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What Sprinters Teach Distance Runners

Our physical therapists in Bethesda commonly teach sprinting drills to both distance runners and field sport athletes.

Although distance running and field sports are very different activities, sprinting drills help to correct running form within both groups of people and make a positive impact throughout the physical therapy process.

For runners, sprint training teaches the body to move fast. The greater the speed is that a runner is capable of running, the easier it is to run fast for extended periods of time.

For example, if someone wishes to run a marathon in 4 hours or less, this person needs to average 9:09 minutes per mile. Prior to incorporating sprint training into their routine, this person may have been capable of running 14 mph at maximum speed. After sprint training, this person is now capable of running 15 mph at maximum speed. Due to having a faster maximum speed, running a 9:09 minute mile is now less taxing on the body, therefore requiring less energy to sustain this pace.

For distance runners and field sport athletes, sprinting improves running technique by forcing an individual to pick their hips and knees up in front of their body to larger degree. This helps to change the common habit of kicking legs far behind the body, resulting in further compensations that increase the risk for hamstring injuries among many others.

Check out the video below to learn more about how we coach running technique here at Cohen Health in Performance Bethesda!


Why I Don’t Train Barefoot

Barefoot training and the use of minimalist footwear has become a widely discussed topic in sports physical therapy and the running community. Many folks in the fields of sports medicine, injury rehabilitation, and performance training are all-in on the idea of training in bare feet.

Training barefoot provides great benefits.

The absence of shoes gives the body a direct connection to the ground for quicker and more accurate feedback which helps to improve balance.

Barefoot training also strengthens the feet themselves. When the feet do not have assistance from footwear for support, they must do the entirety of that job for themselves. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the feet work to support the arch, the heel, and the forefoot which strengthens them over time. For this reason we often prescribe barefoot training for our physical therapy patients.

However barefoot training is not appropriate for all people.

Most of us walk on hard surfaces like concrete and unlike grass or dirt, concrete is not a forgiving surface. We are unable to manipulate concrete and we have less shock absorption as we step onto harder surfaces.

In addition to an external environment that may not be conducive for barefoot training, many people have unique foot structures or previous injuries that make barefoot training unrealistic. In these situations, a shoe may help their foot function better.

An appropriate shoe allows for the foot to find the ground optimally and properly transition through the different phases of the gait cycle. This allows the body to properly alternate from one leg to the other.

A proper shoe must provide optimal heel control, allow for the arch of the foot to contact the shoe properly (and at the correct time in the gait cycle) and bend only where the toes bend.

The correct shoe can have an incredibly powerful effect on a variety of different ailments and can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of someone’s rehabilitation and training program.

Are you eager to find out if barefoot training is right for you? Contact us today to learn more!

Swimmers-Why Training on Land Improves Performance in the Water

Dryland training… It’s a love-hate relationship for every swimmer. Believe it or not, building strength and power on land is just as crucial to improving race performance as logging yardage in the pool. Shoulder pain and overuse is the most common complaint for swimmers (and is the most common sports physical therapy injury we see in swimmers), often impacting their ability to continue to train at a high level. How can we train the shoulders on land before returning to the water? 

Shoulder Strength and Resilience 

It’s important for swimmers to have adequate strength and range of motion in the shoulders to tolerate the repetitive load of a 2 hour swim practice. The rotator cuff plays a major role in stabilizing the shoulder during overhead movements and producing power through the pull-down. Lift off drills such as this target rotator cuff muscle activation and tolerance at an end range of motion. Once you’ve mastered the previous drill, overhead pressing variations like this and kettlebell stabilizing drills such as this will encourage you to recruit the larger muscles of your trunk and core to create resiliency overhead. 

Full Body Power 

However, swimming is a full body workout! It’s important to incorporate elements of full body power into your workout to prevent injuries when you’re racing or training at high speeds. Overhead medicine ball passes are a great functional exercise to challenge your overhead strength and full body stabilization in a dynamic environment. Progress this to a full medicine ball slam to further mimic the pull-through portion of your stroke, no water needed! 

