Preparing for Your Next 5K: Tips From a PT

Fall is upon us and with holiday runs right around the corner, Therapydia physical therapist Jodie McGinlay, DPT, weighs in with her top five things to keep in mind as you prepare for this year’s Turkey Trot, Holiday Hustle, Fun Run or any of the numerous other festively-themed 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons:

You did it! You made the important first step of signing up for that 5K/10K or maybe even half marathon. Great job! Prior to race day, there are a few things to consider to make the most out of your run, no matter if this is your first race or your tenth. One of the most important things to keep in mind to ensure your success is to go slow and listen to your body. No matter how many races you’ve run, there are many goals to set and accomplish during your pre-race, training period. Remember that injury prevention and maintenance at any phase of the training process is attainable so the fact that you’re reading this prior to your run is great! Here you will find the top five considerations to help you avoid injury and prepare your body to cruise across the finish line on race day.

Running Shoes Physical Therapy 5k Runners Exercise

1. Running Shoes

Take a look at your shoes. Are they more than two years old? Do they squeeze your toes? Do your feet ever feel numb during or after you wear them? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to check in with your local physical therapist or running shoe store. Unfortunately, shoes are not bulletproof and they need replacing every so often, especially if they are uncomfortable. Your physical therapist can assess your foot mechanics for optimal comfort and recommend a specific brand or running shoe store to visit.

Runner Exercises 5k Physical Therapy Injury Prevention

2. The Course

Consider the surface in which you’ll be running on race day. Is the upcoming race hilly? Is it flat? If the race is outside, try to hit the pavement and see how your body handles it. Various surfaces can actually distribute forces through your feet in different ways so you should try to change up the surfaces that you’re training on to prepare (because not all are created equal). Tracks, treadmills, concrete surfaces and trails can all put stresses on the body in their own way. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should hop out on the trails if your 5K is on pavement, but it may be wise to switch up your training occasionally and skip a treadmill day in favor of some fresh air.

Runner Exercises Injury Prevention 5k Physical Therapy

3. Set Your Goals

Are you shooting to complete a personal record or increase your speed for your upcoming race? Try to include some form of cross training to give your program variability. Current physical therapy research suggests 2-3 days a week of resistance training: weights, high intensity interval training, and even plyometrics can increase your run speed and lung capacity for endurance.

If you haven’t been particularly active lately and you’re unsure about where to start, these three exercises are low impact and address specific musculature responsible for ensuring optimal gluteal activation while walking and running. Remember if any exercises create discomfort, please discontinue performing and consult a physical therapist for a formal musculoskeletal assessment.

Exercise for Runners Clamshell Physical Therapy Portland

Exercise 1: Sidelying Clamshell

Lie on your side with the band above your knees. With the knees bent and stacked on each other, lift the top knee up and away—into the resistance band. Try to maintain the hips and shoulders from rocking back or forward. Hold for 5-10 seconds and perform 5 reps for 2-3 sets. You should be feeling this on the outer glut. If you feel it more on the side of your hip (think about where a seam in your pant would start), roll your top hip forward. Work your holds up to 20 seconds.

Running Man Exercise for Runners Physical Therapy Portland

Exercise 2: Running Man

Stand and balance on one leg. Lean your body forward (keeping your upper body/core in plank position) while you straighten your back leg behind you. Try to hover back leg or tap toe on the ground for balance. Bring the same arm forward into ready position (see picture). March leg up to 90 degrees as you extend your arm back to end position. Perform 2-3 rounds of 5 reps. Work your reps up if you are able to maintain your balance in a smooth and controlled manner.

Runner Exercise Lateral Band Walks Physical Therapy Portland

Exercise 3: Lateral Band Walks

Place elastic band around legs. From easiest to hardest: band above knees, band below knees, band at ankles, band at feet. Lightly bend your knees while you take a step to the side keeping your feet spread about hip distance apart. Keep resistance on band and bring trailing leg towards the other. Try to keep hip distance between feet in order to get the best burn. Remember this is four your hips—you should feel it on the outside glut but will feel quads as well. Try 10 steps down and back. Work up to 20 steps in coming weeks.

