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.

 

Miniband exercises for runners

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Why not do some strength exercises after a running session or even replace the session with them completely? They do not only make you stronger and more resistent to injuries, but also faster. You don’t necessarily need a gym for that. Your own body weight and minibands are enough to challenge yourself. We have put together some specific exercises for runners.

As running means work for your whole body, the excercises are designed to train all important parts, a special focus lying on legs (8 exercises), core (7 exercises) and arms (3 exercises). Our extensive selection is presented and described here. The exercises can be combined according to individual needs. A couple of ideas for possible sequences will also be published here shortly, in the form of videos, as well as printable and portable cards.

Meanwhile, the following exercises will keep you busy. The order and number of repetitions (e.g. 15) and series (e.g. 3) can be defined individually. A miniband session can be built in either before or after a running session (ideally run 1 or 2), but also as a separate session on a day off from running.

Legs

Squats

  • Place the miniband above your knees, stand little bit broader than at hip width, your feet may point slightly outwards.
  • Move your body’s centre of gravity towards the floor, while having your arms pointed forward, before going back to the starting position. Keep the low position a bit longer if you like.
  • Attention: Knee tops should not stick out beyond your feet.
  • Alternative: Step to one side, go low, go back to the starting position, step to the other side, etc.

Power Walk

  • Stand at hip width, the miniband placed above your knees.
  • Take a big step forward (slightly sidewards), your opposite side arm pointing in the same direction
  • Take a big step with your other leg, again, your opposite side arm pointing in the same direction, keep the position.

Knee Lift

  • Place the miniband above your knees, stand upright and activate your core, move one leg backwards and your arm on the same side forward at the same time.
  • Move your leg forward and lift your knee all the way up to the height of your hips, while moving your arm on this side backwards, move your opposite side arm forward – keep the position for a moment, before going back into starting position, etc.
  • Don’t forget to switch sides.

Moving your leg sidewards

  • Place the miniband above your knees, stand upright, activate your core consciously.
  • Move your leg to the side and back. Only move it as far as possible without giving way with your other knee
  • If available, you can use a wall or a partner for support.
  • Don’t forget to switch sides.

Moving your leg backwards

  • Place the miniband above your knees, stand upright, either by yourself or given support by a wall or a partner.
  • Activate your core muscles consciously, move your leg backwards and back to the starting position.
  • Only move it as far back as possible without tipping forward.
  • Don’t forget to switch sides.

Bridge

  • Place the miniband above your knees, lie down on your back and place your feet flat on the floor, your knees pointing upwards.
  • Lift your bottom up from the ground, your upper body forming a line with your thighs. Keep the position as you please.
  • Alternatively, lift your knees up towards the sky alternately or fully stretch out your legs alternately.
  • Make sure not to let your hips drop on either side and to keep your bottom high steadily.

Bottom

  • Place the miniband above your knees and adopt an all-fours position: Knees below your hips, hands flat on the ground, straight below your shoulders.
  • Move your leg upwards in a square angle. Only as far as your back stays in a neutral position. Don’t buckle with your shoulders. And back again.
  • Don’t forget to switch sides.

Abduction

  • Place the miniband above your knees. Lie down on the floor sideways and stretch out your arm. Important: hips are upright.
  • Move your upper leg up and down again. Be careful to keep your hips straight.
  • Don’t forget to switch sides.

Arms

Biceps

  • Place one knee on the floor, while placing your other leg up front, in a square angle, the miniband placed around it. Grab the miniband with the palm of your hand and establish a basic tension.
  • Move your hand upwards, keeping your upper arm fixed along your upper body. And back again.
  • Don’t forget to switch sides.

Triceps

  • Stand upright and press the miniband to one shoulder with the palm of your oppisite side hand. Place the palm of your other hand in the miniband.
  • Move the miniband down- and slightly backwards – shoulders stay fixed – and back again.
  • Don’t forget to switch sides.

Shoulder

  • Stand upright, place the miniband around both of your wrists and place your arms at the height of your shoulders in a square angle
  • Move your arms outwards and back again. Don’t raise your shoulders.

Core

Plank forward

  • Adopt a plank position, the miniband placed above your ankles – build up tension in your whole body.
  • Keep the postition or, alternatively, lift your feet upwards or move them to the side alternately.
  • The movements don’t have to to be big. The important thing is to always keep the plank position.

Plank sideways

  • Adopt a sideways plank position, the miniband placed above your knees. Move your arm upwards (can also be placed alongside your body), keep your head in line with your body and establish tension in your whole body.
  • Either keep this position or, alternatively move your upper leg up and down. Small movements suffice.
  • Don’t forget to switch sides.

 Plank backwards

  • Adopt a backwards plank position, the miniband placed above your knees. Lift your bottom from the ground, keep your head in line with your body and establish tension in your whole body.
  • Either keep the position or, alternatively, move your knees up towards you alternately.

