Are you Ready to Run?
A client recently asked me “I’d like to start running on the weekends, what do you think?” I wanted so badly to say “running is a fantastic activity, you can do it from anywhere, get some fresh air, clear your mind, improve your cardiovascular health” . Instead the Kinesiologist (body nerd) in me thought of everything required from the body biomechanically, posturally, mobility, stability, and strength wise when running. Running well requires full body mobility (especially in lower body), stability and strength throughout the entire body (especially the ankle, hips, and core), as a basis. We also need to factor in things like hydration level, coordination, core stability and strength, and lifestyle choices like what shoes are you wearing regularly, and how long are you sitting all day. I am not picking on running! Every activity requires a certain level of body functionality. In many activities this can be “cheated”, a cheat in running is a precursor for injury because it is a repetitive motion activity. Because running is a pounding motion over and over, your ‘cheat’ will very quickly reveal itself as an injury.
If you were to take up gymnastics you would have to get your body ready and take some lessons on form and technique. Same thing for weight training, tennis, swimming, whatever it is you are looking to get into. We often don’t do anything to prepare for running except lace up a pair of shoes. This is when injury creeps in.
People always ‘start’ with running
When someone is looking to lose weight, get fit, or get active the first thing they decide to do usually is strap on a pair of running shoes and start a running or walking routine. 2 out of every 3 runners get injured every year from running, making it the most dangerous sport (posemethod.com). What we are seeing is a huge disconnect between simply going out for a jog, vs. understanding how to get your body ready to do something as taxing as running. Running is basically a series of jumps over and over from one foot to the next. If something in the biomechanical chain (our skeletal structure) chain is “off”, then each time you do one of these jumps (foot strikes), you are looking at small tiny errors over and over. It’s my job to teach people how to do the ‘pre work’ on their body so that they can get started, and continue running for long-term health.
Am I just a running hater?
Not at all, I ran for years! I ran marathons, half marathons, 5 K’s and 10 k’s. I always raced well and got fine times. But if I look closely at my races it was obvious I had some underlying issues. First of all the marathon I ran at 17, and trained for, I was completely debilitated for days, could barely stand up and down. I was young, fit, and very active, this shouldn’t have happened. Sure the marathon was challenging, but I wasn’t addressing some underlying biomechanical and physiological issues (dehydration, lack of mobility), which was highlighted in my inability to move for days. The words “dynamic warm up, foam roller, myofascial release, mobility, and core stability” weren’t even in my vocabulary yet, and that was dangerous. Then came the training for the next half marathon, which is when my knee started sliding out of it’s joint! It happened 4 or 5 times until I saw a physiotherapist, podiatrist, started wearing a huge knee brace all day, and started wearing huge bulky stability shoes just to get through my race. Unfortunately all those bandaid solutions got me through my race, but didn’t fix the underlying issues. When I started training for my next race a few years later the symptoms started showing up in massive swelling in my knees. After every run longer than an hour my knees would swell up so bad I could barely walk!
Throughout my entire ‘running career’ no one ever addressed some major underlying issues for me: my hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, and calves needed some major mobility and flexibility (due to years of sitting way too much in school, focusing more on ‘fitness’ rather than mobility, and doing what was right for my body, and postural issues).. I was a heel striker, effectively landing wrong with each step, sending jarring motions up my entire spine. I didn’t have the core or glute strength to be a strong powerful runner, so instead I was just falling/throwing myself forward onto my joints rather than actually running. I had some very minor hip differences and as a result my right hip external rotators were chronically tight and overused, leading to a muscular imbalance down my right quad, effecting my feet and foot position (leading to the knee popping out). I have crazy weak feet and ankles, so they weren’t doing their job of staying stable on each foot landing (probably ended up being the biggest issue).
No one taught me what I needed to know.
The thing is, none of these issues were evident until I started running. I hadn’t caught on, and no one had taught me what was going on with my body at a micro and macro level. The foot specialist said I was an overpronator on my right foot, but never taught me why. The physio told me my piriformis was weak and I needed to strengthen it, but never told me why. I was strapped into a knee brace to prevent the knee cap from slipping out, but was never told why it slipped out. I work with clients every single day, and I see how every single body needs ‘tuning up’ and maintenance on a daily basis, but out in the fitness world there aren’t too many people teaching this! Everybody has his or her areas of tightness, weakness, poor strength, and movement dysfunction. I also know that every single human body has a variety of underlying faulty movement patterns that we have developed over time based on our activities, lifestyle, and often genetics. Now that I work as Kinesiologist and personal trainer I have furthered my learning on how to assess how a person moves before I start to train them. This allows me to program corrective exercises to get people to a place where they can do all the lifting, sports, activities, fun adventurous stuff they want to! I want to share this information with you today in this blog as best as I can, in relation to runnimg. Now, when I see someone running with a huge knee brace, toes flared out to the side, poor posture, heel striking, wearing all sorts of other flashy tapes to keep their body working well I want to pull them off the street and teach them a bit about biomechanics, and what may be causing the need for those braces and ‘special’ shoes.