Physical therapy 5k preparation injury prevention hydration

4. Fuel the Tank

Hydration + diet + adequate sleep can give your body energy and sustainability through your training period and beyond. Make sure to drink water throughout the day and eat plenty of nutrient rich and high carb energy boosters, including bananas, oats, whole-grain foods, peanut butter, broccoli, Greek yogurts and berries. The consistency with your training program to ensure your body is equipped to run the race from a cardiovascular standpoint can be accelerated by how you’re fueling the tank before and after.

Runner Injury Prevention 5k 10k marathon physical therapy

5. Recovery, REcovery, RECOVERY

As you prepare and train for the upcoming race, allow your mind and body some time to cool down. A long week full of runs, resistance training, socializing, work, etc. can take its toll. This could mean taking a hot bath and letting your body relax while you work on incorporating some new recipes and getting a little extra sleep. Cooldowns after a run could mean walking the last ½ mile home instead of the sprint you planned on or simply taking the time to prop your feet up and elevate after moving around all day. However you choose to take it easy after the week, this rest is not only beneficial for your body but for your mental drive to get back out on that next run the following week. Self motivation can sometimes be challenging so I like to incorporate training with a friend or local run club. Consider looking into run clubs or meetups in your area that could make running more enjoyable.

If you feel you need further assistance with training including ramping mileage and/or a customized running program, there are additional resources and education we can provide to ensure optimal performance during your training. Therapydia’s Run Assessment locates any weaknessess or mechnical challenges involved in your running. With a thorough exam of your strength, flexibility, movement patterns and running form, your run analysis will help to ensure your running is more efficient, more enjoyable and most importantly, injury and pain-free. You’ll review the findings with your physical therapist and leave with a custom assessment and exercise training plan. Click here to schedule your Run Assessment today.

Happy running!

Dynamic Warmup for Runners

Warmup for Runners Injury Prevention Run Warmup Stretch

If you’re a runner, it’s likely that you’ve experienced some sort of discomfort, ache or pain along the way. In fact, it’s been reported that as many as 90% of runners miss training time each year due to injuries. Fortunately, running pains are not necessarily an inevitability.

A good warmup, prior to exercising, loosens up your body and gets the blood flowing, gradually raising your heart rate to make it easier to get into a good rhythm. Dynamic stretching before a run has shown to help with poor posture, faulty running mechanics and injury prevention. It can also work wonders in terms of improving your range of motion. If you experience aches and pains during or after your run, try this warmup to help and combat the likelihood of injury and give yourself a little peace of mind so you can run longer and stronger!

Estimated Time: 10 Minutes

Sunrise Stretch

Warmup for runners physical therapy dynamic warmup run injury

Where You’ll Feel It: Pecs and Mid Back
Lie on your side, bend both knees up toward your chest and place your bottom hand on top of your knees. Place your top arm out in front, reach up toward the ceiling and continue the rotation as far as possible. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Allow your head and chest to follow. Return to the starting position and perform 10 times each side.

Leg Swing

Leg Swing Exercise Dynamic Warmup Runners Run Injury

Where You’ll Feel It: Hamstrings and Hip Flexors
Swing your leg forward as high as you can and as far back as you can with controlled speed while keeping your knee straight and trunk upright. Perform 10 times on each leg.

Quad Stretch

Quad Stretch Warmup for Runners Exercise Stretch Dynamic Warmup Injury Prevention

Where You’ll Feel It: Thigh and Hip Flexor
Stand on one leg, grab your opposite ankle and pull your foot towards your butt. Keep your standing leg straight and the heel on the floor. Reach overhead with your other arm. Make sure that your bent knee is directly under your hip. (Optional – you can lift your heel and come up onto your toes). Don’t let your back arch. Hold for 3 seconds. Perform 10 times on each side.

