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foot pain, Health, running

How to Run Better, The Basics

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There are a few easy things that everyone can apply to their running to decrease injury, pain and simply make running easier and faster! Today we are simply going to show you how to run better

This is perfect for those of you that have regular niggles or if you have plateaued with your running and need a way to step it up. So here is your easy guide on to how to run better and improve your run!

running cadence 1801: Cadence:

This is basically the number of steps that you take per minute and for best efficiency, this should be 90 steps per minute on each foot (180 total per minute). To achieve this, first of all, you need to measure what your current cadence is. You can do this by counting the amount of steps your right foot takes in one minute.

Try then increasing your rate (if needed) and time again in another 5 minutes. The trick is to think like you are running on an icy or slippery surface and your heels are coming up behind you. This could well feel awkward to do at first and can take weeks to get used to, but once you get used to it, running will feel much easier.

Tip: A great way to improve your running cadence and run better is to use a metronome (some examples here)

how to stop overstriding2: Don’t stride out:

When striding out the foot lands on the heel and with the leg relatively straight out. This creates a braking force up through the leg and acts to slow you down, meaning YOU have to work harder.

Run better by kicking your heels up more – don’t run with straight legs!

 

3: Think smooth, light and easy:

If you look at the best medium to long distance runners you will see they have very little upward head movement (less bobbing up and down). This means less wasted energy! So to run better, we need to lean our body weight forward more and imagine projecting yourself forward and slightly up. Practice standing 1 meter in front of a wall and leaning forward through bending at your ankles until you are about to fall forward and then come back again in order to get a feeling of shifting your body weight forward.

Exercise: Practice standing 1 meter in front of a wall and leaning forward through bending at your ankles until you are about to fall forward and then come back again in order to get a feeling of shifting your body weight forward.

Remember – Perseverance is key with this! You will feel like you can just keep running and running when this becomes second nature – and then you tell others how to run properly – I still find it amazing that no one gets taught how to run!

Lastly, check out the video below of what I think is some close to perfect (no one is perfect) running:

YouTube player

 


running

Preventing Running Injuries: The Gold Standard

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Running is one of the easiest ways to get exercise and improve our health. You don’t need any fancy equipment, gym membership or even a lot of time, you can just get out the door and go. Because of this, running is becoming one of the most popular ways to exercise and with that, we are getting a lot of running injuries.

And do you know what? 60-70% of running injuries and avoidable.

If we asked a bunch of people in the street they would list of a few possible causes of running injuries such as:

  • Shoe type
  • Foot type
  • Flexibility
  • lack of stretching

We hear that all the time right, “foot pain because my feet are too flat”, “back pain because my hamstrings and too tight”, “knee pain because my shoes aren’t supportive enough”.

Well actually, that’s not true at all; there has been no proven link between foot type and injury and the only shoe that prevents injury is the one that is most comfortable to you – it doesn’t matter what foot type you have.

So the real cause of 60-70 of running injuries?

Training Error

Prevent Running Injuries, PhysioThere is no evidence for stretching, running surface, warming up or cooling down in helping with prevent injury but there is a lot of evidence for injuries caused by an imbalance between training and recovery.(1)

So 2/3rd of all running injuries could be possibly avoided if we just had the right amount of recovery time to go with our training. It’s why the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that we should be training HARDER and SMARTER, meaning that yes, you should push yourself in training as that is how we improve but then you need the time in between for your body to change and improve.

And what is Runnersworld’s simplest strategy for making the biggest difference to performance? not surprisingly, it’s Rest and Recovery.

