Category: Injury Prevention

Does stretching really work?

Runner stretchingIt seems that stretching is one of the most controversial issues in athletics. Some research suggests that static stretching is a thing of the past and that dynamic stretching should be the only type of stretching that you should do. And then there is YOGA, which is very static “holds in various poses.” These two seem to contradict each other.  There are several types of stretching and lots of science behind each method, but what is real goal of stretching? Is it to get more flexible, prevent injury, or to relax? How flexible is flexible enough? Can I really prevent injury? How relaxed is relaxed enough? Is stretching going to make me faster? What about that guy who never stretches and seems to remain injury free even though he runs 90 miles a week?

There is a lack of understanding with what the goal of every day stretching should be. You often hear people say things like “My flexibility is terrible. I can’t even touch my toes.” The problem with an arbitrary goal of touching your toes is that the ability to touch your toes does not necessarily mean that your performance is going to improve or you chance of injury will be lowered.

I think that balance is really the key if you want to run to your potential and prevent injury. Being balanced allows you handle equal stress on both sides of your body. Since running is a single leg stance phase movement your weakest or least balanced side is going to limit you.

If you have one leg that has to work harder than the other because of a tight or weak muscle on that side your performance could be inhibited not because of a lack of cardio respiratory fitness, but due to mechanical stress and muscle fatigue. So it is clear that spending some time trying to balance your body through strengthening and stretching is worthwhile, but how much time should you spend and what type of strengthening and stretching should you do? Also, how do you balance your body?

Finding out your imbalances and what strengthening exercises you should do can be really tricky and most likely will require skilled PT, Chiro, or running analysis professional that can study your body and do some flexibility and muscle strength testing.

Recently I got certified as a Functional Movement Systems (FMS) certified exercise professional. This certification process filled a gap in my coaching knowledge and understanding of the body.

The FMS system is not about balancing your body in a mystical or theoretical sense but rather in a mechanical sense and actual sense. The power of this system is that you are no longer worried about isolating individual muscles and trying to get them stronger but instead you focus on movement patterns and how to improve an balance them right to left, front to back, and in every plane of motion.

To summarize:
•    Get your body tested for balance through an FMS certified professional
•    Balance your body through the exercises prescribed
•    Stretch using any of the below methods to improve mobility

Following this process will actually allow you to become more balanced, improve your flexibility, and your performance!

I am sure there are a few more types of stretching that I am not listing below but here is a fairly comprehensive list of methods of stretching methods:

•    Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
•    Static Stretching
•    Dynamic stretching
•    Active Isolated Stretching
•    Yoga

If you are interested in getting screened by a FMS professional search for a professional in your area.

Or get in touch with me for a free screening (yes I screen for free), Jay Stephenson here: coachjay@gogorunning.com



Compartment Syndrome Tips from 1:52 800m Runner

Allen O’Neal had the pressure test done to determine if he had compartment syndrome and the test was positive. He decided not to do the surgery but instead to focus on flexibility and massage to lessen the symptoms of the compartment syndrome.

3 Tips for Running with Compartment Syndrome

1. Before running massage each calf for one min approximately making sure to get each one loose. Do some light stretching after the massage and then do the lunge matrix.

2. If the calf’s hurt during a run or workout, sit on your knees and shins with tops of feet flat on the ground to stretch them out. Also massage the calf’s a bit in between intervals after sitting on your knees.

3. After your run massage both calves for approximately one min within 10 mins of finishing any run.

Do each of the three steps everyday before running and after and it should help ease pain in calves. It may take a few weeks, but they should start to loosen up.

Also think of keeping your legs relaxed as you run. Staying hydrated seems to help my calf’s to stay loose as well. When you’re hydrated the muscles can move independently and not stick together. Being dehydrated is like trying to slide down a water slide without any water.

What are your compartment syndrome tips?



Best Stretches for Runners

runner stretchingEver wonder what stretching is the best for runners? Have you heard of active-isolated stretching?

We like Whartons’ flexibility routine. Basically you use a rope, jump rope or what ever you have to help deepen the stretch. you can check out his introductory flexibility program with basic stretches.