Donkey Kick

Donkey Kick Dynamic Warmup for Runners Exercise Physical Therapy

Where You’ll Feel It: Glutes, Not Your Back!
Place a mini band around your knees. Start on your hands and knees. Align your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Engage your core by lightly bringing your belly button closer to the spine. Keep your core engaged and lift the right knee back like a kick. Think about kicking your heel towards the ceiling but avoid arching your back or twisting your hips. Perform 10 times on each side.

Runner’s Side Plank

Side Plank Dynamic Warmup for Runners Run Injury Prevention Stretch Exercise

Where You’ll Feel It: Core and Glutes
Lie on your side with your body and your legs in a straight line (like you are in a toaster slot). Bend the bottom of your knee 90 degrees and keep the top knee straight. Draw your belly button in towards your spine and engage your abs. Lift your hips up towards the ceiling, keeping your elbow stacked underneath your shoulders. While holding the plank position, bend your knee toward your chest and straight out to starting position (mimic running). Perform 10 times on each side.

Runner’s March

Runner's Side Plank Dynamic Warmup for Runners Physical Therapy Exercise Stretch Injury Prevention

Where You’ll Feel It: Glutes
Place a mini band around your ankles. Engage your core by lightly bringing your belly button closer to the spine to maintain neutral lumbar spine. March your knee up to hip level, pause for 1-2 seconds and then return to the starting position. Focus on slow, controlled movement. Drive the standing leg straight by squeezing your gluteal muscles. Perform 10 times on each side.

Side Steps

Side Steps Dynamic Warmup for Runners Runner Injury Prevention Physical Therapy Exercise Stretch

Where You’ll Feel It: Glutes / Outer Hips
Stand in a semi-squat position with your feet hip width apart and a mini band around your ankles. While always keeping tension in the band, take small steps to the left (Your stance should not be wider than your shoulders at any point). Focus on pushing off the trailing leg vs. reaching with the lead leg. Keep your knees pushed apart and your toes pointed straight forward. Repeat while moving to the right. Perform 10 steps to each side.

If you have any questions or any pain with these exercises, please consult a Therapydia physical therapist.

Run Phase 2: Stance Phase

A complete gait cycle occurs when one foot makes contact on the ground and the same foot makes contact on the ground again. After your foot has made initial contact, the stance phase comes next. During stance phase, both knees are at their peak flexion. One foot is in the air at peak knee bend through swing phase causing the leg on the ground to absorb all your body weight. Your leg on the ground is at peak energy absorption/recoil. In this post, we will focus on the leg that is on the ground.

When looking at a runner’s gait, the stance phase occurs when the hip, knee and ankle joints are in more flexion compared to heel strike. The knee flexion angle allows for optimal energy absorption through the lower extremity as your body is moving forward. The knee flexion angle for the stance leg is around 30 degrees and your hip should be in neutral compared to the lower leg at this phase of running. Having adequate hip strength during this running stage is crucial. If you do not have proper glut strength to stabilize the hip joint during stance phase, this could potentially lead to injury.

How To Improve Your Stance Phase:

Breaking down this phase of running can be as simple as looking at the ability to stand on one leg. Being able to maintain equal hip/pelvic alignment and balance while standing on one leg will show how stable your stance leg is. If you find yourself having to use your arms for balance, or your trunk sways excessively from side to side, your hip is not working to properly stabilize your body. If you think of what else is happening during stance phase, your opposite leg is moving in space during swing phase. This contralateral movement, or opposite sides of the body working together, of the legs in inverse directions also requires significant hip and core strength.

In addition to highlighting hip strength, stance phase can also show if certain muscle groups do not have adequate length/stretch. For example, if the calf muscle is tight, stance phase would be much shorter because it would limit the flexion angle at the ankle; limited dorsiflexion at the ankle forces you to compensate at other joints and can lead to injury.

