Intro To Running: How To Start, Pain Free!

            Going for a run is one of the most common forms of exercise for a multitude of reasons. Whether it’s for stress relief, weight loss, competition or just enjoyment, we have friends, family, and clients that run on a regular basis. So we thought we’d offer some insight on how to approach running and ways to avoid injury so you can get the most out of your run, no matter what inspires you.

One of the main things we want to impress upon you is the fact that everyone is or has the potential to be a natural born runner. But running has to be treated like any other physical activity, you have to train for it. If you’re someone who goes running periodically, meaning you take months off at a time, and in between you randomly go for an aggressive 3 mile run, then it shouldn’t surprise you when your feet and shins hurt the next day and your hips feel like they’re locked in a vice. If you hadn’t done bench press for 2 months I doubt you would go into the gym and attempt your last PR. And if you did you’d be paying for it. So running is no different. If you want to be a healthy runner you need to put in the time to practice and prepare your body for the demands you are asking of it. This includes taking time in the beginning to acclimate your body and giving it time to get strong enough to handle the 3 or 5+ mile run you might just be casually trying to do every few weeks or couple of months right now.

But regardless if you are a casual runner or someone who starts every day with a morning run, we want to offer some tips for keeping those joints working smoothly and those muscles operating at their optimal capacity.

If you break down the movement of running it’s pretty straightforward: it’s the constant flexion and extension of multiple joints while balancing from foot to foot. It may not feel that way when you’re moving so quickly through the motion but feet, ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders are all repeatedly flexing and extending. In order to meet the demands of this locomotion it helps to prep your body and check the mobility of each of these joints. A great way to check this is by performing a bodyweight squat. This will test your ability to comfortably flex and extend both your hips and knees, as well as test the flexion of your ankles, which is referred to as dorsiflexion.

Some questions to ask yourself are: can you comfortably perform a proper squat? Are you able to maintain hip tension and stability through the entire range of the squat? Are you able to maintain balance and keep your whole foot on the ground with center of gravity in the front of the heel and an arch in the middle? Being able to do this will ensure that all of your energy is being spent on an effective run, and not wasted on trying to keep your balance or hold yourself up due to a lack of range of motion or hip drive.

With regard to mobility the last two things you want to consider are back tension and your ability to have proper shoulder extension. Sitting all day often leads to low and mid back tension and poor posture, which can easily affect your ability to rotate through the trunk and create core stability while running. This will most likely reveal itself with pain or stiffness in the low and mid back as you run.

While performing a dozen or so squats is a great way to warm up and check your mobility, also consider adding in a couple minutes of jump rope. This will get your feet and ankles ready for your run, warm up your balance, and give you a chance to engage your back and lats for good posture, as well as working on maintaining a neutral hip position with engaged glutes. Once you know your glutes are fired up and you have good mobility through your joints, do several short distant sprints and jogs to get everything primed and ready, and then start your run.

In no way is this a comprehensive list of all the things you should or need to be doing. It is more of a guideline as to how you should be thinking about running and how you approach getting yourself in the healthiest physical state to have successful and pain free runs. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or set up a consultation to discuss any particular obstacles or issues you might need help with. Thanks for reading!

Addressing and Overcoming Foot Pain

Chronic foot pain can be one of the more difficult problems that individuals have to deal with these days. It’s all but impossible to avoid using your feet, they’re literally the part of your body that connects you to the ground and all of your body weight rests on. A typical solution for these problems tends to be getting a shoe with more support and padding to protect your foot and wrap it in a cushion, or to install insoles into your shoe that are supposed to create additional support by replacing the things your feet should be doing for themselves like creating an arch. It’s time we ‘take a step back’ from this approach and examine the function of our feet and what a long term solution to foot pain might be.

If you think about what your feet do and the amount of stress you put on them every day, from standing and walking on them, to the types of shoes we wear such as high heels, you might first think that they do in fact need as much protection as you can give them. But the reality is we will always put a lot of strain and pressure on our feet, so maybe a better solution would be to make them as tough and strong as possible in order to handle all that abuse. Because the truth is that when you have pain somewhere, 9 times out of 10 the main solution is going to be that some muscle needs to get stronger. And yes, your foot can be made to be strong.

First things first though, if you’re experiencing foot pain you need to start off by reducing that pain in order to work on foot strength. We have put together a straight forward, 4 step approach to reducing and eventually eliminating foot pain that can be used in conjunction with foot strengthening techniques. Since foot pain is generally caused by weakened and bound up muscles in the foot along with muscle tension in the general area it’s best to start off by reducing the muscle tension in the surrounding area in order to give a little extra slack to the muscles in your foot for when you start directly working on them.

