Tips and tricks: Fascia training for runners

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Untrained fasciae contribute to various health problems that plague runners. Training them requires little effort, but it pays off.

Author: Senta Bitter, Dipl. Physio- and manual therapist, certified Pilates instructor, Medbase Zürich Löwenstrasse

Fasciae are eminently important for runners for two reasons: First, because they allow flexible, elastic movements. It is only thanks to fasciae, for example, that gazelles can jump for metres. This “catapult effect” also helps athletes. Thanks to the fasciae, the muscles function optimally.

The second reason why runners should take care of their fasciae is that impaired fasciae can contribute to a whole range of health problems. Whether Achilles tendonitis or “runner knee” – fasciae are always involved.

“Fascia chains”

Sometimes the cause of the pain is not where it hurts. Tightened fasciae on the left shoulder, for example, can cause pain up to the right leg. The fasciae form a network that runs through the entire body. Several fasciae are connected to each other like a chain – if it is stuck in one place, it affects a larger interconnected area (“chain”).

At least eight such “fascia chains” are known so far. The “large spiral chain”, for example, runs from the thick fascia on the sole of the foot over the Achilles tendon and calves up the back, over the skull and up to the eyebrows. Among other things, it is used for a more upright posture. Therefore, it makes sense for runners to train not only a few fasciae, but as many as possible. Strictly speaking, this is not training, but “making you suppler”. But: This training is essential. The best cardiovascular and muscle training is of little use if the fasciae do not participate!

Overloading, unusual strains or disturbed movements lead to the fasciae becoming stiffer. Colloquially, we speak of “sticking together”. At this point, so-called myofibroblasts start settling increasingly in the fascia. These are cells that occur, for example, in scars. They stiffen the fascial net, to the chagrin of the muscles and the human being, who becomes less mobile as a result.

Training fasciae: Bouncing, stretching and rolling out

Fasciae can be trained with three methods: Bouncing, stretching and rolling out. Good exercises are for example:

  • stand with your toes on a step, your heels overhanging, your knees straight. Then bounce out of a pre-stretch. Do the exercise three to four times a week.
  • If possible, stretch the fasciae daily, both single and entire fascia areas. Since stuck fasciae need time to loosen, they should remain in the stretched position for 45 to 60 seconds per position.
  • roll out the muscles three to four times a week with a hard ball or foam roll, from the one end of the muscle to the other.

An alternative to rolling out is fascia massage (Rolfing), a supplement to bouncing can be jumping on a trampoline.

Those who take care of their fasciae – and this is of course also recommended for non-runners – notice that they become more agile. The freer the fascia, the better the posture. But that doesn’t happen overnight. Several weeks of fascia training are necessary for success. Treat your body to it and take the time for it!

Tips for rolling out

If you are completely healthy, you can use this guide to start rolling out your fascia with the Foam Roll. However, if you have health problems, it is best to have the trainer at the gym or your physiotherapist show you how best to use the Foam Roll.

  • Roll hardness (density): The softer the foam roll, the lower the effect on the fascia. It is best to take the hardness that you tolerate. Beginners usually start better with a softer foam roll.
  • Spend about one minute per muscle. For both legs together, you calculate about five to seven minutes.
  • In the beginning it is often good not to lie on the roll with the whole body weight, but to roll out standing along a wall, for example with the lateral thigh.
  • Also roll out the sole of the foot – it is often forgotten.
  • When the foot rolls out, fluid is pressed out of the fascia. Drink enough to supply the body with fresh fluid again.
  • Before jogging, roll out quickly and briefly with the Foam Roll, it has a stimulating effect. After jogging, roll out slowly for a longer period of time.
  • Finding the right balance: If you have the feeling after rolling out that you have sore muscles or “bruises”, you expected too much of your fascia.
  • Avoid areas where the skin is irritated.

 

Running Inspiration: Starting January energetically

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Most resolutions are abandoned after a while. This is why we want to give you some inspiration for the beginning of the year. We would like to present you our 10 tips to help you getting some energy for the new running year and which should improve your performance level and increase your joy of running. Because: running training involves a lot more than «just» running.

Flexibility 

It does not always look very elegant when runners stretch. Their muscles (thighs, bum) are often shortened and stretching becomes a struggle, which is why it is often avoided. Of course, this is not the right solution and it surely does not improve your flexibility.

Plan at least one fixed short stretching session after running (stretching and running) per week or do yoga regularly. You can even find inputs for stretching positions directly in our plan.

Strength training 

Of course, no runner wants to be blown up like a body builder, but strength, especially with one’s own body weight, does not do any harm. On the contrary: a stable posture reduces the risk of injury and can even make you faster.

One or two short strength sessions a week would be ideal and they can be done before or after training. You can find inputs for strength exercises directly in our plan.

Drills and ascending runs 

Even runners can work on their technique: there are countless running drills exercises, which can be done following a training. 3×3: three excercises repeated three times will do. You can finish off with three to five ascending runs (also referred to as coordination runs or hill sprints), meaning that you run a short distance (about 80-100m) either at a steadily increasing speed or at a generally higher speed, focusing escpescially on the running technique. Inputs for running drills can also be found directly in our plan.

Fascia training 

This needs some self conquest, as it is not particularly comfortable. But : Do regularly use a foam roll after training, in order to unblock the fasciae that stick together when running and in ordet to loosen your leg muscles. This will result in better performance in the end (loose legs – better performance).

Intervals 

If you want to become faster, you need to leave your comfort zone and vary the pace. Regular weekly interval trainings help to improve the speed. Bring some variation into your intervals: a training partner who runs at about the same speed can be very motivating. Intervals uphill set an additional strength stimulus, but you can also simply vary your step frequency.

Alternative Sports 

Have the courage to replace one running session a week by an alternative sport. This brings variation into your training and it sets new stimuli. For each sport our training plan offers a recommendation of how long a session should be.

Running pictures 

Capture your running moments in pictures from time to time. This will recall nice memories later on and it will show you what running actually makes possible.

Nutrition

Treat yourself with the suitable running food before and after training and don’t forget to drink enough. We will be providing you with specific inputs and recipes on this blog soon.

Contrast showering 

A simple recovery measure are contrast showers: shower your leg or even your whole body with cold and hot water alternately. This activates the blood circulation, thus recovery and the immune system. And remember: singing distracts you from the cold water.

Plan breaks and recovery 

Always remember that recovery is a part of your training just like running. Always take your time for recovery: For example, lie down for a while after a session, close your eyes and just free your mind. Include recovery measures in your training routines consciously (sauna visits, massages, specific nutrition etc.).

Don’t forget: Keep on running. We wish you a lot of interesting and beautiful running moments over the next months.