Stay Injury–Free This Fall: Tips for Recreational Running
Hello, fellow runners! It’s that time of year again: the leaves on Esplanade are about to change, the pumpkin flavored drinks are out in full force, and most importantly, THE TEMPERATURE IS DROPPING. No better time to start running again as the crisp cool morning air surrounds you in Lower Park. As a Chiropractor here in Chico and a passionate advocate for healthy, injury-free running, I’m excited to share some valuable insights to ensure your return to recreational running this Fall is enjoyable and injury-free. Whether you’re a seasoned runner gunning for a podium finish at the Almond Bowl 5k or just starting out, these recommendations will help you make the most of your running journey.
- Running Form Is Key
Let’s kick things off by emphasizing the critical role of proper running form in staying injury-free. “Good Form Running” aka GFR is a term used to describe just that, good form! Good form running has many elements, including what you should be doing with your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet while running. One of the most common form issues we see is heel-strike running, where the heel hits the ground first. This can lead to increased stress on your joints, particularly the knees and hips. Instead, strive for a midfoot running form, where your foot lands closer to your body’s center of gravity. This not only reduces impact on your joints but also promotes a smoother stride. Remember, the way your feet hit the pavement has a direct impact on your overall joint health.
How do I know if I am Heel-strike running or Mid-foot running??
Here are a few tips and tricks to find out:
-The wear on the bottom of your shoes will tell you what your form is like. Midfoot runners tend to have little wear in the heel after dozens of miles of running while heel-strikers tend to see some significant wear at the back of your shoe fairly quickly.
-Take a video of yourself running! Heel strikers will tend to have longer strides, knees almost straight when they strike the ground, and their torso will be leaning back, making their center of gravity behind their knees and feet. Midfoot strikers will have shorter strides, bent knees when their foot strikes the ground, and will be leaning forward with their center of gravity right above their knees and feet.
How do I stop Heel Striking?
This could be a whole blog post in itself, but I always tell my patients to end your run on a grass field or track, and run your cooldown barefoot. Your body won’t let you heel strike when you are barefoot and this will force you to adopt a midfoot strike or even a toe strike if you are a sprinter. It is best to slowly train your muscles, joints, and ligaments what it feels like to midfoot strike when you are at your most fatigued. Thinking about leaning forward, keeping strides short, and keeping your knees slightly bent when you strike the ground are also helpful while running!
- Incorporate Strength Training
To bolster your running performance and ward off injuries, integrating strength training into your weekly exercise routine is a game-changer. Strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons act as your body’s natural shock absorbers, guarding against impact and improving your running form. By targeting specific muscle groups like your quadriceps, hamstrings, and core, you’ll build a solid foundation for a consistent gait. Not only does this reduce the risk of injury, but it also enhances your overall running experience.
- Harness the Power of Plyometrics
Want to break a PR and get faster this fall? Plyometrics, often referred to as “jump training,” can significantly boost your power and speed as a runner. These fast and explosive bodyweight workouts include exercises like jumps, lunges, and squat jumps. When training for running, incorporating plyometrics helps you develop explosive strength, which is essential for sprinting and quick acceleration. These exercises enhance your ability to generate force rapidly, translating into improved running performance and most importantly efficiency.
- Find Your Perfect Running Shoe
Selecting the right running shoe is akin to choosing the right tools for the job. Each runner is unique, and the ideal shoe for you may differ from what works for others. Consider factors like arch type, foot width, and pronation when picking a shoe. Moreover, it’s beneficial to rotate among a few pairs of shoes based on your run’s type and terrain. Having grippier shoes for trail runs, flats for speed work, more cushioned shoes for long runs, and minimalist shoes for form drills can help you get the most out of your training. The firmness of shoe cushioning plays a pivotal role in your running experience. Find the right balance that suits your running style and body mechanics.
Fleet Feet Chico is a great resource to find out what shoe works best for you based on your goals, body type, and biomechanics!
