal, I’ve decided to incorporate some speed-play. I’m going to try a few Fartleks throughout my training to help increase my pace. If you’ve never heard of these, they’re just interval runs where you alternate back and forth between a faster, challenging pace and a slower, easy pace. I plan to alternate between 3 minutes of fast paced running and 2 minutes of slower paced running for my Fartlek runs.

Along with the speed work, I’ve also added a little extra mileage to my training plan to help with my PR. For a half marathon, I usually only run up to 11 or 12 miles before the race. This time, I’m going to try a couple of 14 mile runs to really push my endurance and make the race feel a little easier. I’ll hit the peak of my training the week of October 11th, then I’ll start tapering off the mileage up until the race.

If you’d like to follow along with me to train for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, you can find My Training Plan here. I realize that not everyone has the goal of hitting a personal record, so I’ve also included a Beginner Training Plan. This is more or less the plan I followed for my very first half marathon. With the Beginner Training Plan, I’d just recommend that you keep at least a 15 minute pace for all of your walks or runs. This will help you feel confident on race day, and you’ll be guaranteed to finish without the dreaded balloon ladies sweeping you off the course. Remember, the only thing that will prevent you from finishing that race is skipping your training runs!

Lastly, I just want to touch briefly on the cross-training days. There are so many fun things that you can do for cross-training: ballet, Zumba, weight-lifting, Spin, kayaking, Disney Inspired Workouts, Yoga, etc. Seriously, the wonderful world of cross-training is limitless. During our training journey to the Wine and Dine, our Runs in Tutus crew will definitely be posting about our cross-training adventures. I will also be posting many more Disney themed workouts. We’d love to hear about some of the crazy workouts you try as well!

Alright, Wine-os. Let the training begin! Do you have any specific training plans? Post your comments or questions below.

Hit the running trail and good luck!

-Amanda
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