From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac.DNBAO…
We’re less than a month away from Boston’s 121st Marathon so this week we’re talking about sports medicine and training for the big event. Whether you are well into your training for the marathon and looking for an extra edge or you’ve recently been inspired to lace up your old sneakers and start with a 5K, here are a few tips to get you started.
Start on the Right Foot
How do you prepare for an endurance event that will test all of your physical and mental mettle? Take a moment to consider your overall health and well-being. Find a sports medicine specialist to evaluate your physical condition, address biomechanical imbalances, or perform a gait analysis to prevent future injuries. Developing a pre-training plan with an expert will help you reach an optimal training level and address any underlying issues before you begin to add up the miles.
Instead of waiting for the first signs of injury, schedule a “well” check-up every four to six weeks to identify signs of physical stress. Check-in with a training coach, chiropractor, or strength and conditioning specialist to help you develop a self-care routine during your training. Try acupuncture to keep levels of inflammation down and recovery times to a minimum. Athletes are often afraid to seek treatment when they notice the first sign of pain or discomfort. Treating an acute injury optimizes your chance at recovery and minimizes the risk of long-term damage or chronic pain.
Cross-training by incorporating multiple physical modalities will help you customize a routine, prevent over-training and address areas of weakness. Substitute different forms of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, speed intervals, or exercise rehabilitation. Don’t forget to rest. If you’re training for 26.2 miles or any endurance event, you need one to two days of hard-core rest combined with one cross-training or light training day.
Build Core Strength
Core strength training refers to the conditioning of the stabilizing muscles of your spine, pelvis, and torso. These muscles provide a foundation for all physical movement. When you increase their strength, you increase your power, speed, and stride efficiency. This training season, substitute a Pilates class for crunches. Pilates is one form of exercise that builds core strength as well as being a powerful tool for injury prevention and increasing athletic performance.
You’ve heard it before but you still can’t touch your toes. Would you try stretching if it restored your muscles to their normal length so that they contract at their optimal resting potential? Would you try stretching if it increased your range of motion? You know the routine: warm-up, hold each stretch for 30 seconds, do not bounce, and spend at least 15 minutes focusing on lower-body muscle groups. Here’s the alternative that we love just as much: the foam roller. Spend 5-10 minutes rolling out various muscle groups, paying attention to trigger points. The massage and myofascial release may just help your stride whether or not you can touch your toes.
Bonking, otherwise known as “crashing” or “hitting the wall” is the dreaded, race-day phenomenon causing endurance athletes to suffer from exhaustion, extreme muscle fatigue, and symptoms of hypoglycemia. In addition to carbohydrate loading, watch for signs of overtraining as you prepare for your event. Symptoms include a higher resting heart rate, low appetite, high blood pressure, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and generalized fatigue. If you notice any of these signs, reevaluate your training or see an expert before you get deeper into your workouts.
If you’ve never had a good excuse to treat yourself to a regular massage, here’s your chance. Regular massage reduces lactic acid build-up that can cause cramping and contribute to muscle fatigue. A great sports massage can improve your range of motion while managing aches and pains. If you can’t find the time to get regular massages during your training, schedule a session one to two weeks before your event, visit the massage tent after you cross the finish line, and have a massage within seven days after your big race.
Make Friends with Complex Carbs
It’s time to make friends with complex carbohydrates. Incorporating a nutrition program customized for your refueling needs can be more challenging than completing your first 10K. Some of you should belly up to the pasta bar (or quinoa bar if you’re gluten free), while others will focus on electrolyte replacement, hydration, and increasing essential fatty acids. Sitting down with a nutritional counselor can take the guess work out of what to eat for those 1,000 meals each year. Don’t forget those post-run snacks to help refuel your glycogen stores. Start with a nut-butter and a banana for your muscles (and belly) will thank you.
Sign up for local events to help keep you on track. Choose races that correspond with the mileage you are working towards. The anticipated races will keep you motivated to work towards short-term goals and it’s always good to get SWAG (Stuff We All Get). Hello, goody bags, t-shirts, energy bars, and coupons!
Try Sport Psychology
Endurance training is all about mental preparation. To prepare for your next event, experiment with different forms of relaxation such as meditation, visualization, and body awareness. If you don’t know where to begin, try yoga. Each yoga session, will help you clear your mind, develop powerful breathing techniques, and visualize your sweet race-day success. If you prefer to get your daily dose of mind-body medicine in private, try your hand at meditation. Start with a 15-minute session after each workout by sitting with your eyes closed. Try slow belly breathing (inhaling and exhaling for a count of four each) and see where your mind goes.
Want to try acupuncture this year? Schedule a complimentary consult to learn more about how acupuncture can benefit your health and training regimen this year. Email email@example.com for more details.
Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO
Jessica L. Molleur is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist in Massachusetts and California. She holds a Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, CA. Her training also includes a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of California at Davis, CA. Jessica first became interested in acupuncture as a soccer player searching for an alternative to knee surgery. Jessica founded OMBE to integrate the best of Eastern and Western medicine. The center’s green philosophy reflects her commitment to the environment.
She is a National Diplomate of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Following her acupuncture licensure, she became a Diplomate of Acupuncture Orthopedics. This orthopedic specialty certification is held by fewer than 300 acupuncturists in the United States. Areas of specialty include women’s health, pregnancy, infertility, pediatrics, and sports medicine. For patients interested in learning more about acupuncture for fertility and IVF, please click here.