Climber

  • Adopt a plank position on the palms of your hands, the miniband placed above your knees. Establish tension in your whole body.
  • Move your knees towards your upper body alternately, always keeping the plank position.
  • You can vary the pace and thus, increase intensity as you please.

Cycle

  • Adopt a table top position, the miniband placed around your feet, activate your core.
  • Stretch out one leg, while lifting the other back towards you, the opposite side arm moving towards your knee.
  • Switch sides directly.

Lower Legs

  • Place the miniband above your knees, lie down on the ground and stretch out you legs straight up into the air.
  • Slowly lower your legs. Only go as far as your back stays in a natural position on the floor. And back again.
  • Slow and controlled movements.

Back

  • Place the miniband above your ankles. Lie down on your belly, slightly lift your feet and upper body from the ground. Place your arms alongside your head, pointing forward. Keep your eyes on the ground before you and hold in your belly.
  • Either keep this position or, alternatively, slightly move your upper body up and down again.

Authors: Rahel Peterer and Stefanie Meyer.

Alternative Training in Summer

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A lot of sunshine, high temperatures and long days often make you want to move a training session to a shady place, close to a lake or on top of a mountain. We are going to show you what kind of alternative trainings that are especially suitable during this hot time of the year. They can well be integrated into a runner’s usual training plan, as well as they have a positive effect on performance.

Advantages of alternative training

  • In summer in particular, some alternative sports are especially suitable, as they can be executed more flexibly and also in the heat
  • Alternative forms of training bring variety into your training
  • Alternative stimulates different muscles and thus, has an additional training effect on your body
  • By doing more alternative training, you can increase your weekly training amount without increasing the risk for injury

How to realise it

Every running session from the training plan can be replaced with an alternative training, the duration for which will be calculated for you for each sport automatically.

Here is an example of the duration of sessions required for different sports in order to replace a 60min steady run

Here are some specific inputs:

On the bike

Each running training (steady run, long run, speed and intervals) can very well be replaced with a session on the bike (road bike and mountain bike) in our training schedule. Steady runs and long runs should be longer on the bike, intervals and medium pace sessions should take about the same amount of time as by foot.

Speed and interval training

20 to 30 minutes warm-up

3×10 minutes of medium intensity (break: 5 minutes) – keep the same pace for each interval

20 to 30 minutes cooldown

or

20 to 30 minutes warm-up

10×60″ uphill (break: 2 minutes) – feel free to vary the number of rotations (RPM)

20 to 30 minutes cooldown

Long sessions

Replace a 90min long run with 2.5 hours of biking – the duration of the session can be found directly in the plan. Or combine both sports: for example, 45min of running followed by a 75min bike session (the order can be switched).

In and on the water

Swimming

A running session can not be replaced with a swimming session with the same effect. The sports and their forms of movement are too different from each other. However, this very difference makes swimming an ideal compensation to running. The whole musculature is trained, while the musculoskeletal system is discharged, you can counteract dysbalances and you minimise the risk of injury. A swimming session can well be used as an addition to or as a replacement for an endurance training. Provided that your technique is good enough.

Interval training

10min warm-up

10min technique exercises

12x25m sprint (break: 2minutes)

10min cooldown

Long sessions

A 90min long run can, for example, be replaced with a swimming session of 75min. If this is too long for you, you could even swim for 30 to 45 minutes and go for a 45min run afterwards (the order can be switched).

Aqua Jogging

Aqua jogging is suitable for recovery, in case of injury, or for very high temperatures. Aqua jogging is easy on your tendons and ligaments and is thus suitable as an additional training session (to running). Each training unit in the training schedule can be conductet 1 :1 in the water. Expect for intervals, where the «trot break» should be only half of the time, because of the water pressure.

Stand Up Paddling

Why not borrow a stand up paddling (SUP) board once and do an exciting training on the lake? It enhances endurance, coordination and stability all at once, which makes it a great training for your whole body. Especially deeper muscules are trained that way. The pace can be varied and you can get quite sweatty. However, refreshment is always possible with a quick jump into the water.

In the mountains

A hike is a good alternative to a long run and it also does something for your strength endurance. A possible option: two to three hours of Crescendo – start with a steady run intensity (possible when it’s uphill) and increase the pace gradually during the last 30-40 minutes. Generally, steady runs and long runs are especially suitable to be replaced with hikes. You can find the according indications in the running.COACH training plan under «walking».

On land

Replace your running session with a short strength session by the pool, on the beach or at a nice shady spot once in a while. Use your own body weight and bring your minibands (exercises with minibands). Such a session can always be done as an additional training session, too.

What alternative sports do you include in your training during this hot time of the year? We are curious!

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.