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A System For Running Pain Free

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A System For Running Pain Free

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...

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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 www.ChiroStrength.com or call the office 931-321-1414 to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Dunaway.

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Rolling your IT band is getting you nowhere

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Rolling your IT band is getting you nowhere

Rolling your IT band is getting you nowhere

“Runner’s knee” is a common phrase used around the running community and is often correlated with a sensation of tightness on the outside of the leg and pain on the outside of the knee.  The Iliotibial (IT) band is the commonly accused culprit for this condition, and the most common do-it-yourself approach to fixing this problem is using a foam roller on the painful leg.

Because foam rollers have been shown in the literature, at least initially, to increase range of motion and reduce pain in muscles, it’s a reasonable approach.  However, the IT band is not muscle, it’s what’s called fascia, and it reacts differently.   

The IT band has deep attachments to the femur (the long thigh bone) and is very strong, but not very elastic.  It’s so strong in fact, that you, or any manual therapist, will never be able to “lengthen” this tissue.  However, a therapist can improve tissue movement at the junction between different hip and leg muscles which the IT band crosses, but the ‘shearing force’ required to make improvements can’t be done with the foam roller.  And finally, the IT band is almost always being over stressed already, or over stretched if you will.  You're better off staying away from the actual site of pain aside from maybe ice. 

Foam rolling the muscles around the IT band in the quads, hamstrings, and calf will assist in improving the condition, but it’s an incomplete approach at best. This condition is not typically a knee issue.  It’s a hip, foot, or core issue, so try this instead.

Roll the foot comfortably on a ball to ensure the joints of the foot are getting good movement, and make sure the big toe is sufficiently mobile.  While weight bearing, you should be able to pull your big toe off the ground with ease to about 60 degrees of extension.  You can also simply spend time out of your shoes on a natural surface which will “wake up” the tiny support muscles in the foot. Without a mobile foot, especially in the big toe, you will likely have less activation of the gluteal muscles which help stabilize the hip and therefore, has a huge effect on the knee.

For the hip, you need quality extension and internal rotation.  Most people have very poor hip extension, and when they get into what appears to be hip extension (think of your back leg on push off), they arch in the low back creating a focused area of extension in the small of their back which will lead to joint and muscle pain of the lower spine/SI joints.  Performing a good hip stretch followed by active hip range of motion will provide better joint motion over time.  For a few good stretches for the hip YouTube the following phrases: “Bretzel 2.0” and “tactical frog”.  For an example of active hip motion I’ve posted a video on ChiroStrength’s Instagram page.

Also, staying with the hip and core, you need to have good balance. Runners spend up to 95% of their race on one leg, however, most people don’t train any one legged exercises.  A little more advanced, but fantastic exercise, is the single leg dead lift (with or without weight).  This is a challenging exercise when a focus is put on maintaining a neutral spine and good hip extension on the up leg.  And because we are bipedal creatures (walk on 2 legs), we must train more transverse plane core exercises instead of frontal plane exercises.   That simply means, core exercises need to be focused on controlling or resisting rotational forces, (think Chops, Lifts, or Pallof Presses) instead of frontal plan exercises like planks, sit ups, or leg raises.  A core that can properly handle the rotational force associated with throwing the right leg and left arm out in front of the body, for example, will be better able to support the lumbar spine, pelvis, and hips thereby saving the stress on the knees.

When these areas are ignored in a runner’s routine, you’ll commonly see them land on a knee that cave’s in, which stresses the IT band.  Not because the knee is somehow functioning improperly, but the support system is failing.  Runner’s knee is almost always a mix between stability and mobility problems, so if you want to foam roll the painful leg, follow it up with some quality stability routines or be prepared to deal with this issue for a long time.

Dr. Scott Dunaway is owner and Chiropractor at ChiroStrength Located in Clarksville TN.  This facility combines corrective treatment with group classes in order to educate clients on how to maintain their bodies regardless of what their sport or hobbies are.  Visit www.ChiroStrength.com or call 931-321-1414 to learn more.

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