Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Runner's Exercises for Your Off Days

Many runners like to run as often as possible, and some might even run every single day if they could. But most know that they need to take at least one or two days off from running each week to keep themselves fresh and injury free. So what’s the best way to work out, or even simply be active, during those “off days” from running?

Muscles of the gluteal and posterior femoral r...
Muscles of the gluteal and posterior femoral regions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One popular approach is to find an activity or workout which uses muscles that aren’t the primary running muscles. This concept is often referred to as “cross-training.” For example, some runners will head to the pool and swim laps on their off days, which gives them an upper body and aerobic workout, while allowing their leg muscles to rest somewhat. Even some activities that rely heavily on the leg muscles, such as bicycling, can be considered cross-training for runners because they involve a different motion and use different muscles within the leg than running does.

Another approach is to forego the aerobic activities altogether on the off days and focus on strength and flexibility. Because of the repetitive nature of running, many runners suffer from muscle imbalances that can lead to an increased risk of injury. By dedicating time to exercises that strengthen core muscles, for example, runners can maintain better posture as they get tired later in their runs, which will keep them faster and help them avoid injury.

Many runners also suffer from chronic tightness in their leg muscles. Over time, muscle tightness can lead to poor form and increased injuries. Stretching exercises can help to open up muscle tissues and allow the body to keep its optimal position when it comes time to run.

Pilates is one great way to combine the beneficial effects of stretching and strengthening in a single routine. Pilates can either be done at home as a floor-based exercise (there are numerous instructional DVDs that you can use to learn various Pilates workouts), or you can take Pilates classes at a gym and use a specialized piece of Pilates equipment called a “reformer.” Yoga also makes a great off-day workout for runners.

Curso de Instructor de Pilates
Pilates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Much of what you do during your off day should depend on what you did yesterday and what you’re planning to do tomorrow. For example, if you normally take a day off after your “long run” (whatever length run that may be), then you should ensure that the non-running exercises you do give your body sufficient opportunity to heal from the running workout the day before. By the same token, if you normally take a day off before you do your long run, then don’t do any cross-training or other exercises that would make it too difficult to complete your long run workout on the next day.

Finding the appropriate exercise for your off days will involve a bit of experimentation. You can look to other runners for ideas on what exercises make sense, but ultimately you’ll need to try them out to see how they actually work for you.

Check back here tomorrow for a fun off-day workout.

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