If you ever experience back pain when running, are a runner that has been to physical therapy, or are curious about foot strike position, this article is for you!
One of my favorite workshops to conduct is the CHP Running Technique and Performance lab. I have a blast throughout the workshop, but the Q&A portion is my favorite. I have gotten the opportunity to answer many different questions which have forced me to expand my knowledge and has helped me to create a better workshop over time.
While the questions that I receive consistently differ, one topic remains consistent. Someone inevitably asks about foot strike position and my answer often surprises them.
There is no correct foot strike position.
Among other things, foot strike position is dependent on an individual’s body dimensions (limb length as an example) and the position of the body above.
While we cannot change your anatomy, we can change the position, aka the posture, of our bodies.
A “stacked” posture will facilitate a foot strike that occurs directly underneath the body. This foot strike position results in a more efficient stride and minimal stress to the body. To learn about the stack, check out a previous article that I wrote on Learn to Stack Like a Snowman.
Attempt the drill below to feel what it is like to have a stacked posture while running.
- Grab a partner and ask him/her/they to stand behind you (you are also standing)
- Have your partner press down on your shoulders with a moderate amount of force and do not let them squish you
- As you resist them you should feel your abs engage and feel as if you are standing tall
- Next, attempt to shift your weight onto 1 leg and pick up your opposite foot while resisting the force of your partner
- Try the other leg
For a video on this drill, click here.
After performing this drill, you should have a better sense of your optimal running posture. Try to replicate this feeling the next time you go on a run!
In a previous blog post, we introduced mat Pilates and how it helps people that are struggling with back pain. However, many athletes use Pilates to improve other aspects of their performance and CHP’s own, Dr. Ciara Petry, uses it as part of her physical therapy treatment sessions.
As you know, Bethesda and Chevy Chase are packed with athletic people and runners of all levels. Many of these runners are preparing for a variety of races. Running volume increases as a runner prepares for a race, which increases the need for cross training. Cross training allows runners to enhance qualities that improve running performance. However, it is important to avoid adding more pounding to the body in the process.
At Cohen Health and Performance, we have found Pilates to be incredibly helpful in this regard. Weekly supplementation of Pilates training helps to improve performance and/or reduce the risk of running related injuries.
Pilates includes low impact and multi-planar movements that enhance core stability, mobility, and other foundational components necessary for healthy running.
In an article published in 2018, Finatto et al performed a study measuring the effect of a 12-week Pilates mat program on running performance. The participants in this study were separated into 2 groups. Both groups participated in a run training program, however one of the groups also participated in classic mat Pilates training 2x/week for 1-hour per session. The study found that the Pilates group had been more resilient to fatigue when running. It was also found that runners in the Pilates training group significantly improved their 5-km times, thus suggesting that distance runners can transfer the gains made in Pilates to running!
Integrating Pilates into a runner’s performance training just 1-2x/week can improve running efficiency and performance. How cool is that?!
Here at CHP, we help our athletes conquer injury and optimize performance. Reach out today to schedule a running analysis with one of our performance physical therapists and to Dr. Ciara Petry, a certified Mat Pilates instructor, for personalized Pilates sessions!
Article for Reference: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0194057
As a dedicated runner you likely have suffered an injury at some point. Perhaps it forced you to seek performance physical therapy. Whether you realized it or not, this injury limited your ability to train effectively.
At CHP, we consistently help runners in Chevy Chase and Bethesda overcome injuries that otherwise would limit their ability to train, ultimately causing disappointing results.
There is not a one size fits all solution to helping all runners; however, we often discover that runners are limited by their hamstrings.
Are you concerned that hamstring stiffness or weakness could be limiting your performance?
Your hamstring is responsible for keeping your heel close to your bottom during the heel recovery phase of the running cycle. This portion of the cycle occurs as you bring your leg back underneath your body to prepare it to strike the ground again. The closer you can keep your heel relative to your bottom, the better! This allows you to efficiently move your leg faster through space, resulting in faster times. Below is a drill we prescribe to many runners to improve this attribute.
When running the hamstrings also need the ability to lengthen as the thigh is in front of the body. This should be achieved without drastically changing the position of the pelvis. Many runners struggle to maintain control of their pelvis as the hamstring lengthens. This increases the stress placed onto a variety of soft tissues through the lower body and alters foot strike position. Below is a drill to improve these capabilities.
A thoughtful and more scientific approach to training, specifically designed for runners is likely all that you need to drastically improve your running performance. It may not even require you to train any harder, just smarter!