Tag Archives: injury prevention

Easy Running for Fast Running

Easy running might seem pointless.  How can you get faster if you don’t actually run faster?  The truth is you can’t.  To improve speed, running economy and endurance you do have to run faster than you are comfortable.  But you don’t have to do it all the time, nor do you want to.  A balance between hard and easy workouts is the best way to build fitness without risking injury or burnout.  The purpose of easy running is to build a foundation.  Building this foundation is easy runninghow your body adjusts to the stresses of road running over time and will ultimately lead to improved race times and a lower risk of injury.

Easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch, fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity without beating yourself up.  You need fast days to work on turnover and VO2max but easy running days are not necessarily ‘junk miles’ because you’re still working towards a goal.  As long as each run has a purpose your time and effort is never wasted.

That’s because going as fast as you can all the time is asking for trouble.  Your body has to take care of itself after hard workouts.  It has to repair damaged muscle, expand blood vessels and learn to process more oxygen.  An easy workout helps clear out waste from muscles, improve circulation and might actually help speed muscle recovery.  If you push all the time, those processes never get to finish their jobs and you’re inviting overtraining and burnout.  Alternating hard and easy running workouts gives your body a chance to make all of the positive performance enhancing adaptations it can.

Make sure your easy running is just that.  Easy.  Aim to be at least one minute slower than your goal race pace for the duration of an easy workout.  As your fitness level increases it can become hard to slow the pace down.  It’s important to remember what the goal of each workout is when you’re out there feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything.  Your body has to have time to adapt to training stimuli so you can ultimately increase your performance level.

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries 101: ITBS

In this fourth installment of our running injuries series, we’ll cover ITBS.  ITBS is the acronym for Iliotibial Band Syndrome, is a common running injury experience by those who are both new to and experienced with the sport of running.  A preventable and treatable injury, read on to learn more about what ITBS is, how to avoid it and how to recover when you do get injured.

What:  The iliotibial band is a ligament that runs from the hip to the shin on the outside of each thigh helping to both stabilize and move the knee joint.  ITBS is an overuse injury that occurs when this band is inflamed or tight and leads to pain with movement of the knee.ITBS graphic

Causes:  ITBS is most often caused by overuse.  This could come from a sudden increase in work load for the knee, a change in terrain or a lack of recovery time.  It can also result from running too much in worn out shoes, on banked surfaces, turning only in one direction or faulty running mechanics that cause your knees to rotate inward.

Symptoms:  Pain and swelling on the outside of the knee are the result of an inflamed IT Band.  ITBS can feel like a knee injury but it isn’t.  If you bend your knee to 45 degrees and have pain on the outside, it’s ITBS.

Treatments:  Rest, foam rolling and low impact cross training like swimming are good ways to ease and avoid further irritation of the IT band.  Ice and anti-inflamatories are also options to treat ITBS pain.  While all of these will treat the symptoms or ITBS, it’s most important to address the cause of your injury during the treatment and recovery phases.

Recovery:  ITBS often results from poor running mechanics that allow the knee to rotate inward on landing.  Strengthening glutes, working towards a neutral foot strike in a low drop shoe and increasing mobility through both hip extension and flexion are the best ways to treat and prevent this injury.  Work with a qualified coach or physical therapist to determine what caused your injury, rest to heal it then strengthen and mobilize to prevent it from happening again.

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries 101: Runner’s Knee

This third installment of our running injuries series will cover runner’s knee, a term that can refer to any pain centered around your kneecap.  It’s a preventable injury that, like most running injuries, can end up sidelining a great season or a solid training plan for a while if not runner's kneeproperly dealt with.  Here you’ll learn what runner’s knee can be, how to treat it and how to prevent it.

What:  Unlike shin splints and plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee is a broad term to describe discomfort around the kneecap that can come from several different sources. Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, it is common in both new and experience runners and can have a history of reoccurring.

Causes:

  • Overuse: Suddenly increasing training load in a high impact sport such as running can lead to overstretched tendons and irritation of the kneecap joint.
  • Foot Problems: Fallen arches, overpronation or hypermobile foot joints can all cause runner’s knee.
  • Muscle imbalances and malalignment: Weaker muscles in the thigh lead to uneven loads on knees that create abnormal wear and tear on the joint as the knee collapses inward with each footfall.  Bones that are out of alignment will cause similar abnormal damage as stress is unevenly distributed through the skeletal system.
  • Poor running mechanics: Running form errors such as heel striking, over striding, toe running and poor posture can all cause sheer across the kneecap joint that results in irregular wear and tear on the patellofemoral joint.

Symptoms:  The symptoms of runner’s knee include pain around or behind the kneecap potentially along with swelling and popping/grinding feelings.  There will be pain when the knee is bent during walking, running, jogging and squatting that is worse when going downhill or down a flight of stairs.

Treatment:  There are a wide variety of options available to help treat runner’s knee.