Will I run again?
Will I run again? For sure! I am still in the process of sorting out my right hip mobility and movement patterns, it can take years to do so and I am only starting to uncover what is truly needed for that part of my body. In the meantime I hike, cycle and swim for cardio. These activities require less of a dynamic movement, and are performed at a slower pace so that I can really pay attention to my positioning. I want you to run too! I want you to run safely, effortlessly, without wasing energy, and for the sake of loving to run.
So first tell me:
- Do you ever get foot or ankle pain? Plantar fasciatis? Roll your ankles regularly?
- What about knee pain or swelling? Knee instability?
- Low back pain or tightness? Tight hips?
- Shin splints?
If you are experiencing something like this these are GLARING signals that there has been a mobility or movement pattern issue for so long that you didn’t realize, and it has now created a symptom that will most likely stop you from running. Nowaday’s people run through these signals in an effort to keep on a training routine, lose weight, and stay committed to their program rather than taking the time to address the underlying issue. Before you read on, if you already know that you have one of the issues listed above, visit with someone who can assess your movement patterns and get those corrected before you read on about whether you are ready to run.
Are you Ready to Run?
To summarize my thoughts on running I have decided to use Kelly Starrett’s book “Ready to Run” as a guideline. Click here to link to his book on Amazon. This fantastic book was written for the same purpose as this blog today, to support people in running well, and running long term. I highly suggest you purchase his book after reading this today as the second half contains all the mobilizations you will need. I will use Kelly’s concepts, combined with my added suggestions and thoughts to create this blog for you.
By participating in these guidelines in this blog, not only will they support you as a runner, but they will support you in all your fitness endeavors, aging more gracefully (physically), and experiencing less aches and pains on a daily basis. The cool thing is as you figure out your areas of poor mobility and movement dysfunction, these corrections will only benefit your other activities and everyday life.
I am going to break this blog into 3 parts over a 4 week series.:
Part 1) (Today) Summary of running issues, and a general checklist to be aware of.
Part 2) 12 part checklist “Are you Ready to Run” From Kelly’s book.
Part 3) Mobilizations to consider on a daily basis (general- you will have to buy the book for all the details). Overview of running technique.
Part 4) Lifestyle Factors to Consider when taking on a running program.
Part 1 Summary: Ready to Run Checklist:
Here is a checklist that we will break down and go over on the next few weeks. In the meantime, I suggest you can read ahead, get Kelly’s book and get started on improving some of these checkpoints.
Ready to Run Checklist:
- You drink 100 ounces of electrolyte-enhanced water each day to ensure your tissues are properly hydrated and healthy. You drink at least 3 liters of water a day (this is how much an average person rids from their body on a daily basis.
- Free of what Kelly calls ‘hotspots’, which basically means you no longer try to run through nagging injuries. Instead you “consider them signals that you need to improve your positions, mechanics, and tissue health”.
- Your feet point straight ahead, not pigeon toed or toes out to the side.
- Flat shoes (zero drop), and I would add also getting a wide toe box.
- Good thoracic extension, flexion and rotation.
- An efficient squatting technique that you can maintain when tired.
- Good Hip flexion, Good Hip extension, Good Ankle range of motion (at home tests to come in the next blogs)
- You know how to do a proper warm up and cool down, and you don’t skip it
- You wear compression socks to promote running recovery. (I haven’t tried this one out personally, but I will include it because I believe the claim Kelly makes in his book).
- You can jump and land properly.
If you don’t know what these things mean I will be reviewing each one in the coming weeks.
Whether you are going to run once a week or 5 times a week it is important to evaluate each of these criteria before starting, to prevent injury.
Why do we need to do these things?
We need to ensure we have these basic mobility, lifestyle, and movement patterns to ensure that our body is lined up and ready to work properly. When things are out of line due to tightness (as an example) our tissues and bony surfaces don’t move properly against each other. As a result we end up with tissue issues (torn muscles and tendons, tendonitis, muscle imbalances), joint issues (clicking, cracking, joint pain, arthritis), and a loss of strength and power, just to name a few things.
I hope that so far with this blog you are getting some ideas as to how your movement patterns and biomechanics may be affective your running form and technique, and how addressing those first will allow you to run freely and effortless. Read on the next few weeks for more details on the checklist above.