So there it is, the biggest thing you can do to improve performance isn’t to running and far and as much as you can. It’s training smart, working in rest days around your training and following these tips:

  • Get plenty of sleep. The Oregon Project athletes typically get 10–12 hours of sleep per night, as well as another hour nap most days
  • Fuel your body right. The 30 minutes after a run is the time when your body refuel the best so get some cards and protein in ASAP (ideally at a ratio of 4:1
  • Have training holidays. once or twice a year, have a week off from training to refresh the mind and body. It’s better than being forced to take one due to injury or exhaustion right?
  • Have rest days every week. This doesn’t mean you need full rest, but relative rest, it can be swimming, biking or a core day for example


Health, running

5 Must Know Expert Tips For Trail Running

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trail running shaun clark physioprescriptionExperienced runners have learnt these lessons the hard way and I wish I’d known them at the start. If you are new to trail running or want to improve further, these tips will give you a great head-start.

Trail running is something I love doing, for a few reasons: The mental challenge or the long runs, the variation in terrain (meaning less chance of over-use injury) and the awesome scenery. But the thing is that it can make you sore, going down hill can play havoc on you knees and back and transitioning from the flat to going up and down repeatedly is tough, plain and simple. These next 5 tips will really help you keep going and improving with this awesome sport but really aims to decrease the load on your knees and run with better economy – Give them a go on your next few training runs and no doubt you will find them a lot easier once you get used to it.

 

1. Cash in down hill

Heading down hill is your chance to, 1. Catch your breath and 2. Make up time. Gravity is on your side here so don’t fight it – increase your pace as much as is comfortable on downhill. It is important to train for the downhill just as you would for attacking the uphill slopes – This builds the eccentric strength of your quads so that they can handle the load. Lastly – Enjoy running downhill, it is a lot of fun, a great chance to run fast and a great training alteration.

Don’t battle against the terrain. Use it to your advantage.

2. Upright torso, don’t cramp up your diaphragm

Going uphill is hard but we often make it harder on ourselves by looking down at the ground and bending our torso forward.

So to make uphill running a lot easier and open up our lungs better – maintain an upright torso and look up the slope.

 

3. Sit back and cycle downhill

This is so important, and will allow you to do number one a lot easier and with less pain afterwards! Here is what you need to do on the downhill:

  • Don’t over-stride – This will cause you to land with your foot in front of your knees and your leg straighter – basically acting like a brake, slowing your pace and stressing your knees and back big time.
  • Increase your cadence, this the turn over rate of your feet. Increase your turnover, taking quicker steps.
  • Visualize your feet landing behind you, this will help your feet land under your torso.

This is often called downhill cycling as you are taking faster steps and sitting back into it a little (leaning back).

Tip: If you want to slow down or be in more control, don’t brake through straight legs, sit back or lean back more – this will help slow you down and put you  in control.

 

4. Conserve uphill

Walk when you need to on the steep bits and keep you feet turning over and heels kicking up for the rest of the up-hill – remember you are going to make up the time on the flat and downhills!

 

5. Cadence and kick your heels up to trip less.

Maintaining an economical cadence helps get you through those longer runs and maintain a good technique. When on the flats, try to maintain a cadence of around 90 steps per minute on each foot. This cadence means less force up your shin because you are landing with your foot below your knee and not in front and it means you are kicking your heels up more and taking shorter strides – which ultimately means that you are in more control and there is less chance of tripping and ending up being very sore.

 

Above all, enjoy yourself and smile – it makes it a lot easier.

 


Health

Ankle Pain Running? Improve Your Ankle Range, FAST.

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Limited ankle range can cause you a lot of problems, and not just at the ankle.

Can you spare 5 minutes to improve your ankles and in turn, your running?

Well then you are in the right place! As I discussed in last weeks post,  whether you’re an amateur, weekend warrior or a pro, good ankle range is a must for many basic movement patterns. If you don’t have it, you can’t squat right down, you can’t have a proper stride when walking or running AND it loads up other areas of your body causing pain and injury.

But luckily, there are three easy exercises that you can do to improve your ankle range.

wpid-wp-1411170423169.jpeg

 

First: Have a quick look at the post I mentioned above to take the ankle range test, so that you know your score (this way you can see how well you improve!)