  • Rest:  Take some time off from high impact activities and avoid putting weight on the hurting knee.
  • Compression:  Use compression sleeves, pants, elastic bandages or patellar straps to give the knee extra support during the healing process.  Avoid these while exercising as they mask the underlying issue and can lead to more damage.
  • Strength and mobility work:  Study a tape of yourself running and work with a qualified coach or physical therapist to target muscle imbalances and running form errors that created the initial irritation.

Recovery:  Once you are able to get back in action after recovering from runner’s knee, maintain muscle balance and mobility by regularly performing strength and mobility exercise for the hips, legs and feet.  Remember to wear appropriate shoes with enough support for your foot while avoiding doing all of your running on very hard surfaces like concrete and making sudden dramatic increases in training load.

Coach Meredith

***The post was originally written for and released by The Runner Dad***

Proprioception: Become A Better Runner

Proprioception is a big scientific word but learning to love it it can help you become a better runner.  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines Proprioception (n) as ‘the reception of stimuli produced within the organism’.  Dictionary.com give a slightly more friendly definition: perception governed by proprioceptors, as awareness of the position of one’s body.  Proprioceptors are sensors in all of our muscles and tendons that help control balance.  That second definition makes it pretty easy to see how improving our proprioception could help our running performance.  Better balance means after steps and the more aware we are of what, how and when our body is doing something, the more efficient we can become at responding to it.

Have you ever had an ankle injury?  Exercises to improve proprioception were probably part of your rehab plan.  Why?  Exercising the proprioceptors helps strengthen ankles and feet.  You never know what you’ll come across when you’re running, especially on trails and once we’re injured, the damaged proprioceptors have trouble functioning properly.  Failing to reteach them to work correctly can ultimately lead to more injuries on the same joint and new injuries on rocky, uneven or unpredictable terrain.  Unfortunately, injuries aren’t the only thing that gets in the way of hardworking proprioceptors.  Wearing shoes all the time takes our feet away from the ground, dulls our senses and makes us visually dominant.  Waiting for our eyes to see something and tell our brain what to do is a very slow process compared to an immediate response from the correct muscles.  A better response means better balance.

To test your proprioception, stand on one foot and close your eyes.  If you immediately start to wobble and put your other foot on the ground, it’s time to go to work.  Here are exercises to proprioceptionadd to your daily routine that will build better balance, improve proprioception and help you become a better runner.

Go barefoot as often as possible.  Take a few minutes each day to work on single leg balance exercises, progressing to do them with your eyes closed.  Eventually, add a balance board or a few BOSU balls.  Both are great additions to any workout collection.  The unstable surfaces challenge your body to respond quickly to what’s happening under your feet and are good tools for strengthening feet and ankles.  Once you can stay still for a period of time, try closing your eyes.  Eventually you can add ball tossing and other upper body exercises to the challenge.

Start practicing your proprioception today to feel stronger and safer on any running surface.

Coach Meredith

Foam Rolling Mistakes to Avoid

Foam rolling is awesome.  There are tons of good reasons to include a foam rolling session in your post workout routine on a daily basis.  In all its glory, foam rolling can relieve pain, relax muscles and be the cheapest massage around but if its done improperly, foam rolling can wreak havoc on your body.

Rolling where it hurts.  Using a foam roller on areas that are already inflamed might increase inflammation and your risk of injury.  One muscle hurts because an imbalance, tension or a knot in another place is pulling it out of position.  Be sure to roll muscles surrounding painful spots with big sweeping motions before going after the knots.foam rolling

Using the roller on your lower back.  Rolling your lower back can cause the muscles around your spine to contract in an effort to protect it.  This has the ability to throw your spine out of alignment and put unnecessary pressure on organs like the kidneys.  Use the foam roller along the length of your rib cage but skip the area between your last rib and your hips.

Putting intensity first.  Much like other fitness, wellness and eating habits, an activity needs to be done regularly to be as effective as possible.  While you might not feel sore on a daily basis, rolling before and after every workout is a surefire way to help keep injuries at bay.  Roll slowly so muscles can respond to the stimulus and after easing over the entire area, concentrate on painful spots.

Holding your breath.  Foam rolling can be painful and one wonderful, natural way to manage pain is to breathe.  Holding your breath prevents much needed oxygen and blood from flowing into muscles that desperately want to recover from a hard workout.  Holding your breath can also lead to poor posture which makes rolling less effective and can do more harm than good.

Want to foam roll properly?  Check out this video, this blog, email us at Info@FitNicePT.com or fill out the form below.

Plantar Fasciitis Problems

Plantar fasciitis is a serious issues faced by many athletes, and last week we went over times it’s just fine to miss, or skip, a workout.  Being injured is a great reason to take a day off, and this common one can be very discouraging.plantar fasciitis  We discussed the importance of taking good care of your feet two weeks ago, and this injury is a perfect example of something that can easily be avoided with proper foot care.

