ST Run: Structured exercises, high-quality sleep are part of a holistic approach towards running

A spray of water greeting marathoners at the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin. Hydration is important – be it before, during or after a training session or a race.
A spray of water greeting marathoners at the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin. Hydration is important – be it before, during or after a training session or a race. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

It includes structured exercise, high-quality sleep, whole foods and meditation

Anyone who has run more than a few hundred metres understands that running is an impact sport. It is incredibly hard on the body and, with every step, the leg joints absorb up to 10 times the body weight.

With nearly eight in 10 runners getting injured each year, looking after your body is crucial to running injury-free and performing well over the long term.

The choices you make each day regarding the type of training you do, the gear you use, the foods you eat, the hours of sleep you get and many other things all influence the condition of your body.

Look after it, and it will return the favour with good health and exceptional performance; don't, and you'll find yourself sick and injured.

With race day getting closer and training load increasing, I reached out to my friend Thomas Wynn-Jones to learn more about what you can do to look after your body.

Thomas is an osteopath at City Osteopathy and Physiotherapy, who provides biomechanical assessment, manual therapy, rehabilitation, and complementary general healthcare.

Here is what he has to say:

The biggest factors for improving health while preventing and recovering from injury are: good sleep habits, proper hydration and diet. The type, frequency and quality of training also play significant roles.

As an osteopath and holistic health practitioner, I hope that by getting all these right, or as close as possible, you will improve your body's fluid dynamics.

The term refers to arterial blood supply, venous and lymphatic drainage. Along with others, they help to facilitate gaseous exchange (oxygen in and carbon dioxide out), the removal of waste products and the effective communication of hormones within the body.

In short, they allow your body to function at its best.

As your body becomes biomechanically more efficient by developing a good joint range of motion and optimal tissue tension, (achieved with regular dynamic stretching before, but preferably after exercise and physical therapy), there is better fluid dynamics, such as increased blood flow to and from your organs and muscles.

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Performance will improve, injury is less likely and you will heal faster. Dysfunction and disease will also be reduced or removed.

One could say that structure and function are supporting each other in a reciprocal relationship. This is a primary tenet of osteopathic philosophy and is considered valid by other physical therapies such as physiotherapy, many massage therapists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners in their approach to treating the body.

When considering the use of physical therapists before and after training and races or due to specific injuries, two significant terms practitioners consider when dealing with athletes are prehabilitation and rehabilitation.


PREHABILITATION

Prehabilitation is the management and treatment of the body to limit your chances of injury through any activity, sporting or otherwise. Examples include:

• Carefully structuring your training programme to balance load and recovery

• Eating a whole-food diet, predominantly plant-based, rich in vitamins and minerals

• Getting seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep each night.

• Hydrating correctly with water and electrolytes

• Regular stretching and mobility exercises

• Stress and anxiety reduction techniques like meditation.

• Regular visits to your physical therapist


REHABILITATION

Rehabilitation is the process of aiding your body's recovery from minor injury, surgery, or from extreme or endurance sport "strain".

When you participate in endurance events like The Straits Times Run or an Ironman triathlon (3.8km swim, 180km cycle and a marathon), the various systems of your body are significantly stressed, and it can break down.

When it does, physical therapists can help to rehabilitate any specific area of breakdown and build you back up to continue performing at your best.

If you wish to take your training and racing to another level (not to mention your health), consider a holistic approach to your preparation and lifestyle that includes structured exercise, high-quality sleep, whole foods, meditation and the regular application of physical therapy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 18, 2019, with the headline 'Running For Your Life: A Holistic Approach '. Print Edition | Subscribe