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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!

 

Is Sports Specialization Dangerous for Youth Athletes?

There comes a point in every youth athlete’s life when it’s time to choose “your sport”. Whether they’re a recreational team player, or a state champion, life gets pretty busy juggling multiple sports and activities. But when is that time, and are there dangers to specializing too early or too late? Can we become a good athlete, but prevent injuries (thus avoiding physical therapy!) and burnout at the same time?

There are a few guidelines we can follow in order to help draw a line when too much is too much. Guidelines are in place in order to prevent acute and overuse injuries in children and adolescents. While younger athletes can often “bounce back” fast, more serious injuries can ruin a season before it even starts. Here’s a few things to consider when signing your athlete up for sports:

1. Avoid over-specialization by signing up for multiple sports in a year. Just like with any activity, repeating the same stressors over and over can make you more susceptible to injury. Stay active and stay involved by choosing multiple sports.
2. “Hours per age” rule. Your child should not train more hours of one sport per week than their numerical age. (Example: a 14 year old swimmer should swim less than 14 hours per week)
3. Limit practice to 1.5 hours per day, and competition to 3 hours per week.
4. Have 1-2 rest days from sport practice/competition per week.
5. Young athletes should have up 3 months off per year, in 1 month increments of a break from organized sport.
6. Focus on form and technique before intensity.

Appropriately managing activity volume, and knowing when to take an injury seriously is hard work. Communicating with your primary care provider, pediatrician, coaches, athletic trainer, or physical therapist when something doesn’t feel right can be a useful tool to ensuring season-long success.

But most importantly, sport should be fun!

Reference:

https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/6-ways-to-reduce-overuse-and-burnout-injuries-in-young-athletes.pdf?sfvrsn=acc88c52_2

 

How Our Physical Therapists Coach Squats for People with Low Back Pain

Did you know that experts estimate up to 80% of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives.

The sports physical therapy patients that we often assume that they no longer can perform common weight training exercises like squats.

However this is not the case. People experiencing lower back can continue to perform these exercises however may require the help of a performance physical therapist to learn how to most effectively do so.

Check out the video below to see how I coach squats for our physical therapy patients experiencing lower back pain.

 

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! 

 

One Quick Test of Shoulder Health

It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Maintaining a quadruped position (hands and knees) reveals a great deal about your upper body strength and preferred movement strategies. For these reasons, we use this position as a test and exercise within our sports physical therapy setting.

Even strong and muscular patients commonly assume a quadruped position with their shoulder blades pinched close together and deep lower back arch (belly button dropped towards the ground).

This position is often utilized because it conserves energy and allows the body to be lazy. Compression from the lower and upper back is used to hold the torso up against gravity, instead of the abs and muscles involved with reaching. These strategies are common among folks experiencing back pain, shoulder pain and a variety of other issues.

The abs and muscles involved with reaching (for example, the serratus anterior) are essential components of athletic performance, running, walking and pretty much being a human being.

As these skills diminish, the risk of experiencing various injuries may increase.

The bear test is a great way to see if test your upper body strength and movement capabilities.

Think you have what it takes to pass the test? Give it a shot with this drill!

Photo Credit

Polar bear” by tharendra is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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!