What about common running injuries? Wharton has another great resource to help with common running injuries:

  • Achilles
  • Soleus
  • Glutes
  • Inner thigh
  • Piiformis
  • Lower leg

These are great stretches that will help improve your flexibility, improve your performance and help with injury prevention.

 

 



Why are my Calves so Tight?

Are your calves tight while you run, after you run or always tight? I’ve had tight calves as long as I can remember. On and off, in different seasons of life they are looser. This season, tight. Before I can tell my calves are tight, often my achiles starts to stiffen or the bottom of my feet hurt. To remedy my issue, I’ve tried lots of stretching, strengthening exercises, espom salt baths, eating anti-inflammatory type foods and massage to name a few.

We all have our problem areas. However I have recently learned of a new treatment for tight muscles, my mind. Sound crazy? Here is how my self talk goes, “ok calves, time to relax, muscles you let go and un-knot yourself, blood and oxygen flow freely in the area.” Maybe not those exact words but pretty close.

Think about it, when you run and you notice your shoulders are tense, you tell yourself to relax. What about when your jaw is clenched or your hands are in a fist? Your mind tells your muscles to chill out. My calf self talk takes place on the run, when I’m walking, sitting around or lying in bed. The more aware I become, the more I realize how tense my calves are. Just yesterday my feet got tight on a run and instead of getting frustrated, I took a deep breath.

Mind Over Tight Calves

  • On the run, think about relaxing the tight area
  • Think of other muscles to engage
  • After the run, cool-down and stretch (being mindful again to really get the benefits)
  • In your bed, take a few deep breaths and think about the muscles relaxing

The mind is powerful and so far, this has been the best treatment for me. It isn’t something I did once though, as this is my problem area, it is something I consistently think to release.

What do you do when your tight?



Dealing with Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar FasciitisGoGoRunning Staff
August 2, 2011

Is foot pain causing you to dread those first few steps out of bed in the morning? If so, chances are you’ve got plantar fasciitis. Basically, this means the tissues on the bottom of your foot are inflamed. The plantar fascia is located on bottom of your foot and extends from your heel over the entire bottom of your foot.  You may experience pain at any point on the arch, though tenderness is often focused where your plantar fascia connects to the heel.

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the more common injuries that plague distance runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities. This is because your plantar fascia is placed under tremendous stress while you run, which makes it fairly easy to irritate. The most common causes of plantar fasciitis are a lack of arch support in the shoes, increase in activity, lack of flexibility in the calf muscles, being overweight, using unstable shoes on hard ground or spending too much time on your feet.

Common Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Options
•    Icing
•    Massaging
•    Stretching
•    Orthotics, especially if you have flat feet or high arches
•    Losing weight
•    Taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, Alieve or ibuprofen
•    Buying higher quality shoes
•    Running on grass or trails instead of sidewalks or roads
•    Decreasing mileage and time spent on your feet
•    Using a night split

Having gone through several bouts of plantar fasciitis ourselves, we agree that these solutions should help your feet. Here are some more detailed tips to help speed through the recovery process:
Plantar Fasciitis Recovery Tips
•    Freeze water in a Dixie cup, then tear away the top of the cup so you can use the block of ice to massage the inflamed area. When the ice melts, tear the cup as needed to uncover more ice.

•    Consider that treating the plantar fascia may be treating a symptom rather than the source of the problem. Many runners have very tight calf muscles, which prevents a full range of motion in the foot and places extra stress on the plantar fascia. Try getting a regular sports massage for your calves .

•    A good way to massage the plantar fascia directly is to roll your foot on a rubber ball or tennis ball. You can also freeze a water bottle and get your massage and icing done at the same time.

•    Be proactive. Warm up your feet and calves BEFORE you stand up in the morning to loosen them and lower the pain of the first few steps.

•    Take a quick 5min warm shower and let the water warm up your calf muscles before you go for a run.

•    Ladies: I know it’s awful but the high heels and flip-flops have got to go! Stick to shoes with a good arch support. It really does make a difference.

•    This doesn’t always work but try substituting your daily pre-run stretching for some general strength exercises like the Lunge Matrix.

