Essential Oils for Runners

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This weekend, I finished my 7th marathon in Indianapolis (the Monumental Marathon)…needless to say, I have used my fair share of remedies throughout training and to help ease the after-race pains!

I have been a runner for over 10 years, and truly wish that I had found out about the properties of essential oils much sooner!  In taking care of my body by exercising and eating well, incorporating essential oils into my routine fit into my lifestyle very well.  I don’t like to take pills if not necessary, meaning, I’d much rather prefer natural solutions when possible.

There are many oils that I have begun to use to enhance the well-being of myself and my family, but today I will talk about a few that I love that apply specifically to running!  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.

(Now you can even enjoy these essential oils in a running-themed diffuser necklace from Drops of Joy Jewelry!)

What are essential oils?

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
  • Dilute the oils and apply them to specific parts of the body
  • Use them in an epsom salt bath
  • 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 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!  This is a great oil to diffuse even after the race, 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.  I like to use it on the tough callouses that build up on my feet (gross) that are unavoidable as a long-distance runner.

Peppermint is a common headache and nausea remedy…remember how I don’t like taking pills?  I would drive my husband crazy everytime I got a headache (before I found peppermint oil!).  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.

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.  A lifesaver to my calves this time around!  Some also 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?

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