 

 

 

 

These are the three things will improve your score in days:

calf stretch , soleus, gastroc - self treatment for shin splints1. Calf stretch

Lets get the basics right. The easiest way to do it is to, one foot at a time, drop a heel of a steps, as shown.

Hold this for 30 seconds

Swap over and do the other foot, and then you are done.

 

2. Self myofascial release – Plantar fascia and calf

For the second exercise, you need to work over some of your tight soft tissue (muscle and fascia etc)

  • First, get a nice firm ball (eg, tennis ball, lacrosse ball). While standing, place it under one foot and apply medium pressure. Now slowly roll it around the bottom of your foot, right through the arch for 30 seconds on each side.
  • MTSS shin splints self treatmentSecond, get your Foam Roller – if you don’t have one, either buy one (great investment) or use a ball. Get down on the ground and spend 1 minute on each side, nice and slowly really working in through  your calves.

I know that was really two exercise, but I’m sure you can handle it!

 

That’s four minutes so far, one to go…

3. Ankle mobilization exercise

Check out this video by Adam Kelly, that demonstrates this exercise well – All you need is a strong elastic band or a willing helper and do this for 30 seconds on each ankle.

 

Done. You have just decreased your chance of ankle pain running, walking and more.(1)

I challenge you to make this a daily routine for 10 days and re-test and see how much your score has improved!

 

Let me know how you get on and be sure to subscribe for more.

 

 


Foot pain, Health, running

Numbness in toes while running? Here’s your solution

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foot numbes running - how to fixPain, tingling and numbness in toes?

 

How you tie you laces may be the problem!

 

If only all our problems were so easy to fix…

 

We all do it; sit down, slip our socks on (apart from the bare-foot runner among us) and proceed to firmly and decisively tighten and tie our laces.

Great! And away you go, but unfortunately this little ritual is often done wrong – with all the best intentions I know! But wrong none the less.

Tightening up the top few rings of our shoes as firmly as we can – ensuring stability, a firm fit and feel-good-factor right? When in reality you are strangling your foot’s blood vessels and nerves, causing paresthesia (Tingling and numbness) in your foot and more commonly, your toes.

 

nerve compression in foot causing numbnessThe human foot is an incredibly complex piece of machinery with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles and many ligaments all combining to move you around all day, taking thousands of steps and acting like a natural spring.

But it too much compression is placed on the foot – The is a lot of places for your little nerves to get trapped, pinched and compressed.

Definitely not something we want on our runs!

 

So whats the easy fix?

A lot of seasoned runners will know this and do this already but believe me they are far out numbered by those that don’t.

Answer: Tighten your laces from the toe-up. Ensuring that the last two rungs are no more than 80% of the max tension.

how to have happy, painfree feet runningThis gives your feet breathing space, which makes for much happier feet and a much happier runner!

Win, win!

Give it a go, alter than ritual and be forever better off.

 

Note: In mostcases, foot and toe numbness and mild pain are due to improper equipment or technique, so relatively easy to fix when the offending problem is sorted out. BUT  if it continues after the problems are fixed – it is time to consult a professional and check that there is no underlying pathology.

 

Thanks for reading and striving to improve yourself! Get out there and put it into practice 🙂

If you have any running related questions – head on over and ask the team at The Running Forum, a great community, that is always happy to help – and as always you can comment below.

 

You may also like: Heel pain and plantar fasciitis, heal fast and strong

 


Lower limb, running, Shin Pain

Shin Splints Treatment and Exercises

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runningShin splints is the most common lower limb injury in athletes and can lead to large blocks off training and serious injuries such as stress fractures if ignored. Here you will find out, what it is, what causes it and how to treat and rehab it YOURSELF with effective self treatment methods and exercises.