If we look at the knee going through swing phase, if there is quad muscle tightness, this will limit full knee flexion. If the hip is unable to get past neutral, or even worse, stays in a flexed position throughout the running cycle, this could lead to low back pain, hip pain, and again other compensation patterns leading to injury. Treadmill video analysis of your running gait can further reveal what other muscle groups might need strengthening or stretching.

Below are just a few examples of strengthening exercises for the hips and single leg balance. Please note that seeking tailored exercises from a physical therapist for specific muscle group strengthening is highly recommended.

1. Step Up With Run Snap:

2. 12, 3, 6 O’clock Toe Taps:

3. Single Leg Hip Hinge With Run Snap:

Have A More Efficient Stride With A Video Run Analysis

Therapydia Video Run Analysis

Most runners have a general idea of how they’re supposed to move their bodies while they run. Unfortunately, knowing what good form is goes deeper than just striking the right part of your foot. Analyzing your gait on a biomechanical level says a lot about how efficiently you’re running and how at risk you are for an injury. Knowing how the muscles throughout your whole body are working needs a frame-by-frame explanation. A high-speed video analysis gives detailed insight into your specific gait cycle. A physical therapist watches your run video and uses the technology to keep track of your unique skeletal markers and angles. Afterwards, they’ll break down exactly what those degrees and angles mean to your form and how you can prevent injury.

4 Stages Of Gait Cycle

A video analysis begins by placing makers on your body and recording your run. Your physical therapist will first watch you and give you advice on any obvious adjustments you need to make. For example, they will provide quick feedback regarding symmetry and force of your foot strike. Afterwards, your physical therapist will watch your video and analyze each stage of your gait cycle. Your gait cycle is made up of 4 phases:

1. Initial Contact

Therapydia Video Run Analysis

2. Peak Knee Flexion

Therapydia Video Run Analysis

3. Toe-Off

Therapydia Video Run Analysis

4. Terminal Swing

Therapydia Video Run Analysis

They watch how you run through the entire cycle of movement that makes up your stride. This begins with your foot initially striking the ground, your knee when it’s most bent, pushing off the ground, swinging your leg, and putting your foot back down. The necessary angles are inserted through a run analysis program and each angle is analyzed. Key angles that are being assessed are hip flexion and extension angles. This provides insight as to how you’re form is absorbing shock coming from the ground and where it’s being absorbed in the body.

Finding Your Best Angles

The goal is to get you to adjust your stride in a way that increases your hip excursion angles. This will improved shock absorption and decrease the load onto the joint below, such as the knees and ankles. Efficient movements will decrease required energy and optimize your run, letting you run further and faster. Distributing force evenly through muscles and joints will make you an efficient runner. For example, this might mean adjusting how your foot strikes when you run. Midfoot and heel striking increases shock absorption through the hips rather than the calf musculature. It could also mean that you don’t have flexibility in your hips, limiting your hip excursion and therefore your shock absorption. They’ll even analyze your trunk lean when you run, which affects how much power and again efficiency you’re getting out of your stride.

Streamlining How You Run

After your physical therapist looks over your recording and analyzes each stage of the run, they’ll give you a formal write-up of everything you need to look out for. The video analysis gives physical therapists the chance to slow down the frames and watch for how your limbs extend, flex, and strike against the ground. They’re trained to analyze each angle and understand the biomechanics during each stage of your gait cycle. If you lean forward 20 degrees or have too much flexion between your knee joint angles, your physical therapist knows exactly how that’s affecting your chances of injury. By determining what those specific angles mean they’ll know exactly how much stress you’re putting on your ankles, knees, hip, arms, and back. They can concretely identify how even the tiniest shifts in your running form can be putting too much strain on your body and setting you up for an injury.