The first thing you want to do is address any tightness in your calf by going after it with a foam roller. The calf connects to the Achilles Tendon which then attaches to your heel, leading into all the tendons and muscles of your foot. Do a thorough job of exploring your entire calf muscle on the foam roller looking for tight spots, from the bottom all the way to the top and from one side to the other. If you find any tight spots roll around right on that area while flexing your foot up and down until the muscle begins to loosen up a bit.

From here you now want to go after any tight or bound up muscles in your foot by rolling out the bottom of your foot on a lacrosse ball or tennis ball. A frozen water bottle will also work. Just like with your calf you’re looking for any excessive tension or tight spots with the ball. Move slowly through both edges of your feet as well as the front of your heel and the ball of your foot, all the while flexing and extending your toes. This will accomplish two main things; breaking up any muscle tension or muscle fibers that have gotten “sticky” and aren’t sliding very well, and also encourage blood flow into the area. Tight muscles means that blood flow is being restricted, which can prevent the muscle from healing fully.

I recommend following all of this up with a good calf stretch just to simply reinforce what you’ve done so far toward encouraging healthy calves and feet without excessive muscle tension. I think it’s helpful to note that there are two main muscle groups in your calf that you want to be stretching. The upper part of your calf will get a stretch if you keep your knee locked out during the stretch in the video, and the lower part of your calf, which connects to the Achilles, will get stretched if you do the stretch with a slightly bent knee.

Once you’ve done this and have hopefully reduced some of the foot pain you feel it’s a good idea to activate the tibialis, the muscle on the front of your shin. This muscle is involved with connecting to the tendons in the foot which help your foot maintain a natural arch. As you can see in the video this is a very simple exercise that does not require any weights, just some type of resistance that you can flex your foot into in order to activate and ultimately strengthen the muscle on your shin, the tibialis. Follow this up with basic glute activation to ensure that the main muscles of your hips are fired up and ready to move you around.

From here you’re off to the races with foot strengthening exercises. A basic towel grab with your toes will help activate the muscles of the foot and get them on the road to being stronger and more resistant to pain brought on by weakness. Single leg exercises like a single leg squat or balance reach will also go a long way toward strengthening the muscles of your foot while they get better at balancing you. And if you’re looking to work extra hard you can try combining the two by performing a single leg balance reach while doing a toe grab with the towel.

I strongly encourage you to get more comfortable with working on foot strength rather than trying to protect them from the harsh reality that is being a foot. Try walking around barefoot for half a day once a week, flexing your toes as you walk around. Over time your foot pain will subside and you will begin noticing a distinct difference in the way you feel and move through your feet.

Reduce Pain and Increase Strength: Hip and Shoulder Stabilization

Hip and Shoulder Stabilization

The general function of exercise, or weight training specifically, is learning to stabilize yourself in order to move weight from point A to point B safely and effectively.

Main reasons for having a goal of stabilization:

  • Safety – by learning to stabilize yourself and properly engage muscle groups responsible for moving heavy loads you will be protecting the more vulnerable parts of your body that cannot handle heavy lifting and are prone to strain and injury, such as your knees and lower back.
  • Strength – by engaging these larger, more capable muscle groups you are ensuring that they do the brunt of the work and therefore become stronger. This leads to a progressive cycle whereby these muscles are able to move heavier and heavier loads and become even better at protecting vulnerable joints and muscle groups.
  • Functional Movement – in the fitness world this term generally means two things: prioritizing spinal stabilization and then initiating movement from the hips and shoulders; and secondly, movements that translate to everyday life. In the simplest terms, learning to properly squat teaches you how to effortlessly get in and out of a chair, and deadlift teaches you how to safely and effectively pick something up.

As you move throughout your day, understanding and prioritizing stabilization will help you keep you pain and injury free. This also includes sitting and standing still.

Purpose behind hip and shoulder stabilization:

Both the hip and shoulder joints are what are referred to as “ball in socket” joints. This joint system allows for tremendous range of motion and an almost unlimited ability to move freely. But with that freedom of movement, also comes with the opportunity for an injury, especially when the joint is loaded or under tension.

