Are you a seasoned runner, or perhaps resolving to incorporate more running into your fitness routine this year? Starting a new routine (or even keeping up with an established one!) can be challenging, after the excitement begins to fade or life just starts to get in the way. Essential oils might be a key component in helping you stay motivated and injury-free, along with offering other pre- and post-workout benefits.
I have been a runner for about 15 years, and although I have participated in a handful of shorter-distance races, I definitely prefer longer runs. Once I began racing half-marathons, it was easy to fall in love with the atmosphere of race day, and over the years I’ve logged multiple 13.1 mile race finishes as well as 7 full 26.2 mile marathons. Needless to say, I have used my fair share of remedies throughout training and to help ease the after-race pains!
I truly wish that I had learned the benefits of essential oils much sooner! In striving to take care of my body by training and eating well, incorporating natural solutions like essential oils into my routine was a no-brainer.
Today I’ll share a few essential oils I love that will speak specifically to the runners out there (whether you are training for a race or just running recreationally). Keep in mind that there are numerous brands of essential oils out there – as with anything, please do your own research before purchasing an oil to make sure you are happy with the quality the company promotes. Remember that you are possibly putting these oils on your skin and on the skin of your loved ones, so read about them as much as you can and make an educated decision for yourself.
First…what are essential oils?
If you’re brand new to essential oils, let’s talk briefly about what exactly they are (and why they are worth looking into!). Essential oils are the concentrated, aromatic liquids extracted from plants, each oil having its own complex chemistry and providing fragrances that have strong effects on the brain (no two oils are exactly alike!). As we breathe in essential oils, their molecules travel through our olfactory system to stimulate the limbic system in our brain which is connected to parts of the brain that control emotional behavior, heart rate & blood pressure, stress levels, hormone balance and memory. When using oils topically, they are able to penetrate cell membranes and travel quickly through the blood stream to the different systems of the body (within minutes!). The properties of essential oils make them truly unique therapeutic substances that have been used for thousands of years!
How can I use essential oils as a runner?
There are a couple of ways that you can use essential oils, depending on your needs:
- Diffuse them via a diffuser or essential oil jewelry to achieve aromatic benefits (wearing one of your stainless steel necklaces while running would be a great option, as they are resistant to rust, tarnish, and oxidation).
- Dilute the oils and apply them to specific parts of the body.
- Use them in an epsom salt bath (great recipe and reasons why you should use epsom salts in your bath here).
- Ingest (somewhat controversial – again, research, talk to your doctor, and make an educated decision that is right for you)
Here are my favorite essential oils to use to support my running and other exercise:
Lavender has multiple uses, and is well-known for relaxation properties. Try adding to an epsom salt bath to soothe sore and tired muscles after a tough workout, or rub it on the bottom of your feet to encourage relaxation. If you are preparing for a race, is a great oil to use for pre-race jitters, especially the night before when you are trying to get in a good night’s rest! Lavender is a great oil to diffuse after an extra-tough run, as some studies have found that it may lower the perceived level of pain just by breathing in the scent. I also love using lavender lotion for dry, cracked hands & feet winter running can cause! You can find a great recipe to make this yourself here.
Lemon is an oil that is cold-pressed from the rind (it takes 3,000 lemons to make 1 kilo of oil!) and has a scent that is very invigorating. Some use lemon oil as an additive to their water to support a healthy body, especially when taxing it with strenuous workouts. I like to use it on the tough callouses that build up on my feet (gross) that are unavoidable as a long-distance runner. Lemon has very uplifting properties so if you have to take a rest day, diffuse this oil to simulate the “runner’s high”.
Peppermint is a common headache and nausea remedy. I love to diffuse it with lemon in the morning (especially before early morning long runs) for a pick-me-up as I feel that it helps to bring me to a more alert and ready-to-go state. There have been studies showing that the rate of perceived exertion may decrease when inhaling peppermint oil during a workout, and another interesting study by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition on the effects of peppermint on exercise performance can be found here. Putting a drop on your chest or wrists right before your workout will also support healthy breathing and keep you invigorated during your run.
Ginger is an essential oil that has anti-inflammatory properties, and may be helpful in reducing muscle tightness and fatigue. One study from the University of Georgia found that athletes who were given ginger experienced up to 25% less soreness than a control group. You can use this oil by diluting it 1:1 and applying 2-4 drops on the necessary area. Some also choose to take it as a dietary supplement.
There you have it! What essential oils do YOU use to support your healthy exercise routines? Will you give any of these a try?