Pro tips for the avid runner
By Dr. Sean T Lordan
1. Hydrate- The importance of hydration is paramount when performing at peak capacity during any endurance sport, especially running. Considering that your body is 65% water, any shift toward dehydration will be deleterious to your health. My suggestion is to drink at least 32 oz. of water if you plan on running for more than 30 minutes at a time, especially on a hot summer day. Fruit is also a great source of water and simple carbohydrates that acts as a healthy ‘pre’ or ‘post’ run snack.
2. Stretch these muscles- calves, hamstrings, piriformis. Yes, and in that order too. I always advise my clients who run to perform these three static stretches daily even if they are not in pain. These muscles are part of a tissue system on the back of your body we call the “posterior fascial sling.” Put into layman’s terms these are the structures that control propulsion of gait, especially acceleration. If you have ever suffered a hamstring strain you know how difficult they can be to recover from. Do these stretches today and give yourself a competitive advantage knowing you will be able to train with improved longevity.
3. Cross Train- It is imperative for any level of runner, from novice to advanced, to cross train. What does it mean to “cross train?” Cross training involves working different body parts and muscle groups not commonly recruited during running. I suggest performing a 30 minute total body HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout 3-4 times per week. These workouts should target the whole body, not just the lower extremity. A good HIIT workout will include core training, conditioning, lateral strengthening and heavy lifting that will work your anaerobic muscle fibers. Anaerobic fibers are important for strengthening and help provide your muscles resilience against injury and overtraining.
4. Do this to avoid Shin Splints, or worse- If you experience pain in your foot, ankle, shins, knees, hips or low back (yes pretty much anywhere in your lower extremity), reach out to a local doctor of PT. Especially if you have redness, burning or swelling in your shins, as this can be a sign of compartment syndrome which is possible with severe overtraining and an emergency room level situation. It is important to know the difference between compartment syndrome and shin splints, though. Shin splints are micro stress fractures and micro tears along the Tibia (on either side) that can be treated with ice, proper manual therapy, and stretches and exercise. Compartment syndrome is characterized by severe pain and swelling in a particular compartment of the lower leg, with swelling effectively shutting off its blood supply. You need to call 911 if this is happening or immediately go to an ER. Shin splints are typically overuse injuries with pain at the beginning of running and usually after. Shin splints are typically due to a combination of overtraining, improper footwear, your body’s morphology (bow legs or flat feet), and is treated with good effect with Physical Therapy. If you are unsure call your local doctor of PT and they will guide you in the right direction.
5. Consider Orthotics- Foot inserts are expensive and controversial, so let’s chat about them. There are two main types of orthotics that I prescribe to patients. One is rigid, providing the foot with structure and controlling its motion during the gait cycle. The other version of a professional foot insert is accommodative, or supportive. The supportive inserts have a softer core and are more for those with arthritic feet who need both support and shock absorption. The best client who will benefit from orthotics is one who has a new onset of posterior tibialis tendonitis (pain on the inside of the lower leg), or plantar fasciitis. These two conditions are usually due to a flexible forefoot, which responds well to a controlling orthotic device. They don’t come cheap though so do your homework and find a professional who knows what they are doing.
6. Get a yearly gait assessment by a doctor of PT- The most important assessment any runner can get is a yearly gait assessment. Why yearly, you might ask? Well your body changes with the demands of everyday life. At some points in your life you may be more sedentary than others (think of COVID and working from home.) When you are not as active your body utilizes its muscles differently and it can affect your gait. Weight gain or loss can also affect your gait pattern. How about a nagging hip or low back injury? Injuries will commonly throw off your gait for an extended period of time. Luckily, using their magic, a PT can often diagnose what is out of alignment and fix it quickly and easily with some simply manual techniques and exercises to get you back in shape. The PT will also refer you for orthotics should you benefit from those as well.
7. Go anti-gravity- If you have severe arthritis, are overweight, or suffer from chronic pain but love to run, what better option than running with less impact? In the very least it is worth a try, right? At Concierge PT in Sutton, we have an AlterG Via treadmill which not only will unweight up to 80% of your bodyweight, but can also perform a thorough gait analysis demonstrating your weight shifting patterns and strength deficits. If you love to run but haven’t had the chance due to pain, all hope is not lost! Call and ask about our AlterG treadmill.