They’ll direct you on how to adjust your form to optimize your mechanics and help you to run as powerfully and efficiently as possible. During that session they can even begin creating your custom treatment plan and training schedule to help you start building strength or improving flexibility. If you’re interested in learning more about a run assessment with video analysis, don’t hesitate to call us at Therapydia Portland.

Run Analysis & Physical Therapy Interventions

Depositphotos_41240423_originalWe as physical therapists are a natural fit for providing movement analysis for patients with biomechanical faults.  With our educational background and clinical experience we are able to provide a complete assessment for the running athlete while also being effective in providing interventions to address the athlete’s inefficiencies. This past Tuesday (my birthday and election day for those who are paying attention) I had an opportunity to speak with two exceptional movement scientists on the topic of run analysis and how physical therapy played a role in performing these assessments.  Now I have spoken to many physicians, running coaches, and thousands of patients regarding motion analysis and how physical therapists may use certain tools to properly create treatment plans to make people pain free and more efficient athletes but what was interesting about this talk on Tuesday is that we broadcast it “live” on the internet.  This was somewhat intimidating but also exciting to know that we could answer questions from anyone around the world throughout this 60-minute slot.

Throughout the talk I not only shared my ideas and concepts of what movement analysis would comprise for a runner but I also learned a great deal from Nicole and Chris.  Some of the gems from our Google + hangout were without a proper history and subjective exam we cannot provide an accurate or efficient assessment for interventions with our patients. What does that mean? Without a defined start point of how that athlete or patient presents to us how are we as health care providers able to determine positive change? Or any change for that matter. Chris mentioned collecting his athlete’s behaviors both past and present and making changes to “habits”.  I love this and will from now on steal this in my practice to educate patients on changing their lifestyle habits rather than performing executed medical prescriptions in stretching or strengthening. (Thanks Chris) Nicole stated that as physical therapists our educational background includes studying the “whole body across many systems” & it is our (magical) ability to juggle all of these systems in our head while we have a patient sitting in front of us or moving in front of us.  Then with a quick wave of our wand we make medical decisions on how to intervene with the patient or athletes apparent functional limitations.

Something that physical therapists utilize that you won’t get in a running store or from your local personal trainer is evidence-based medicine.  What is evidence based medicine (EBM)? EBM is the process of systematically reviewing, appraising and using clinical research findings to aid the delivery of optimum clinical care to patients.  These research studies are often performed over many years and with thousands of patients…. The choices that Physical therapists make based on EBM gives you the best care!

“Doesn’t matter what tools you have, it’s the clinician who makes the decisions with those tools & applies a differential diagnosis that is the most useful – Nicole”

One of the biggest messages from this talk was that no matter what fancy machines are used, or how amazing the high-speed video cameras are the patient or athlete will not get the most complete analysis and assessment without a good clinician. So what makes a good clinician you may be asking? Someone who has taken multiple courses on biomechanics, understands the body as a complete system, and someone who has worked with thousands of higher level patients who perform at a faster speed than your typical activity of daily living.

Proper Testing

Another topic of discussion was patient testing coupled with the run analysis.  All members of the discussion mentioned that physical therapists are able to properly test strength, range of motion, functional mobility and muscular symmetry more than many other health care providers and this allows for proper interventions to address biomechanical weaknesses.  Plain and simple: If you have pain with movement the best person to see is a qualified physical therapist!  It is our job as movement scientists to help people move pain free and more efficiently.

“Shoes can’t fix your running- Chris”

As Dr. Powers states “you have to be fit to run, you should not run to get fit”.  Take home message from this whole talk is find a good therapist, get a through examination, and prepare yourself for success by building a foundation of knowledge, flexibility, strength and motor control.  Internal limitations in joint mobility and strength cannot be fixed with fancy shoes or compression braces. “Running is not easy” as Chris enlightens us.

Now if you have the time to watch the video I have attached it to this blog and if you have further questions regarding the content or possibly are interested in having a run analysis performed you can contact me at the office via phone or via email at Jason@therapydiaportland.com.

#TherapydiaRunTalk