- Prioritize Stretching
Lastly, let’s discuss the importance of stretching in your running routine. Running can cause muscles to tighten and become knotted, limiting their functionality and making you more susceptible to injury. Incorporate dynamic stretches before your run to warm up your muscles and static stretches post-run to help them relax and lengthen. Pay special attention to your calf muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors, as these areas tend to tighten up during a run. By maintaining flexibility, you can keep your muscles and ligaments loose, reducing the risk of strains and discomfort.
In conclusion, staying injury-free while enjoying recreational running this fall is entirely achievable. Remember that proper running form, strength training, plyometrics, the right running shoe, and stretching all play pivotal roles in your injury prevention strategy. By implementing these practices into your running routine, you’ll not only safeguard your joints but also enhance your performance and overall running experience. So, lace up those running shoes, hit the pavement, and savor the beauty of fall while staying injury-free. Happy running!
Yours in health,
Unlock Your Running Potential: Mastering Good Form Running for Peak Performance and Injury Prevention
Hello, fellow runners! As a chiropractor here in Chico, CA with a passion for helping athletes achieve their best performance while staying injury-free, I’m excited to delve into the intricate mechanics of Good Form Running. Understanding and honing these mechanics can be a game-changer, leading to increased efficiency, enhanced power, and reduced risk of injury. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key components of Good Form Running and how they can transform your running experience.
- The Foot Mechanics: The Foundation of Efficiency
Let’s start from the ground up, quite literally. Your feet play a pivotal role in your running mechanics. Focus on adopting a midfoot striking technique, as it allows you to run more efficiently, minimizes stress on your joints by preventing overstriding, and unleashes your inner powerhouse. By landing on your midfoot or ball of your foot, you engage the natural spring-like mechanism of your arches, propelling you forward with less effort. Not sure if your foot mechanics are up to speed? Come visit Spine Chiropractic here in Chico where you can learn about Good Form Running, stretches, exercises, and keep your joints healthy with the chiropractic adjustment!
- The Ankle Mechanics: Shock Absorption and Balance
Moving up to your ankles, it’s crucial to maintain proper alignment. Keep your shins perpendicular to the ground when your foot strikes, which evenly distributes the shock between your ankles, knees, and hips. This even distribution of force minimizes the risk of overuse injuries and enhances your overall stability. Stretching out your achilles and calves with dynamic stretches pre-run and static stretches post-run can help increase ankle mobility and decrease the likelihood of achilles issues! Good Form Running includes leaning forward at the ankles which requires those ankles staying both loose and strong!
- The Knee Mechanics: Protecting Your Precious Joints
Your knees are vulnerable joints when it comes to running. Ensure they stay directly in front of your hips, avoiding any inward or outward bowing that can stress ligaments and the meniscus. To achieve this, focus on having your knee in line with the middle of your foot and your foot right under your knee upon ground contact. To prevent the dreaded “runner shuffle” when you are at your most fatigued, think about raising your knees up slightly with each stride to prevent falling and keeping good form.
- The Hip Mechanics: The Key to Efficiency
Leaning slightly forward is a game-changer in running mechanics. Although hinging at the ankles is more ideal than at the hips for Good Form Running, remembering to keep your hips forward will be key to maintaining that ideal lean. This position signals your glutes to do most of the work, essential for efficient running.
- The Core Mechanics: Unleashing Your Powerhouse
Your core is where your center of gravity resides and is the source of your running power. A tight core and elongated spine are essential for tapping into this power. Incorporate cross-training with core workouts to activate and strengthen your core muscles. This will not only boost your performance but also bolster your stability and endurance.
- The Arm Mechanics: The Hidden Speed Boost
Surprisingly, your arms can significantly impact your speed and efficiency. Keep your elbows close to your sides, bent at a 90-degree angle, and maintain a fluid motion with your fists going from your hips to your chin. This arm position not only aids balance but also provides a powerful counterbalance to your leg movements, making your stride more controlled and efficient.
