Returning to running after an injury can be a long and frustrating process. It takes a certain amount of patience and trust. And if you try to rush it, you might actually prolong it.
Atalanta NYC’s Jamie Morrissey recognizes she made a mistake by diving back into 70–80 mile weeks and altitude camp only six weeks after a surgery on her Achilles. The surgery was to fix a bump on her heel called Haglund’s deformity. “I’m still dealing with the repercussions of not rehabilitating the Achilles correctly,” she says now, more than two years after the initial surgery.
Working with her physical therapist, she now has a completely dialed-in prehab routine that has made a world of difference. Morrissey shared her pre-run routine that helps to get her body ready to run with Women’s Running. Whether you’re dealing with injury or not, you may find a move or two that can help protect you from running-related ailments. And if you’re following along with the 360 YOU 5K training program, you’ll see that specific PT days are built into the program if you need them—these prehab moves are a great place to start.
Monster Walks with Bands
With the resistance bands around your ankles do 10 lateral steps on each side. Each step should be a fast, definitive movement. “I try to keep them pretty snappy,” says Morrissey. Or “quick and crisp” as her physical therapist would tell her. The rhythmic activation is perfect for getting your legs warmed up.
Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Cuff
This might not be a modality that you have access to, but Morrissey’s physical therapist has her do this blood flow restriction twice a week.
Setting the cuff at the highest point on her leg, she puts the pressure at a rate predetermined by the PT. The pressure can get painful, so she only leaves it on for around three minutes, doing calf raises or toe walks to activate the calf muscle. She’ll also add weight to the exercise, holding on to dumbbells or a friend’s dog.
The goal? “It basically restricts the blood flow from going to the rest of your legs,” she says. “So it fatigues more easily than if you were just doing calf raises on your own.” It also helps her to target the exact muscle she intends to work on. “If I’m doing calf raises and I get tired without the BFR, it’s easy to compensate and lean forward to use more of my quad. With the BFR you’re doing the exercise the right way.”
This simple move requires no more than the name suggests: You sit back on your ankles with the goal of opening them up a bit. “It’s all about opening and loosening and warming,” says Morrissey.
“The front of my ankle gets a little bit locked up,” she says. “This one just uses your bodyweight to open up the ankle joint.”
You can also try shifting your weight around, rocking back and forth. “If there’s a spot that feels more tight than others, I hover on that spot,” she says.
Hooking one end of the band around a sturdy furniture leg and the other around her mid-foot, Morrissey does two variations to help her Achilles.
The first is a plantar flexed position. “It’s basically like you’re pointing your toe like a ballerina and then you evert out,” she says. The other variation is a full dorsal flexion inversion.
The goal is to activate the intrinsic muscles surrounding the calves that Morrissey says can often be neglected.
This hip rotation is performed by sitting back on your butt with your legs bent in front of you in an identical fashion. Without using your hands, you’ll rotate your legs in a windshield wiper motion, really using your hips to hinge your body, and then sit up on your knees. Return to sitting and repeat in the opposite direction. The goal is to open up and loosen the hip sockets as well as activate the glutes.
Morrissey has been doing this move since college and it’s still in her regular rotation before a run. “I have had a lot of [Sacroiliac] joint tightness and my hip sometimes get a little impinged,” she says. Doing this hip rotation “allows me to feel like I have my hips under me rather than locked up before I go for a run.”
Morrissey is sure to foam roll every day, focusing mainly on her calves. Foam rolling can be useful in areas where you are feeling tight or fatigued. “Something that I’ve found really helpful is instead of just the normal back and forth, if you find a spot that hurts you roll the other way where you mash the muscle,” she says.
This article is part of our three-month 360 YOU program, available free to Women’s Running members. Find out what the program is all about here or head to the collection page to dive into the available training and inspirational content.