Oh hey, it’s (the end of) National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Happy NEDAW, folks. I can do woe-is-me on the eating disorder thing, but you know what? I learned a lot, too. I learned what it feels like to run anemic. I learned what it feels like to bonk hard, and keep running anyway. I learned that an illness that would normally last 3 days can stretch on for weeks if you just keep running through it. I learned what it feels like when you are so light that running really does feel like flying. I learned that my tummy will still have some fat on it even when my arms are twigs. I learned about the immense power of the carbo-load for empty muscles — and what adequate vs. inadequate recovery feels like.
I am an experiential learner after all. Eating disorders are serious business, but I don’t actually regret mine. By recovering and normalizing, I also grew up. Through trial and error I became confident in governing my own training, and now I’m 100% excited to coach!
Speaking of which, let’s celebrate some ways to get faster other than “getting down to racing weight.” Racing weight is nothing more than the weight at which you sign up for a race, and run it, right? Whether or not you win depends on many more factors.
Aside from just running more, what can you do? There are only so many miles a person can run without getting injured. Every time you do a workout, muscle fibers break down. As you recover, the fibers rebuild. Although the new fibers are bigger and stronger, they are not inherently elastic. After all, their function is to contract. Flexibility is important because it ensures you can access the full range-of-motion of each joint. A joint is essentially the fulcrum of a lever, so improving the range-of-motion of a joint increases its leverage. Flexibility helps your muscles work most effectively to your racing advantage.
If you’re looking for a way to up your own ante, focus on stretching instead of dieting. In addition to the reasons described above, it’s also a self-care activity that – like flossing – subconsciously encourages you to make healthier choices. It promotes an intentional, meditative, and goal-oriented frame of mind. And all without the brain damage associated with adopting a diet like your next religion.
While you’re at it, try out foam rolling. Foam rolling is a method of self-myofascial release, which essentially tells the tight little knots in your legs (or back, or wherever) to unwind. Unlike general stretching, foam rolling applies a lot of pressure (up to your whole body weight’s worth) to a very specific spot. It will hurt (this is how you know you’re in the right place!) when you roll over it, and the pain should release slightly as you sink your weight into it. And repeat. If you have chronic IT band or hip flexor problems, foam rolling can help relieve irritating pressure not helped by stretching. Note: don’t waste time ironing out your whole body. Hit the sore spots and move on. If you don’t own a roller, wrap a dish towel around a rolling pin.
Last, but not least, don’t forget the feet! Each one is home to 26 bones, 33 joints, and 100+ muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Most people treat their feet like rigid wooden boards, until that’s what they become. With a little TLC, however, your feet are become flexible, springy, resilient secret weapons. Massage your soles – especially the arch and forefoot – with the ball of your thumbs. Then thread your fingers between your toes, like foam dividers for a pedicure. It’ll be tight and painful at first, but over time your arches will loosen up. Ideally you’ll be able to flex and point your foot with a finger still between each toe.
Which do you think races faster? A pair of wooden boards, or a malleable human foot with independently articulating toes?