Shin splints is an Umbrella term that describes pain along the inside border of your tibia(shin) and covers a number of pathologies. The most common and Injury most often associated with Shin splints is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome.

shin splint painMedail Tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) Is the most common Injury in runners (Lopes et al 2012) affecting 9.5 percent of all runners, coming in just ahead of achilles tendinopathy and plantar fasciitits.  In MTSS pain is felt along the inside border of your shin bone (tibia), it is tender to touch and the tender/ lumpy area is larger than 5cms.

MTSS is caused by repetitive contraction of the calf muscles causing excessive stress on the tibia. The calf muscles (namely the soleus, flexor digitorum longus and tibialis posterior) attach onto the inside border of the tibia, and the repeated pulling from any of these muscles at their attachment causes micro-tears which causes inflammation, pain and excess tissue build up.

Now this generally happens due to one or a number of the following reasons:

  • Sudden increase in training that your body isn’t used to.
  • Change on footwear or training surface, eg. going barefoot (minimalist running) or changing from flats to hill running.
  • Poor hip control causing excessive internal rotation.
  • Over pronated foot type.
  • Poor running form (See Ironing out your running).

 

Differentail Diagnosis:

Stress reaction and stress fracture

These also cause shin pain and can be causes by MTSS or occur by themselves due to over training so it is important to have these ruled out by your Local physio if there is pain when you: tap on your shin bone, jump on your heel or if the pain is localised to one spot on the shin.

 

MTSS is far too often ignored and put aside as calf tightness until it is far worse than is should have got, which means some serious time off training and a lot of money spent on rehab. Below we are going to run through exercises and self-treatment that will both help heal your MTSS/shin splints AND prevent them happening again.

 

Exercises: All of these need to be done 2 x daily if you have shin splints.

calf stretch1. Calf Stretch:  Drop your heel off a step and hold it for 1 minute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTSS shin splints self treatment

2. Foam roll your calf: Position as shown in the picture to get as much weight through the roller as you can. Spend 2-3 minutes slowly rolling your whole calf – ignore the pain!

 

Tip: You can also give yourself and self-massage, which is really effective at reducing tension and getting right to the point!

 

 

 

glut and Lat stretch - Hip flexibility

3. Sling stretch for hip range: Hold for 1 minute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridge - increase leg strength, glute activation and decrease back pain.

4. Single leg bridge for hip stability: 

Hold for 5 seconds, 2 x 12 reps each side.

 

 

 

 

 

Single leg Squat, hip stability and strength

5. Single leg squat for lower limb strength and stability: To make it harder and better for lateral stability, keep your free leg out to the side.

Do 2 sets of 12reps each side.

 

 

 

 

 

Make the above exercises a routine even when pain-free!

Self treatment:

The main technique that will benefit you is self deep tissue massage. Check out this post for a easy video demo of this.

 

Tinker with your training:

– Decrease your training load to allow healing to take place

– decrease hill running and running or walking on hard surfaces

– Take a good look at your shoes and consult a Podiatrist of Physio re your foot mechanics.

– Once pain has gone, start SLOWLY building up your training again.

 

 

So there you have it, your guide to Shin Splints Treatment! Take some time to check out some other great posts that will help athletes and runners out a huge amount in preventing lower limb injuries as it is ALWAYS better to prehab!

Iron out your running – run faster, easier and injury free.

Quick balance and stability test.

Glute activation – the missing link

Please Share and like and let me know how you get on!


Core strengthening, running, Spine

The importance of Core Stability on injury

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core strength minimizes lower limb injuryHaving a stable core and pelvis has huge benefits through-out the body, including laying a stable base for your legs to work off. This means more bio-mechanical efficiency, less injury AND less pain.

In order to do any lower limb exercise well, including running, squat, weight lifting, tennis etc, you need to be in control of your core. If you don’t have a stable base, everything working off it is going to struggle and compensate. This can lead to tight hip flexors, ITB syndrome, patellofemoral pain, ankle sprains, niggles and more.

