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Trail Running and Effing Ankle Rolls

New training tactics, new hazards. Also new curse words. Well, maybe the same old curse words.

All of it is worth the fabulous experience of running a trail, and with the advent of spring (and no more local gym membership) I’m totally off the treadmill (hallelujah!) and on the trail. I’ve done plenty of paved runs, but this is my first experience with dirt, rocks, roots, pine cones, sweet gum balls, and — believe it or not — sucking, muddy, marvelous wetlands. (Those last are gonna stink this summer, methinks.)

So I found a nice little two mile out-and-back about a 10 minute drive from my house. It’s the Creekside trail at Yates Mill Pond, and it offers an amazing variety of environments, from deep, quiet loblolly pine woods (those needles are slick, y’all) to a fabulous run through a wetland area where the trail is partly laid with a double line of planks squelching in the mud beneath your shoes. Plenty of turtles dropping off logs with a plop as you pass, and frogs chirruping all around. A sign indicated beaver and fox habitats as well.

It doesn’t appear to be well-known yet, as the trail is narrow and not so very worn in. This is probably because there’s a paved, stroller-friendly single-mile circuit around the millpond itself, culminating in a lovely view of the spillway and the old mill house. The sign in the cool shade under the millhouse in the muddy area by the dam says “snake sanctuary.” Watch your step there, ladies and gents.

There’s also a one mile trail running along the ridge above the mill, with some nice elevation and a few twisty turns in the woods; I hiked that one after running the two mile wetland trail.

And rolling my ankle, dammit.

This whole “watch out for those tree roots” thing is new to me, and you really can’t get more than 5 steps — hell, 5 inches — on this trail without a gnarled old root under your foot, or a chunk of quartz the size of your fist half-buried in the sand. The gum balls were bad, too. Who knew trail runs could be such an obstacle course? I didn’t. Noob.

So I’m working on a set of strengthening exercises (see below) and my new pre-run stretches include plenty of ankle circles and a solid reminder to Pay Close Attention At All Times. Trail running is not something you do while turtle watching, or planning your work day, grocery list, or next blog post. Unless that last one is going to be about ankle rolls. Ow.

New exercise set to prevent ankle rolls:

1. Balance touches: On a dyna-disk (small squishy rubber thingy, partly filled with air), stand on one foot and reach down and touch your knee or toe with alternating hands.

2. Balanced weight pass: Still on the dyna-disk, pass a weight from hand to hand over your head.

3. Four corners: mark the corners of a box (I use chalk or tape, or other markers) about six feet square. Stand in the center and slide out sideways to touch each corner, moving on the diagonal across the box for a 3 minute interval. Start slow and get up to a good, quick speed. Keep your knees bent.

4. Edge rolls: In a squat position, roll your weight toward your toes, then slowly shift your weight to the outside of both feet, then the heels, then the inside of both feet. You’re rolling your weight around the edges of your feet, slowly, holding the position and getting a good stretch and strengthening those muscles all around your ankles.

My ankle roll was painful and swear-worthy, but it didn’t keep me from finishing the run. I took some ibuprofen that day and was ready for an gentle 3-miler (paved, for recovery purposes) on the second day post-roll.

I’ve already scoped out a new trail I want to run, too.

Image by lulumon athletica on Flickr.

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4 Responses to Trail Running and Effing Ankle Rolls

  1. Girlboxing March 9, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    Thanks for this Lisa — though I get ’em crossing the street in Brooklyn!

  2. Margaret Reyes Dempsey March 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    I’m with Girlboxing. Sometimes I get ’em just thinking about something complicated. 😉

    That trail sounds like a beautiful place for a meditative walk, but I’ll stick to the paved surfaces for running.

  3. Lisa Creech Bledsoe March 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Y’all are funny. And I gotta be careful on the trail runs — the coach in Atlanta just emailed to tell me she avoids them when she’s training for a fight for this precise reason. So maybe some paved surfaces for the next few weeks.

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