- The Shoulder Mechanics: Relaxation Is Key
Your shoulder blades should remain down and back, with a relaxed posture throughout your run. Tension in your shoulders can negatively affect your form and energy expenditure. By keeping your shoulders relaxed, you promote a smoother and more comfortable running experience.
- The Head Mechanics: Focus and Alignment
Finally, let’s talk about your head. Maintaining a focused and forward gaze is crucial for proper head and neck alignment. Avoid protruding your head forward, keeping your ears directly above your shoulders. This position allows for better balance and less strain on your neck muscles. As a Chiropractor, I see runners suffering from tight shoulders and necks often. If that is you, Spine Chiropractic is a great resource for taking care of your aches and pains, as well as for optimal wellness.
Incorporating these mechanics into your running form may require time and practice, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Not only will you experience improved performance, but you’ll also reduce the risk of common running injuries. Remember, running is a journey, and mastering your mechanics is a vital step towards reaching your goals.
To sum it up, running is more than just putting one foot in front of the other. It’s a dynamic interplay of various body parts working in harmony. By paying attention to your foot, ankle, knee, hip, core, arms, shoulders, and head mechanics, you’ll transform your running experience into a smoother, more efficient, and injury-resistant journey. So, lace up your running shoes, hit the trails, and let your newfound knowledge of running mechanics propel you to new heights in your running endeavors. Happy running!
Yours in Health,
The Winning Stride: How Strength Training Can Elevate Your Distance Running Game
Hello, fellow runners! As a Chiropractor who has seen the remarkable benefits of strength training in athletes, I’m excited to dive into a topic that’s close to my heart: strength training for distance runners. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or just starting your running journey, incorporating strength training into your routine can be a game-changer. In this article, I’ll discuss how strength training can reduce the risk of injuries, enhance performance, and boost running efficiency, as well as include 13 exercises you can do today to get started!
Injury Prevention through Strength Training
Imagine your body as a finely tuned machine, designed for endurance and power. However, like any machine, it needs regular maintenance to perform at its best. Strength training serves as that maintenance for runners. When you engage in regular strength training, you’re not just building stronger muscles; you’re also fortifying your bones, tendons, ligaments, and joints.
Running, while a fantastic cardiovascular exercise, places significant impact forces on your body with each stride. This can lead to overuse injuries and wear and tear. Strength training makes your muscles more robust, capable of handling more repetitions and miles before breaking down. By doing so, it acts as a protective shield for your body, reducing the risk of injury. After all, in the world of running, consistency is key, and staying injury-free is a pivotal part of achieving that consistency.
Speed, Running Economy, and Muscle Power
Strength training is not just about preventing injuries; it’s also a potent tool for enhancing your running performance. Let’s talk about the three magic words: speed, running economy, and muscle power.
Firstly, strength training enables you to generate more force with each stride, propelling you forward faster. Additionally, it can decrease ground contact time, which means your feet spend less time on the ground during each step. This quicker turnover allows you to maintain a higher speed with less effort.
Moreover, when you strengthen your lower body, particularly your legs and glutes, your body can act like a spring, storing and releasing energy efficiently. This ‘spring effect’ can significantly improve your running economy, making each step feel less taxing on your body.
If you’re new to strength training, don’t worry. Start with bodyweight exercises that utilize your own body for resistance. These 13 exercises will help you build a strong foundation before progressing to weighted exercises.
Lower Body Exercises
Now, let’s dive into some specific exercises to kickstart your strength training journey. These lower body exercises target key muscle groups to improve your running performance:
- Air Squat: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and squat down as if you’re sitting in an invisible chair. Keep your chest up and your knees aligned with your toes. Push through your heels to return to the standing position.
- Walking Lunge: Take a step forward with your right foot, lowering your body into a lunge until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Push through your right heel to stand up and bring your left foot forward into the next lunge.