Stabilizing the Hip and Shoulder Joints

These ball in socket joints have the capacity for both internal and external rotation within the socket. A result of this impressive range of motion is that it leaves a great deal of slack in the socket in order to allow these movements. In order to prevent injury while these joints are loaded or under tension it becomes necessary to “take the slack” out of the joint; stabilizing and securing it prior to movement.

Cues for stabilizing the hip socket:

  • Screw your feet to the floor; right food goes clockwise, left foot goes counter-clockwise
  • Imagine there is a crack between your feet and you’re trying to spread it apart.
  • Imagine your feet are on plates and you’re trying to spin them out away from you.

It is important to understand the meaning behind these cues:

  • Your feet are not actually moving.
  • When you say “screw your feet into the floor”, what you are really trying to create is tension in the hip socket through external rotational force of the femur into the pelvis (hip socket) using the floor as resistance.
  • Not only does this tension with the floor create a stable hip joint, but the muscle group responsible for externally rotating your leg is your Glutes, the primary divers of your squat, so by initiating this force of external rotation of your hip you activate your Glute muscles and help organize your squat mechanics.

Cues for stabilizing the shoulder socket:

  • Break the bar in half
  • Screw your hands into the floor
  • Draw your shoulder blades down and together

Defining the cues for shoulder stabilziation:

  • Your hands are no actually moving and you are not physically trying to break a bar in half.
  • The goal is to generate tension in the shoulder socket by attempting to externally rotate the humerus bone into the shoulder socket, using the floor or an object as resistance.
  • Your humerus bone connects to your shoulder blade, therefore tension that is created also stabilizes the shoulder blade and activates the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats), a major muscle that attaches to your shoulder blade and is responsible for movement and stabilization within the shoulder system.

Written by: Jamie Maguire 

 

If you would like to learn more about how stabilizing your Hips and Shoulders can improve your strength and reduce injury; feel free to drop us a line down below! We will get back to you within 24-48 hours!

 

Why You Have Shoulder Pain | Corrective Exercise Specialists

Although shoulder pain is not as common as knee or low back pain; a large percentage of us are effected by shoulder pain and can’t seem to figure out why. Most pains you feel are stemming from a muscular imbalance somewhere in your body, and if you let it go for too long it can lead to more serious injuries later on down the road.

The Anatomy of The Shoulder Joint

To avoid confusing you, I’m going to use simple terms to describe the basic functions of the shoulder joint. This will help you figure out which motion you are restricted in.

The shoulder is a “ball-and-socket-joint”; just like your hip. There are A LOT of muscles crossing, inserting, and originating from the shoulder joint; which makes it more prone to injury. If you have different tensions coming from different sides of the shoulder; you are more likely to experience some sort of shoulder discomfort.

Here are a few basic functions of the shoulder you will want to test out and see which one you lack mobility in.

    1. Overhead: Possibly the most commonly restricted motion of the shoulder; is to simply raise both arms straight overhead, without compensations. Compensations that may happen would be arching your low back to get your arm up past your head, or shrugging up your traps. If you have full range of motion and functionality; you should be able to raise both arms overhead; in-line with your ears WITHOUT compensation.
    2. Abduction (Lateral Raise): Having the ability to raise your arms straight out to the side without excessively shrugging up or arching your low back shows functionality of the shoulder.
    3. Flexion (Front Raise): Having the ability to raise both arms in front of you without compensations of your low back arching, or excessively shrugging up, also shows functionality and mobility of the joint.
    4. External Rotation

 

Note: these are not all the functions of the shoulder joint; but these are the five that you will want to assess to determine which range of motion you lack mobility in.

Most Common Muscular Imbalance Causing Pain

As a society, most of us lean towards a more sedentary lifestyle which includes sitting at desk for hours on computer, texting all day, driving excessively, and never holding our posture up.

This leads to our posture getting effected, and commonly the shoulder joint gets rounded forward and gets stuck in this position. Being stuck in Internal Rotation causes you to lose most of the functionality of the shoulder joint; also leading to weakness in the Rear Deltoids, Rotator Cuffs, and excessive tension within the Front Deltoid.

This will push everything inside the shoulder joint to move forward and lose the ability to bring the arms overhead, to the side, front, and back.

Where to Start…

The answer will be different for everyone, but a great place to start would be to work on loosening up your front deltoid by doing shoulder and chest stretches daily; along with using a lacrosse ball or foam roller on the restricted musculature surrounding the joint.

Strengthening the rear deltoids, external rotators, and working on posture daily would be a great way to start decreasing the pain you feel.

If you don’t know where to start; feel free to drop us a question below and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours!