Running Pain Free

Tips Beyond The Shoes and Miles

Running seems easy enough, right?  After all, it’s just a slightly faster version of the walking we’ve done since we were toddlers!  So, if you want to be better at running, all you need to do is run a lot and get mentally tough...


The reality is, running is very complex and requires the coordination of every muscle group in our body.  Therefore, training all of these systems to work together in an efficient manner is a must in order to reduce the risk of over use injuries.

Here are 5 tips to include in your routine to ensure you can run for longer periods of time without hurting yourself.

1)      Strength Training

This is a HUGE gap in the training for most runners.  You may not think you need to squat and deadlift to run properly, but the body needs lots of strength to maintain proper hip and spinal alignment, especially when fatigue sets in.  The more strength you can develop in the hips, back, and core, the more stable you will be throughout your run.  

*Because running is essentially one set of several thousand reps, it’s a good idea to stay away from higher reps in your strength training.  1 -2 days a week and 5 sets of 5 reps is a good start.

              Suggested Drills: Squats, Deadlifts, Reverse Lunges

2)      Balance

When I’m assessing a runner and I hear, “I have terrible balance”, I make sure they realize that running just one long session of balance. You can easily spend 80% of a run on 1 foot; if you can’t balance on 1 foot for 10 seconds at rest, you are a ticking time bomb for injury.  Not only do you need good balance, but you need strength on one leg.  My favorite drill for improving your hip strength, balance, and coordination is the single leg dead lift.  Here is Video explaining this in detail.

              Other Suggested Drills: Single Leg Dead Lifts, Box Step Ups, Shrimp Squats


3)      Core Isometrics

Contrary to popular belief, isometrics like planks are best used as breathing coordination drills. This means you must be able to contract the core while not holding your breath.  Breath holding and shallow breathing will drain your energy while running, and a loose core will put your back and knees at risk.  Therefore, to knock out two birds with one stone, practice these core Isometrics while maintaining good breathing patterns.

In the context of your running routine, perform these drills 2-3 times a week at least.  Doing prior to your run after your stretching is ideal. *Yes, my hair was terrible...

4)      Warm up properly

Simply stretching your calves for 2 minutes is not a sufficient warm up for something as complex as running.  Stretching should be part of the warm up, but you should also warm up the core and pelvic stability muscles.  Here is a good example of a 5 min warm up routine

              2 min of active stretch for the hip flexors (1 min each side)

              30 seconds of active stretch for each calf

              1 min of core/ glute activation with drills like the deadbug and glute bridge (*focus on proper breathing!)

               10 rear elevated split squats each leg. *Move slow and focus on your balance and hip power

5)      Active recovery

“Rest days” should NOT equal “do nothing days”.  On days you don’t run, you need be helping the tissues heal by foam rolling, cold showers, sauna sessions, massage therapy, etc.  You should also be allowing the nervous system to rest by sleeping properly and staying away from cardio as a whole.  These active recovery sessions are great days to practice balance and core coordination drills like chops and lifts and other core drills like shown in this video.

Active recovery is essential to decreasing risk of injury. Aside from tips to accelerate healing (foam rolling, cold/heat exposure, massage, ect), active recovery days are good days to include drills to focus on commonly neglected areas.

As you can see, there is much more to running than "right foot, left foot, right foot" 10,000 times in a row. Saying, "I don't have time for all this extra stuff" is an injury sentence, period.  You will not meet a single top level competitor that has a narrow training regiment, becasue if they did, they would've been hurt long before they were able to achieve success. 

Injury Risk can never be completely eliminated with any sport, but when it comes to running, following these tips will allow you to enjoy a long, successful running career and all the wonderful health benefits that comes with it with a much lower risk of those nagging injuries!

For more information on treatment or online coaching for sustainable exercise and pain relief, visit or call the office 931-321-1414 to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Dunaway.