- Bulgarian Squat: Stand a few feet in front of a bench or step. Extend your right leg behind you and rest the top of your right foot on the bench. Lower your body into a lunge position with your left knee at a 90-degree angle. Push through your left heel to return to the starting position.
- Straight Leg Calf Raise: Stand on the edge of a step or a curb with your heels hanging off. Keep your legs straight and raise your heels as high as possible, then lower them below the step to stretch your calves.
- Glute Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Lift your hips off the ground by squeezing your glutes and driving through your heels until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees.
A strong core is the linchpin of your running form. It helps maintain stability and prevents excess motion that can lead to injuries. Here are five core exercises to add to your routine:
- Plank: Start in a push-up position with your arms extended and your body in a straight line from head to heels. Hold this position for as long as you can while maintaining good form.
- Side Plank Reach Through: Begin in a side plank position with your elbow directly below your shoulder. Reach your top arm under your body and then up towards the ceiling, twisting your torso.
- 6-Inch Leg Hold: Lie on your back with your legs extended and your feet about six inches off the ground. Hold this position, engaging your core muscles.
- Russian Twist: Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat. Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. Rotate your torso to the right, then to the left, while holding a weight or a medicine ball.
- Superman: Lie face down on the ground with your arms extended overhead. Lift your arms, chest, and legs off the ground simultaneously, engaging your lower back muscles.
Upper Body Exercises
While running primarily engages your lower body, having a strong upper body can improve your overall posture and running form. Here are three upper body exercises to incorporate:
- Triceps Dips: Sit on the edge of a bench or a sturdy chair with your hands gripping the edge. Slide your hips off the bench and lower your body by bending your elbows. Push back up to the starting position.
- High to Low Plank: Start in a push-up position with your arms extended. Lower down onto your elbows one arm at a time, then push back up onto your hands, maintaining a straight line from head to heels.
- Push-Ups: Begin in a plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower your chest toward the ground, then push back up to the starting position.
Introducing Weight Lifting
Once you’ve established a solid foundation with bodyweight exercises, you can consider incorporating weight lifting into your routine. Compound lifts like squats, lunges, chest presses, and rows can further enhance your strength and performance. However, it’s essential to start light and gradually increase both weight and volume to prevent injury.
I recommend incorporating weight lifting into your routine with an upper-body session and a lower-body session each week. This balanced approach ensures that you’re strengthening your entire body, not just your legs. If you are going to run and lift on the same day, run first and then lift 6+ hours later, letting the body rest in between. This looks like doing a morning run followed by an after work lifting session.
In conclusion, strength training is your secret weapon as a distance runner. It offers a multitude of benefits, from injury prevention and enhanced performance to improved running economy. Start with bodyweight exercises to build a strong foundation, then gradually introduce weight lifting to take your training to the next level. With dedication and consistency, you’ll find that your running game reaches new heights, and your body thanks you for the care and attention you’ve given it. Happy running!
Yours in Health,
Boosting Power and Speed for Distance Runners with Plyometric Training
As a chiropractor who is passionate about helping athletes reach their peak performance, I get asked about various forms of exercise that can elevate power and speed. One advanced method that has been gaining popularity among distance runners is plyometric training. Plyometrics, or “plyos” for short, are explosive exercises that can significantly enhance your running performance. However, before you dive into this advanced training, there are some essential considerations to keep in mind.
Plyometrics: The Advanced Frontier
Plyometrics represent an advanced form of exercise, demanding both strength and coordination. Before embarking on a plyometric journey, it’s crucial to ensure you have a solid foundation in bodyweight exercises such as air squats, lunges, and push-ups. These foundational exercises help build the strength and stability needed for plyometrics. Additionally, mastering these basics will improve your ability to land safely during plyometric movements, reducing the risk of injury.