Let’s start with some anatomy.  The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes.  It is a flat band of tissue that supports the arch of each foot, acting like a shock absorber with each step and can be strained in one or both feet.  When the plantar fascia is strained or injured, it becomes swollen, weak and irritable.  This will cause any of a number of symptoms, including heel pain or pain on the bottom of the foot when standing or walking.

There are lots of things that can cause plantar fasciitis, and luckily, most are preventable.  People who are prone to plantar fasciitis include those who roll the foot inward when walking or running (excessive pronation), individuals with high arches, people who are overweight, stand, walk or run on hard surfaces for long periods of time, have tight calves or Achilles and finally, those who wear poorly fitting or worn out shoes.  All of these causes can be prevented or avoided very easily.  Two weeks ago, we wrote about the importance of taking care of your feet.  If you follow those suggestions, along with the ones we’re about to share, you’ll be as well prepared as you can be for the fight against plantar fasciitis.

Make sure you have good shoes.  If you wear the right shoes, any excess pronation will be prevented and both arches, no matter how high, will get support.  Replacing your shoes before they are worn down to the bones or using insoles helps ensure coplantar fasciitisrrect fit and keeps feet protected even if you stand, walk or run on hard surfaces for long periods of time.  Tight calves or Achilles tendons are an easy fix, too.  Daily stretching can help lengthen and strengthen these important parts while aiding in injury prevention.  Weekly foot massages, from yourself or someone else, are a relaxing way to prevent foot injuries, too.  Being overweight puts extra strain on your plantar fascia as well, so making sure you have supportive, properly fitted shoes when starting a weight loss program is incredibly important.

What if you already have plantar fasciitis?  While there isn’t one magical cure-all for making plantar fasciitisyour foot, or feet, feel 100% better, there are things you can do to help the process along.  The pain associated with this type of injury often makes putting ice on your injured heel and taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug a necessary part of recovery.  Taking a break from exercising or switching from hard surfaces to soft ones will give the injured foot, or feet, time to heal.  If you’re not ready to take a breather, daily stretching, or stretching multiple times per day, will aid in flexibility.  You can also consider night splints, a boot that stretches your calf and foot while you sleep to help even more.  Rolling the length of your foot with a tennis or lacrosse ball can act like a massage and stretches the arch of your foot, Achilles and calf.

Now that you know the symptoms, the treatments and how to prevent plantar fasciitis, protect your feet and get going!  For more help with injury prevent, email us at Info@FitNicePT.com today.

The Importance of Stretching

Stretching prevents injury and soreness, improves range of motion and circulation, and gives you time to cool down from your workout.  Any one, of any age, can see big benefits from adding a stretching routine to their workouts.

One of the biggest benefits of regular stretching is an increase in flexibility, and without good flexibility, movements can be slowed and less fluid.  Improved range of motion makes everything from tying shoes to lifting groceries easier, and also helps prevent muscle strains or tears, damage to ligaments and other soft issue injuries.  The bigger ranges of motion that result from increased flexibility around joints will also improve coordination and balance, which is incredibly important when trying to prevent falls, especially in older populations.  Stretching also improves circulation by increasing blood flow to the working muscle, helping them receive needed nutrients and remove waste, like lactic acid.  Better posture and stress relief are more of the wonderful benefits you can get from regular stretching.  Tight muscles are the enemy of good posture, so stretching out can help you sit up straight and limit aches and pains.  When you’re feeling stressed, a few minutes of stretching will help tense muscles relax.

You can stretch a little bit before you workout as part of a solid warm-up and after your session as a cool down.  When you stretch for a warm-up, make sure you’ve done something to get your blood flowing already, such as five minutes on an elliptical.  Stretching cold muscles makes them prone to pulling or straining, which is exactly what you’re trying to prevent!  After you’ve loosened and warmed your muscles, you can give them a nice stretch before you hit the hard stuff, then you can be sure those working muscles are getting enough oxygen.  A light stretch before the tough stuff will also raise your heart rate slowly and safely.  Be careful not to stretch too much prior to your workout, as there is evidence suggesting that long, static stretching before a workout can lower strength gains by straining, and therefore weakening the muscle before you train.

Stretching properly is the key to seeing benefits, so here are some tips on how to do it the right way.  Take deep breaths and hold each stretch three times for 30 seconds, making sure to stretch both sides evenly.  Long, steady stretches are the way to, with no tugging or bouncing.  You should feel a stretch, not a pain or pull, if you do, stop immediately.  Make sure to stretch all over!  Quadriceps, hamstrings, groin, calves and lower back are some of the most important areas, especially when you’ve put your legs through the grinder with some hard cardio or a long run.  Lower back pain is often caused by tightness in hamstrings, lower back and hips, so stretching these areas can be a huge help.

For questions about, or help developing, a stretching program, send us an email!