Photo Credit

swimmer” by Pierce Presley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

What Does It Mean To Be “Out of Alignment?”

“My body feel out of alignment.”

“My <insert healthcare professional here> said that my hips are off.”

“I think I just need to be adjusted.”

These are examples of a few of the comments that patients may express in physical therapy or other injury rehabilitations settings.

The belief that we are like a vehicle that needs to be re-aligned is often the fault of the healthcare industry, including physical therapy.

In the past, healthcare providers would tell their patients that a part of their body is out of alignment and needs to be adjusted to put it back in place. They explain that this is the reason for any discomfort that may be present.

Thankfully, this is no longer taught by most healthcare providers as this thought process has been disproven.

Our bodies are incredibly resilient.

Our joints do not simply fall out of alignment. In fact, our bodies are designed to move and if we were constantly “in line”, it would be impossible to move anywhere!

So, what is happening when an area of our body feels “off”?

As we perform a movement repetitively, compensations and movement limitations become more noticeable.

One area of the body may be moving excessively, while another area of the body may be moving too little.  For example, if your ankle mobility is limited during a squat, you will move excessively at the hips to pick up the slack, causing more stress in that area. As a result, pain, or the feeling of being out of alignment may occur in the hips/pelvis.

If you feel “off” or have been told that you are out of alignment, the solution is likely to begin with discovering what movement limitations may have led to this feeling in the first place. This information can then be used to teach you strategies to move and feel better!

Are you interested in discovering what solutions may be right for you? Contact us to find out more about our physical therapy services!

The first drills that we teach to youth athletes

It is essential to understand the demands placed onto the body when working in a sports physical therapy, injury rehabilitation, and performance training setting.

Sports and weight training require athletes to control the body when moving rapidly.

If an athlete wishes to own the “stack” (stacking of our head, rib cage and pelvis over one another) and protect their lower back they must be capable of doing so when performing high velocity movements.

When youth athletes first train, we use medicine ball drills to teach this ability.

The medicine ball chest pass is a great drill to teach this capability. During this the drill, the athlete is generating enough velocity to propel the ball into the wall and back. As this occurs, it can be easy to lose the “stack” requiring the athlete demonstrate a higher of level of body control.

After mastering the chest pass, it is time to bring the arms overhead. More trunk strength and control are required with this movement and the ability to manage intra-abdominal pressure is further challenged. Check out this exercise here.

These are just a couple of the exercises that we incorporate into the training sessions and warmups for our youth athletes.

If you interested in learning more about the summer training options for youth athletes at CHP,  please contact us!

What All Rotational Athletes Must Be Capable Of

Low back pain with golf or arm pain with throwing. At our performance physical therapy practice, we see this constantly. 

Swinging a golf club, throwing a baseball and hitting a tennis ball involve a great deal of rotation. Many areas of the body should be involved in these movements, however that is not always the case.

It is common to see baseball pitchers that are experiencing arm issues demonstrate the habit of trying to “arm” the ball as they throw it. There is not much contribution from the legs which places a great deal of stress on the arm and over time results in overuse injuries. 

Many golfers and tennis players experience lower back pain because they do not effectively link the power that they generate in the lower body through the trunk, into the upper body and ultimately to the head of the club. As a result they compensate elsewhere, placing increased stress onto the lower back.

The rotational row is a great drill to train the body to generate rotational power through the legs and connect it through the trunk. View this exercise here.

Once you have mastered the rotational row and learned how to link the power generated in the lower body to the trunk, we can now add in the upper body! The rotational lift trains the body to generate rotational power through the legs and connect it through the trunk and arms. Check this exercise out here.

Interested in learning more ways you can address lower back pain while enjoying your active lifestyle? Sign up for a FREE phone consultation today!