The Plyometric Workout
A well-structured plyometric workout is key to reaping the benefits while minimizing the risk of injury. Here’s a breakdown of what a typical plyometric session for distance runners might look like:
Warm-Up: Begin with a 5- to 10-minute brisk walk or light jog to increase blood flow and prepare your muscles. Follow this with foam rolling to release muscle tension and dynamic stretches to improve flexibility and range of motion.
The Circuit: The core of your plyometric workout consists of a series of explosive exercises performed in a circuit. Start with one exercise and move on to the next without resting in between. Once you have performed all the exercises of the circuit, you have completed one set.
Sets and Reps: Aim for four sets of 8 to 10 reps for most exercises. For single-sided moves like lunges, perform 6 to 8 reps per side. Listen to your body, and take short breaks as needed between exercises.
Rest Between Sets: After completing a set, rest for 2 to 3 minutes to allow your muscles to recover.
Cool Down: Finish your workout with a 5 to 10-minute cool-down period, which can involve walking or using a foam roller to alleviate muscle soreness.
Six Essential Plyometric Exercises for Runners
Now, let’s delve into the six plyometric exercises that can take your distance running to the next level:
Jump Squat: Start with your feet hip-width apart, lower into a squat position, and explode upward into a jump. Land softly with bent knees to absorb the impact.
Box Jump: Stand in front of a sturdy box or platform. Bend your knees, then spring upward to land on top of the box with both feet. Think about landing on the box with “light feet”. Step down carefully and repeat.
**Progression: Instead of stepping down carefully, jump off the box and land lightly on your feet. As soon as you land, explode up and jump as high as you can!
Jump Lunges: Begin by standing up straight with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Take a step forward with your right foot, lowering your body into a lunge position. Both knees should be bent at 90-degree angles, with your right knee directly above your right ankle and your left knee hovering just above the ground. Explosively push off with both legs, propelling yourself upward into the air. As you jump, switch the position of your legs in mid-air. Your left leg should move forward while your right leg moves back. Land softly with your left foot in front and your right foot behind, once again in a lunge position, similar to the starting position but with the opposite leg in front.
Speed Skater Leg Exercise: Stand with your feet together and leap laterally to one side while extending the opposite leg behind you. Repeat this side-to-side motion, mimicking the movements of a speed skater.
Quick Feet/Jumping Rope: Begin in a standing position. Hold the rope at waist level. Rise up onto your toes. Using mainly your ankles, jump over the rope with both feet as your wrists rotate the rope.
**Modification: If you don’t have a jump rope, jumping an “air rope” has the same effect. Doing quick side-step jumps over a line on the ground is also a great alternative.
Explosive Push-Up: Begin in a standard push-up position. Lower your chest to the ground and explosively push up with enough force to lift your hands off the ground. Land with bent elbows and immediately lower into the next push-up.
Why Plyometrics for Distance Runners?
Now, you might be wondering, why incorporate plyometrics into your training routine as a distance runner? Plyometrics offer several advantages:
Enhanced Power: Plyometric exercises recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are crucial for bursts of speed and acceleration during your runs.
Improved Speed: The explosive nature of plyometrics helps you generate more force with each stride, leading to improved sprinting and overall running speed.
Better Running Economy: Plyometrics can enhance your running economy by improving your muscle power and efficiency, allowing you to cover more ground with less effort.
Injury Prevention: While plyometrics can be intense, they also strengthen your muscles and connective tissues, reducing the risk of injury when you’re out on the road or trail.
Mental Toughness: Incorporating challenging exercises like plyometrics into your routine can boost your mental resilience, helping you push through fatigue during long-distance runs.
In conclusion, plyometric training is a powerful tool that can significantly boost your power and speed as a distance runner. However, it’s essential to approach plyometrics with caution, ensuring you have a strong foundation in basic exercises and prioritize injury prevention through proper form and technique. With dedication and consistent training, you can harness the explosive benefits of plyometrics and elevate your running performance to new heights. Happy running!
Yours in health,