I was enjoying dessert in the bar of the Omni Hotel in San Francisco the other evening when my boyfriend’s father passed me a section of The Wall Street Journal. “There’s a running article in here,” he offered, in what I can only assume was his way of showing me he’d listened when Justin told him what I liked to do in my spare time.
“Thanks!” I took it, not wanting to seem ungrateful, and started to read.
In the piece, The Next Level of Marathon Training is Here, the author shared her “secrets” to gaining an 11-minute PR in the London Marathon. Every single one of them prompted an eye roll from me, and my take was echoed on Twitter. From jumping into a CVAC machine to improve her VO2 max to using a three hundred and fifty dollar glorified car buffer to ease her sore muscles, every recommendation—especially the $55 water bottle that literally reminds you when to drink—was an expensive (and usually impractical) media-hyped product or service.
Unless your gym or physical therapy clinic has a TheraGun or NormaTech recovery boots you can rent or use, it seems silly for common, everyday athletes who aren’t earning any purse money upon crossing the finish line to pursue these out-of-this-world recovery techniques. An hour in the CVAC at ReCOVER, New York’s first recovery studio, costs $100. My clients pay less than that for an entire month of my tedious training plan scheduling and coaching wisdom!
For those of us who don’t have an extra $1000 around per month to spend on fancy recovery buffoonery, here are my favorite ways to gain a competitive edge:
- Consistency — Maintaining a consistent schedule is one of the best ways to stay on track with your training, ramp up your mileage safely, and successfully avoid injury.
- Trustworthy Training Partners — A friend or group of friends who make you excited to wake up, seize the day, and get after your workout are the best friends. Usually, they’re free and come with lots of great memories.
- Not Eating Crap — Yes, you should have that burger and ice cream combination after your run. No, you should not indulge in that pairing every day.
- A Good Night’s Sleep — You know, that hour you spent in the CVAC machine could probably be better spent going to bed an hour earlier so you can pump up your VO2 Max naturally tomorrow during your speed workout.
- Compression Socks or Sleeves — Okay, yes, a product. But the number of times they have saved me during a race (my calves sometimes seize up, and the compression socks help them from totally going crazy) has been countless, so I like wearing them during and after especially hilly or long runs. I like to use CEP and 2XU compression socks and pants.
- A Foam Roller — Okay, sue me, ANOTHER product. They are just $35 on Amazon and last years. No, that is not an e-commerce link.
- A Good Old Fashioned Ice Bath — You can do this in your home for zero dollars. Sure, the science is inconclusive, but if you want to practice an extreme recovery method, this might as well be it.
- Cross Train — Do your squats, push-ups, lunges and core work at home (or at the gym) a few times a week to keep your body strong. Keeping your hips, glutes, and core in shape can improve your running efficiency and help avoid injury.
- Proper Footwear — I wear sneakers and/or supportive shoes 90 percent of the time. You can’t wear shitty footwear and then run 50 miles a week and expect to not get injured.
- Yoga — Get your stretch on with free online yoga videos and routines you can do in your living room.
- Physical Therapy or Hands On Manipulation — When I was training for an ironman, I paid $50/week for a sports chiropractor to practice ART therapy on my sore body. It eased my budding injuries and kept me strong for race day. If you’re going to spend money on ANYTHING, spend it on body maintenance — and if you have decent insurance, you can probably find more inexpensive options.
- Tracking Progess — Using a free app like Strava to track progress helps me stay motivated, and feel connected to other runners in the running community. It also pushes me to go out and run on Sundays when I wake up and see friends have already completed their long runs.
- Hill Sprint Repeats — Yes, they suck. Yes, they cost less than a CVAC machine and can help improve your VO2 Max.
- Speed Workouts — See above.
- Putting Your Legs Up On A Wall — Not only does this feel good and gives you a good hamstring stretch, it also facilitates venous drainage and increases circulation.
- Drinking A Post Run Beer (or Chocolate Milk) — This might be a personal thing, but these beverages just taste better after a run.
- A Helpful Coach — Throwing money at your problems may help you feel better or fancy immediately, but it probably won’t produce long-lasting effects. Hiring a coach who can help you maximize your training plan, give honest feedback, be a sounding board and work with you to help you become the best runner you can be can provide many benefits beyond a PR at the finish line.