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2 Simple Drills to Improve your Running Times

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!

Do your running shoes pass the test?

You don’t need performance physical therapists like us to tell you that footwear makes a large impact on running performance. The correct running shoe can reduce your race times and lower your injury risk.

When walking into any running store in Bethesda or Chevy Chase, you will find many different shoe brands and several different models of shoes within each brand. Among this wide array of shoes, how do we determine which is best for you?

The answer is different for each person and is dependent on a multitude of different factors. However, any running shoe must meet a few requirements to be considered and these are the first things we look for when assessing any running shoe in physical therapy for runners.

The first is that it must have a firm and snug heel cup. Your heel sits at the base of the shoe, in a place called the heel cup. The heels cup should fit snugly around your heel and should not be much wider than your heel itself. This prevents your heel from sliding around within the shoe, which would negatively impact foot mechanics.

Next, the shoe must have a toe break that folds where your toes bend.  Place your shoe on the ground and hold it there. Pull the front of your shoe upwards from underneath. The folding point of the shoe should be located where your toes bend. If your shoe prefers to fold at another location, your foot is being encouraged to bend somewhere else. This alters foot mechanics and can lead to breakdown within the structure of the foot itself.

Finally, you should be able to feel the entirety of both feet on the ground as you are standing still in your shoes. People are often unable to feel their arches, which results in more stress on the areas that are receiving better ground contact.

There are 26 bones and 30 joints within the human foot. This results in a large number of ways that our foot can compensate, and therefore, a large number of factors that we need to be mindful of when choosing the correct running shoe.

The 3 factors outlined above are a good place to start when choosing the right shoe, however there are many other factors that may also need to be considered.

Please contact us for help assessing your foot and determining the best running shoe for you!

 

What most runners are missing in their training

At CHP, we often see distance runners for a variety of injuries including knee pain, plantarfascitis, and hip and lower back pain.

In addition to seeing runners as physical therapy patients, we help many runners improve their performance.

There are many things that can be done to help a runner both recover from an injury and positively improve their performance. However, one of the most overlooked pieces is a well-designed strength training program.

Many runners understand the importance of strength training, yet, may be performing strength training programs that are not designed for runners.

These programs commonly contain variations of double leg squats and deadlifts. These exercises are great in the right context, however, provide little carryover to what is required to be an effective runner.

When running, there is never a time when both feet are touching the ground simultaneously. The arms and legs are constantly moving in opposite and alternating directions as the body transitions from one foot to the other.

Therefore, double leg movements have little carryover to running itself.

For these reasons we advise that runners perform exercises that promote single leg control and strength. These exercises include, but are not limited to: lunges, single leg squats, split squats, and single leg RDLs (Romanian deadlifts). Simply adding one of these activities into each of your strength training sessions can have a large impact. Take a look at the videos below for examples of these activities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aazACzyUR-Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK05iugeIDE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjDtPek261c

A thoughtful and scientific approach to strength training, specifically designed for runners may be all that is needed to help you drastically improve your running performance. It may not even require you to train any harder, just smarter!