Imagine a tennis shot, for example. Your are stepping forward and driving off your back foot while at the same time swinging your raquet forward to strike the ball. If you core isn’t in control then you are losing force between your legs and arms – losing that strength of the drive from your legs.

Core strength makes your body stronger, not just your abs, by conserving and transmitting energy.

Just for clarification, as “core” can mean different things to different people. Core for me is your Lumbo-Pelvic stability. The combined control and strength of your spine and pelvic muscles.

Quick self test: A great way to test and see how good your Lumbo-pelvic stability is yourself is to do the Single Leg Squat Test. If you see your hip dropping or knee tracking inwards, then you are at risk or injury and need to get started strengthening ASAP.

 

Poor core stability can also lead to and contribute to all sorts of injuries and pain, including in your:

  • Low back
  • Shoulder and neck
  • Knee and hip

 

So how do we sort this problem you ask?

Below is an exercise program to get started on that will really make a difference if you stick to it. I also fully recommend finding a good Physio in your area to have your specific deficits assessed to get some manual therapy to speed things up.

Exercises to improve Core stability:


1. Single leg Bridge:Bridge 1 leg - glute activation, leg strength and core stability. the best exercise for hip stabiltiy, great for runners

Position: lying on your back, bend one knee so that your heel is close to your backside and straighten the other leg as above so that your thighs are horizontal. Your arms can be crossed over your chest or down by your side to make it easier.

Action: Pushing through your grounded heel, lift your bum off the ground as above, straighten your back and hold for 30 seconds then lower and repeat on both sides.

 

2. Clam Plus: (Do them right and they are surprisingly hard!)Clam exercise plus - gluteus medius strengthening, pelvic stability, leg strength

Position: Side lying  with top elbow on the ground, knees bent, ankles together and importantly the top knee sticking out 1-2 inches further that the bottom knee.

Action: Making sure not to let your pelvis rotate backwards and keeping your ankles together – lift your top knee up roughly 20cm and lower down in control. Reps: Build up to 50 reps on each side.

If you have found in the past that normal clams don’t do much for you, try it this way with your hip s rolled forward more to isolate Glute Med better and get less Tensor Fasciae latae activation.

 

3. Double or single leg squatSingle leg Squat, Glut Med activation - hip stability and strength:DL squat
Try performing the Single leg squat, but if you are too unstable (cannot stop your knee going inwards) then start with the double leg squats.

Single leg: 2 sets of 12 reps

Double leg: 3 sets of 12 reps

Tips: stick your bottom out like you are going to sit down and keep your knees out!

 

4. Front Plank: 
plank

Hold this for 60  seconds (if you can, otherwise build up to this).

Tip: do not hang on your hip flexors, tuck your bottom in and bring your hip bones up towards your head.

 

 

 

 

5. Side plank: side plank

Again aim for 60 seconds here, keeping your body straight!

 

Too easy? Add in leg raises to this – Raising the top leg straight up and down, building up to 50.

 

 

Do this short program  DAILY and stick to it for at least 6 weeks -Let me know how you go!

 

You may also be interested in:

Iron out your running – What you never got taught

Get your spine moving

Smash your Glutes


Back pain, Core strengthening, Health, running

Glute activation, the missing link

• By

Glute activation, building a good squat pattern and reaching your Peak.

A strong, healthy back (not to mention your knees!) needs the areas above and below it to work optimally to avoid overload injuries and pain. Whether it is running, lifting up your child or building the perfect squat, good glut activation is essential to all body movement and is one of three aspects essential for a healthy low back and lower limb.

  1. A mobile thoracic spine to unload the low back.
  2. Good muscle length in Gluts, hip Flexors and Lats.
  3. Normal Glut muscle activation.

Today we are going to cover glut muscle activation and the best ways to optimize this as this is the hidden cause behind many injuries such as low back pain, sciatica, patellofemoral pain, meniscal injuries and groin pain.

