[Editor's Note: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Director of Sports Medicine and Performance Todd Toriscelli is part of a rotating panel of Buccaneer experts who will be providing advice all season to those who have taken the UnitedHealthcare Get Fit! Pledge. In the seventh of our weekly installments, Toriscelli provides tips to help with long-term body maintenance for those who are well into a workout routine.]
Hello again, Get Fit! participants. I hope the last six weeks have gone well for you. The last time I was asked to provide some guidance, we discussed things that you could do at the very start of a workout regimen in order to avoid the minor injuries that can interrupt your progress. Now that you've started your exercise program and you're well into your routine, let's talk about body maintenance.
There are some very simple things that you can add to your routine to help keep your body ready for regular exercise, especially as this becomes a more constant part of your routine. The first one is stretching, though I actually advise that you focus on stretching after your workout rather than before.
In a lot of ways, stretching is overrated in terms of allowing you to run faster or better. It's probably underrated as an exercise you can do following a run to help prevent injuries and to decrease your muscle tightness and soreness. So what I would recommend – and I think I mentioned this last time – is a dynamic warmup before your run or workout, a little bit of jogging and movement warmups rather than static stretches.
After your run, or even in the evening of a day that you ran, it would be good to stretch your hamstrings as well as your quads and hip muscles. There are a lot of different ways to do that, but it's absolutely essential, because what's going to happen is, as you increase your exercise your muscles will respond with some tightness. The stretching can be therapeutic for that and allow you to have a better run the next day.
These are simple stretches that your probably familiar with, the type people commonly do before a run. For the calf muscle, for instance, it's just a matter of keeping your heel on the ground and leaning forward into a wall. A hamstring stretch can be as simple as bending over and touching your toes or, even better, sitting on the ground, spreading your legs and putting your head down toward each knee. A good stretch for your quad would be to stand, bend your knee and hold your foot with your hand behind your back. Like I said, simple stuff, but it will help you get more out of your run the next day, and it will help you avoid muscle pulls.
The other thing that is very important is hydration, another topic I touched on last time. I think a lot of times you don't realize how dehydrated you get, and what many people may not realize is that it has an accumulative effect, day after day after day. Muscles get dehydrated day after day, and you can't drink a bunch of water in one shot and completely solve the problem on the muscular level. Your body, your kidneys, can only handle so much water at one time. If you get dehydrated your muscles become less pliable and more easily injured. There's just a different dynamic for a dehydrated muscle versus one that is fully hydrated. Make sure, especially in the evenings, that you drink plenty of fluids so that you're well-hydrated for your run the next day.
The other thing that you can do, if you have the time and are willing to spare the funds, is get massages. A massage is a great way, along with stretching, to relax your muscles and work out any kinks you may have. Again, that will not only allow you to stay healthy, but you'll be able to run better if your muscles are relaxed and completely recovered. If your running four or five times a week and you can manage it, I would recommend two massages a week.
These are three things that you can add to your routine as you continue your exercise regimen. Even if you choose not to work massages into your routine, it is critical that you pay attention to your hydration throughout the week, and it will help you in the long run if you work a post-workout stretching session into your routine. I hope all of that helps and I'll talk to you again in about a month. Good luck!
- Todd Toriscelli, Director of Sports Medicine and Performance