For even more tips, check out this video from Dr. Jordan Metzle. Good luck in you battle with plantar fasciitis. Don’t forget, the sooner you start treatment the faster you’ll be back to running pain free!



Stress Fracture?

By Jay Stephenson
July 10, 2011

Ok so here we go.  Below this paragraph you will find all lots of  info about stress fractures.  It is tedious to read but if you have a stress fracture and really want to get better you will probably read it.  You should consider seeing if your insurance will cover the Exogen “bone healing system.”  It is very pricy but I can speak from experience that it DOES get you back running faster.  A lot of businesses are covering the cost of this unit for their employees just to get them back to work faster.  You can try to buy one on ebay, but apparently it is a felony.  Something about it being a prescription item.  If you have a stress fracture and you are trying to back in shape quickly email me at coachjay@gogorunning.com.  I have a training plan called “Stress Fracture Return.”  It is for sale here:

Stress Fracture Return to Running Plan

What is a Stress Fracture?
-Stress fractures are usually causes by repeated impact. This is different from a complete break in a bone when the bone is completely broken with a single sudden impact.

Prevention
• Eat Calcium and Vitamin D rich foods
• Get a healthy amount of sunlight (if you live in a region where there is a large part of the year with no sun you may need to get some artificial sunlight in low doses)
• Replace shoes at least every 300 miles run or every 3 to 6 months depending on activity level. If you wear the same pair of shoes every day they will not last as long as if you alternate days with multiple pairs. Also, if you can buy one pair of shoes that is specifically designated for athletic activity then do so.
• Do different activities on different days. This will stress different muscle groups and different bones. Also, if you are going to run every day then make sure you are running on soft surfaces at least 5 days a week. One more tip is to alternate flat runs and hilly runs. This will also help use different muscles and bones.
• Don’t do too much too soon or go too fast too soon. Make sure there is a gradual progression with everything you do.
• Strength training will help to increase bone density and muscle strength. Both of these will protect you from getting a stress fracture.
• If you feel the same pain again then rest for 2-3 days before trying the activity again. See you doctor.
• The amount of calcium need for bone repair is 1000-1500 milligrams.

Symptoms
• Pain increases with activity and throughout the day
• Possible bruising
• Swelling and tenderness at the site of pain

Immediate Treatment
• If you think that you may have a stress fracture you need to stop the activity immediately and get an imaging test as soon as possible. If you keep running or doing even easy or moderate activity you could break the bone all the way through.
• Apply ice on the injured area for 15-20mins and elevate the injury above your heart.
• Also, there are a few areas that you want to be careful icing due to superficial nerves. Those areas include the inside of the ankle, the back of your knee, and the outside of your calf close to the knee.
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication may help to reduce the pain but they may also slow down the bone healing process.
• If you suspect that you have a fracture then try not to put any weight on the injured area until you see a doctor.

Imaging Tests
• It is very important to diagnose the injury early so that you can start treating it properly.
• We suggest getting an MRI or a Bone scan to detect a fracture early.
• If your doctor does not do an MRI or a bone scan then you might need to find a different doctor that is willing to get you one of those tests.
• A simple X-Ray may not show the fracture until 6-8 weeks after the injury

Nonsurgical Treatment
• The “Exogen bone healing system” is a low level ultrasound that cannot be duplicated by any other ultrasound machine. It heals fractures 38% faster, and heals 86% of non-unions. It takes takes 20mins a day (http://global.smith-nephew.com/us/patients/ABOUT_EXOGEN_14484.htm)
• Rest, Ice, Elevate…I don’t think compression is a good idea.
• Crutches and removable short-leg fracture brace shoe

Surgical Treatment
• Sometimes surgery is necessary to get the bone to heal

Start Training again
• You need to consult your doctor before beginning a program
• A stress fracture can take anywhere from 6 weeks to more than a year to heal all the way
• Start with non-weight bearing activity like pool running or swimming after two weeks of complete rest
• Transition to some biking after 4-6 weeks
• Transition to some running and some biking after 6-8 weeks
• Always take into account the doctor’s orders when following a training program

Let me know if you are recovering from a stress fracture…coachjay@gogorunning.com



Improve Your Running Form

By Jay Stephenson
July 1, 2011

Running form is important. Look at the world’s best and you will see smooth flowing forms that look effortless at very fast speeds. Improving your form can be one of the most perplexing things for even a seasoned runner. One of the difficulties comes with learning to change your form when you can’t see it in action.