Here is a quick Test to see how strong your glutes are.

You might ask why bother with increasing your glut activation – your gluts work right? well you could be wrong! The main reasons why glut activation may be missing are:

  • Past back pain or injury. The Lower crossed syndrome is very common in anyone with a history of low back pain of any kind: A syndrome developed by Dr Janda proposed that those with a history of low back pain and troubles all had a characteristic pattern of weak and tight muscles. Weak: Gluteals and abdominals. Tight: Hip flexors and Erector Spinae. It is very common to have people arrive at the clinic with history of low back pain or tightness showing this pattern.
  • Poor technique and lack of body conditioning.

What happens if you have poor gluteal activation:

  • With poor activation in a squat, you cannot protect your back as you use the hamstring and erector spinae (back muscles) to push your body into extension – This leads to Erector spinae increasing the load and compression on the Lumbar spine. So healthy glut function is needed to unload the spine and decrease low back pain.
  • Poor glute activation leading to you hanging on your hamstrings also leads to over extension of the spine – leading to much-increased risk of injuries such as spondylolisthesis (stress fractures) and muscle spasm.
  • Lack of gluteus medius activation causes internal rotation of the legs (knee dropping inwards) leading to increase force on the knee and higher chance of injury.

Now one thing to mention here is that it is impossible to rebuild proper Glute function without a good hip extensor pattern and certainly not with traditional squat exercises utilizing barbells and free-weights (don’t even get me started on leg press machines).

Below is your pathway to achieving optimal glute activation, reaching your goals and decreasing lower limb and back injuries:

Gluteal Muscles - building the best squat pattern.

 Before you get to the exercises, above are the three gluteal muscle and here their function:

  • Gluteus Maximus: External rotation and extension of the hip.
  • Gluteus Minimus and Medius: Abduction of the Hip (pulls your thigh out to the side and stops your hip dropping.)

Must-know exercises for glute function:

1. Clams: This exercise has been shown to be the best for isolating glut Med and Min and really gets the legs shaking if done right!

Clam exercise plus - gluteus medius strengthening, pelvic stability

Position: Side-lying with top elbow on the ground, knees bent, ankles together and importantly the top knee sticking out 1-2 inches further that the bottom knee.

Action: Making sure not to let your pelvis rotate backwards – lift your top knee up roughly 20cm and lower down in control. Reps: Build up to 30 reps on each side.

2. Single leg squats: Now don’t get daunted! these will really get your gluts firing functionally and are far superior to double legs squats.

Single leg Squat, Glut Med activation - hip stability and strengthSingle leg Squat, hip stability and strength

Position: standing on one leg with your arms straight out in front, chest up and looking straight ahead and the other leg directly out to the side.

Action (1st image above): Squat down, like you are going to sit down in a chair(stick your bum out). Only go down as far as your body allow (come back up before you fall over!) and don’t leg your free foot touch the ground. come back up and repeat, no hold needed.

Reps: build up to 2 sets of 12 reps on each leg.

Too hard? – try it with the leg out in front or bent as you can see in the second picture above.

Single leg bridges: The third and final Glut blasting exercise:

Single leg bridge - glut medius activation for hip stabilitysingle leg bridge for hip stability

Position: lying on your back, bend one knee so that your heel is close to your backside and straighten the other leg as above so that your thighs are horizontal. your arms can be crossed over your chest or down by your side to make it easier.

Action: Pushing through your grounded heel, lift your bum off the ground as above, hold for 5 seconds then lower and repeat.

Tip: make sure to keep your pelvis level.

Reps and sets: Build up to 2 sets of 12 reps on each leg with the 5-second holds.

Go hard at these exercises – Twice a day ideally and you will notice a huge difference in everything from running, squatting and weightlifting to low back and knee pain.

You might even like to give The Best Glute Stretch a try as with poor muscle activation, you also often end up with tight muscles!


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