Pic: Skin care is part of the routine for 2:30 marathoner Natasha Cockram
Recovery is definitely the watch-word when it comes to improving your own running. Sleep, timing of post and pre-run snacks, hydration levels, rest days, and even what type of clothing you actually run in all form part of your week – or should do – but who among us thinks about their skin, beyond adding a bit of sun cream?
And if you do, who among us bothers about it in the winter? Or after a run, or indeed before? It’s a relatively new area for us runners, but in recent years there have been huge advances in the understanding of skincare and the role it has to play in our sporting lives. Thermoregulaton, microtrauma, transdermal performance enhancement and plain old long-term skin damage are all areas that really should concern us as runners.
So, what are we talking about here? Heat regulation, blisters, ingredients that can be absorbed easily and the good old British weather are the direct translation, which in short means you need to think about applying a few creams and lotions.
And that’s where Randall Cooper comes in. As an Olympic Games sports physio, he realised that athletes were looking for something a little different. Yes, the lotions they used were working but more often than not they opted to wash them off afterwards as they were too greasy, or worse, they were getting washed off during the event or training.
“They needed to be highly effective and actually still do the job after, say, 30km of running,” says Randall who has developed the Premax Performance Skincare range.
The science is fascinating, not to mention the incredible (and overlooked) role skin plays in our performance, regulating temperature being central to everything we do. “In fact, our optimal core temperature is around 37-39 degrees – any hotter than that and you’re in trouble,” says Randall, explaining how important your choice is when it comes to sun cream. You don’t want anything inhibiting your ability to sweat. “Well-trained athletes do sweat more and can tolerate higher temperatures,” he adds. Acclimatisation is the key. It takes about a week to get used to the heat and then that ability to control your temperature boosts you for cooler conditions. Just don’t block your skin with zinc-based sun creams.
“Plan.” That’s Randall’s advice when it comes to skin care. Did you know, he says, that the UK has a UV index of around 3 from mid-March to October, so a much longer season than we imagine. And then, of course, he laughs, there is the winter!
Wind is especially damaging and there’s no end of research to confirm just how bad it can be for you. Use it as a barrier. “I use Premax Weather Defence Facial Cream to protect my skin in the winter, Premax Sports Sunscreen SPF50+ in the summer and the Recovery Cream post hard workouts and before bed each night,” says Natasha Cockram, no stranger to big miles in all weathers – she’s the Welsh marathon record-holder and won the Asics London 10k in the serious heat of July of this year.
It’s that range that’s perhaps most interesting to runners not familiar with how to use skin creams. Natasha takes great care to think about how her skin has reacted to the conditions or will react for most of runs. “And now we’re looking at how elements are absorbed,” says Randall. “Something like magnesium in the cream helps maintain normal muscle function or caffeine boosts aerobic performance. It’s an emerging area of science,” he says.
Welsh marathon record-holder Natasha Cockram’s top tips
■ Always try to get eight hours of sleep each night
■ After hard workouts have a recovery drink right away
■ Always make sure you’re well fuelled and hydrated
■ Stretch and roll – even if it’s just for 10 minutes each day, it will make a massive difference as an athlete.
■ Use Premax Recovery Cream post hard workouts and before bed each night
Find out more about Premax at premax.co/uk
Meet the expert
Randall Cooper is an Australian sports physiotherapist and sports skincare pioneer. With a unique knowledge of elite level sport, sports medicine, and the skincare need of athletes, Randall has a perpetual passion for keeping people active and achieving their physical goals. Since 1997 he has worked at the coal face in elite sports, being primarily responsible for the lotions and creams that his athletes and patients use. So often, prior to starting Premax, he found his athletes would be grateful for his treatment, but not the creams. They were greasy, pore-clogging and didn’t allow the skin to breathe. He kept getting told by athletes these products hindered performance.