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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!


Runners: How To Vary Your Training to Optimize Your Results!

Implementing variety into training is something that is commonly underutilized and overlooked among recreational runners. This is often the topic of conversation after we perform our running analysis or within a sports physical therapy session.

Varying speed, intensity, and distance can be a useful tool in run training, whether you’re training for a big race or just getting back into it.

Running at different speeds or intensities allows you to vary which muscles and tissues you are repeatedly straining. When you sprint, your technique is going to look very different than when you are going for a long, slow jog.

Including both in your training helps you to disperse the stress of the workout over more tissues, and can help prevent overuse injuries! Some examples of what this variety might look like: 

  1. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) runs: “sprint” training! Work to rest intervals should be greater (1:4, 1:5). For example. sprinting for 10 seconds and walking/jogging for 50 seconds. Repeat for 10-15 minutes. Great for a track or grassy field! 
  2. Interval training: longer bouts of faster running, not as intense as a full sprint. Work to rest ratios are going to look more even (2:3, 1:1 or 2:1 ratios). For example, fast running for 1-2 minutes, jogging for 2-3 minutes, repeat for 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Tempo training: usually done as a “long run”. Pick a pace, and try to stick to it throughout the duration of your run. Distances should be specific to what your goals are!
  4. Using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale: If you don’t know what pace time is right for you, start with RPE! You can use a scale of 0-10, with 0 being completely at rest and 10 being a sprint as fast as you can possibly go. Fast bouts of HIIT training should be performed at an RPE of 8-10, whereas interval training should be closer to RPEs of 5-8. An example of an RPE scale can be found here 

In addition to preventing injuries, adding sprints and interval training can help increase muscle mass, cardiovascular endurance, and improve your ability to cover more distance in a shorter amount of time. If you’re finding that you’re constantly dealing with the same injury, consistent soreness in one muscle group, or you just want to shake up your training, a performance physical therapist can help find the right running program for you! 


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!

Do I Need Surgery?

This is a very common question in physical therapy and injury rehabilitation settings .

As humans we think of ourselves as machines. Something is broken and needs to be fixed.

However, we are not machines, and surgeons are not mechanics that fix something broken. In fact, they are closer to janitors “cleaning up” accumulated damage that was created by something else.

A recent literature review published in the prestigious journal, JOSPT, found no evidence to support having surgery versus non-surgical interventions and 9 different areas of the body were researched! The study can be found here.

Now before we jump to conclusions, surgery is an essential part of healthcare.

It is the best option after trauma occurs that causes structural damage which will prevent the body from functioning as required for sport or daily life. Examples include broken bones that are displaced, as well as tendon or ligament ruptures like ACL or Achilles tears.

Surgery may also be a solution to chronic pain or injury that has not improved with non-surgical interventions such as physical therapy.

In the instances described above surgery is utilized as a last resort or because of significant, clear structural damage which can be reliably repaired.

Research, such as the article referenced previously, commonly shows poor long-term outcomes for surgery because we are commonly led to believe that surgery “fixes” the issue.

Surgery does not address the root causes of an injury and it is essential to learn is what caused the damage requiring surgery in the first place. As a result, we can address the root causes of pain, injury, or tissue damage before surgery, hopefully avoiding it altogether. If surgery is still warranted, then the factors that lead to it must be addressed in the post-operative process. If not, we will continue to see more studies like the one referenced in this article showing poor outcomes from surgery.

As the saying goes, if we don’t learn from history, we are bound to repeat it!

How to Improve Your Mobility

Do your hips or lower back feel tight as you perform movements like a squat? Perhaps your shoulders feel stiff when trying to bring your arms overhead, or your ankles feel restricted. All of these are common reports in sports physical therapy field.

Regardless of where your mobility problems lie, it is your body, more specifically your nervous system that is intentionally causing this. The stiff muscle that you feel is the body protecting itself or adapting to the demands placed upon it.

I often think back to my previous experiences as a physical therapist and the players that I worked with in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Most of them had ankle mobility restrictions, which were an adaptation to constantly being on the balls of the feet. These athletes were constantly sprinting, jumping, and cutting with their heels rarely touching the ground.

As a result, their body adapted to make them better at these movements. The tissues around their ankles turned into tight springs that allowed them to remain explosive without expending too much energy.

Adaptations like this are beneficial for performance however occur at the expense of mobility. As these adaptations go too far the risk of injury increases.

How do we know that adaptations have gone too far?

When the body no longer has the prerequisite abilities necessary to perform the activities required of it. In this case the joints of the body have less mobility than life or their activities require. As a result, uncomfortable feelings of stiffness or injury occur.

For this reason, I encourage athletes and patients to perform daily exercises that practice movements outside of their preferred movement strategies. This way the body cannot excessively adapt to only one way of doing things.

Here is a drill that I recently gave to a patient with shoulder mobility limitations and this is a drill that I advised a runner perform within her daily routine.

Would you like to discover the daily essentials that will help you feel better and move better? If so, contact us today!

When You Should Be Using a Workout Machine

Workout machines like the prone hamstring curl are underutilized in the sports performance setting and often get a bad rap in the sports physical therapy industry. I have heard people (physical therapists, strength coaches, running coaches, personal trainers, etc.) say negative things about using machines for a variety of different reasons.

“Machines are not functional. Humans should provide their own stability and not rely on a machine to do it for them.”

“X, Y, or Z machine isolates only one area of the body and we do not move 1 area at a time in real life.”

The support that machines provide, allowing people to focus on working one area has many advantages when used appropriately.

Even athletes can benefit from using machines.

High level sprinting requires an athlete to have a great deal of hamstring strength as the muscle is in a shortened position (when the knee is fully bent).

During the recovery phase of sprinting (as the leg is being brought back to the front of the body) the heel should be as close to the athlete’s bottom as possible. As this motion begins, the hip is a relatively extended position.

The prone hamstring curl trains end range hamstring strength when the hip is in this position. Dr. Cohen even pauses briefly in this video when at the end of the movement to stress this position.

During this exercise, the machine will dictate the movement however remember to use your abs to prevent the lower back from extending during any portion of the exercise.

There is no such thing as a good or bad exercise. Almost every exercise is appropriate when used properly. The key is to be clear on the desired outcome of the drill and how to implement it most effectively into your training routine.

Would you like to learn how to design your training most effectively to best accomplish your goals? If so, contact us to receive a customized training program designed specifically for you!