How to Improve Your Form
How do you work on your form? Have a Form Day. Recently I have devoted several days of my training specifically to form running.
Here are some recommendations for your first of many Form Days:

• Watch this video from “Good Form Running” and bring the PDF with you to run (or just download it on your phone).
• Get someone to film your running. With the prevalence of smart phones you can watch your form and make changes.
• Bring some low profile shoes (a racing flat or spikes)

Here is what you do:
• Start with the Lunge matrix see video here
• Review the form tips and get your posture right, find your mid foot, get your lean correct, and count your steps for the first minute of running (*180 steps/min is the goal). Run for 10-20mins and count your steps for 1min every 5-10mins.
• After your 10-20min run switch to your flats or spikes and do 10mins of Drills video here. Focus on finding your mid foot.
• Strides-practice everything you just reviewed by doing 6-10 strides of 100-200 meters with perfect form while someone is video taping you.
• Change back to trainer or keep spikes/flats on. Cool Down for 10-20mins and count your steps for 1min every 5-10mins.
• Go home and watch your video or just view it on your phone. (notice asymmetries of your arms and try to get them symmetrical)

Quick look at the Form Day

  • Lunge Matrix
  • Set your form
  • Warmup 10-20mins
  • change shoes
  • 10mins Drills
  • 6-10X100-200m **strides, change shoes or not
  • Cooldown 10-20mins
  • Watch video

*180 steps per minute is a marker of good cadence in running. If you are within 5 steps per minute over or under then you are ok.
** Note that the strides are not an all out sprints, but just a little faster than you normally run so that you can focus on your form.

This is a great training idea to replace the regular 50-70min easy runs that you normally do. Not that the regular runs need to go away or that they are bad in any way. This is just a way to still get your running time in while dedicating some time to work on your form.

Doing this 1 or 2 times per week will also help you stay injury free by increasing your strength, flexibility and efficiency.



What is Your Recovery Plan?

By Jen Haydt
July 10, 2011

As a runner, you don’t get better when you stress your body – you get better when you recover. Recovery is when the body adapts to hard training. Without it your body does not get the change to rebuild and get stronger.

Training cycles should have hard and easy days. At least one day a week should be extremely easy.
Recovery days should be slow enough to have a full conversation without getting out of breath.
If the body improves during recovery, it makes sense that we recovery should be a major focus of training. Sleeping, eating, hydration, icing, massage, running easy, stretching, and cross training are all important recovery tools that runners often neglect. They are also the easiest ways to improve your running.

Sleep:
Studies show that athletes need at least 8 hours of sleep to function at their maximum capacity. During hard training blocks you may need up to 10 hours.

Refuel:
It is important to refuel the body with nutritious foods, preferably right after a workout. This helps rebuild muscles so they are ready to go for your next run.

Hydration:
Hydration is one of the easiest ways to combat fatigue, muscle cramps, and headaches.

Icing:
As you work out, you break down muscle fiber which causes swelling. Ice helps reduce this swelling and increase blood flow.

Massage:
As muscles tear, painful knots/adhesions form in the tissues. Deep tissue massage can break up the adhesions as well as flush out the lactic acid from the muscles.

Running Easy:
It’s a little counter intuitive that running more helps you recover faster, but it actually helps prevent stiffness and moves the lactic acid around. Kind of like a long massage!

Stretching:
Stretching is a great post-run recovery tool. It prepares the muscles for resting and helps keep them from cramping.

Cross Training:
Giving the muscles a break from the running motion can loosen them up as well as strengthen supporting muscles. Not to mention, it’s another way to increase aerobic fitness.

Develop some recovery goals in your training plan.  For example, today my goal is to get 9 hrs of sleep.  Having a recovery goal or two per day will help you to stay healthy and get the most out of your training and racing.  What is your recovery plan/goal for today?