As a Physical Therapist with over 16 yrs. of experience treating runners and triathletes and being a runner myself for over 20 yrs., I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make my run faster/feel easier while staying healthy and avoiding injury.
I started running in high school and over the course of 20 yrs., have probably experienced most of the injuries that have plagued runners including: plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee aka patellar tendinitis, hip pain, back pain, foot pain, ITB syndrome, shin splints aka medial tibial stress syndrome. I was not a “naturally good” or gifted runner, I was sort of a mediocre runner. BUT I wanted to get better and even more importantly, I wanted my running patients (which is pretty much all athletes since running is part of most sports) to get better. So started my quest for answers on how to become a better runner and how to be proactive and prevent injury instead of being reactive and dealing with injuries once they pop up. I’ve done a ton of research, read a bunch of books, taken a myriad of running courses both by Physical Therapists as well as Run Coaches and have used myself as the guinea pig for all my running “experiments”. In my personal and clinical experience, 3 things are vitally important to improve run performance and injury prevention:
1) Get a run form evaluation: If your Physical Therapist or Chiropractor isn’t watching you run when you have pain with running, then go elsewhere. No, the kid looking at you run on the treadmill at the local run store doesn’t count! If something is off in your run form i.e. a heel whip or hip drop, then the PT or Chiro can do a formal musculoskeletal evaluation to determine why i.e. decreased ankle range of motion or weak gluteus medius muscles at stance phase of running gait, then develop a treatment plan to address the deficit. Because you can’t fix what you don’t examine/can’t see!
2) Strength Train/Improve motor control: Research shows that those who generate more force faster, run better. If you’re not strength training, you’re likely giving performance up (Jay Dicharry, Anatomy of Running). However, strong muscles are useless if they aren’t activated at the right time- you also need motor control. Working with a movement specialist aka Physical Therapist can help you regain motor control after an injury. What kind of exercises should you do? I’ll do a follow up post on this very topic!
3) Work on improving your run form and then run LESS: Quality trumps quantity everytime- running day in and day out tends to break tissues down. In order to be resistant to injury aka Bulletproof, your rate of recovery needs to be greater than your rate of breakdown. Like prescription drugs, the minimal effective dose for the desired effect is best! Work with a Run Coach and fine tune your form and run program (should address frequency, duration and intensity of your runs).
Doing those 3 things can make a big difference in your running. In my case, I went from a 10 min/mile runner to an 8:53 min/mile for half marathon distance over the course of several years (took me a while to fix my dysfunctions and research how to fix myself). More importantly, in the past 5 yrs., I’ve completed 4 Ironman 70.3 races and countless half marathons, injury-free. I’m a much better runner now than I was 20 years ago, even though I’m 20 yrs older! It took a lot of work and perseverance but I’m proof it can be done.
Do you have the strength & stability to absorb the forces of 20,000+ steps and 3x your body weight on one leg that’s required with running? Or do you break down, get injured and have to take a break from running? If you are a runner who wants to work on your mobility, stability & run form but don’t know where to start or how to put it together, then come join our next Bulletproof Runner Series! 4 weeks of mobility and stability work mixed in with run drills and skills to improve your run. Videotape analysis is included. Check us out on Facebook OR Register here: https://ironhorsept.fullslate.com