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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! 


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 The End Of My Sports Career Taught Me

Boy have times changed. Look at all that hair! Apparently they couldn’t do anything about the sun on picture day…

“I need to stretch more. Maybe I should try Yoga.”

“I’ve heard Pilates is really good for my core. Maybe I need to check out a class?”

“Strength training is important so perhaps I need to start lifting weights but where do I start?”

Most of us have had thoughts like this when considering different types of exercise.

The world of health, fitness, sports physical therapy and injury rehabilitation is huge and may seem overwhelming. I recall when I felt confused about how to proceed with my fitness journey.

After finishing my college football career, I no longer had coaches to guide my training. No longer did I have prescheduled practice, conditioning workouts, weight training, and recovery workouts (usually a mixture of foam rolling, stretching, yoga and light cardio).

I was unsure of what to do so I simply continued training as I always had. I lifted weights as per my usual off-season program and performed a couple conditioning workouts per week.

After a few weeks of doing this, I decided to ask myself a simple question. “Why?”

What was my training goal now? What were the best ways to achieve these goals? Upon some reflection and jotting down a few notes I quickly realized that my training program was not in line with my goals at that time.

My football career was over. I finally had the opportunity to get healthy and stay that way.

However, I really enjoyed feeling strong and the process of lifting weights. Also, I was studying to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) so had to practice what I preach (this was prior to physical therapy school).

I decided to create a strength training program that consisted of exercises to promote strength, while also improving my mobility. The goals were to improve my strength and muscle mass, while feeling great overall.

This was the optimal training approach for me at the time and I was only able to realize that by slowing down and asking a few simple questions.

When was the last time you did that? Try asking yourself the following questions.

  • What are the outcomes that I am looking for from my training? Do I want to become stronger? Do I want to live with less discomfort? Become more mobile? The key is being honest here!
  • What are the best ways to achieve the outcomes I am looking for?
  • If I am not sure of #2 above, who can help me figure that out?

As you can see with question 3 above, you do not need to have all the answers yourself. There are many people out there available to help you reach your goals but no one can determine what those goals are.

Once you gain clarity about your goals, our team of Performance Physical Therapists in Chevy Chase would love to help you achieve them. In addition to being Doctors of Physical Therapy, our team of Performance Physical Therapists are Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists that specialize in helping injured athletes get back in the game.

3 Indications You Should Ignore a Social Media Post

Today there is more access to information then ever. This access to information is no more prevalent than in the realms of health, medicine, fitness/performance, or any other area of athletic physical therapy.  Anyone with a social media account can quickly find thousands of posts related to these topics which creates a whole new challenge.

Because everyone can promote themselves as an expert on social media, it is essential to have a discerning eye for quality information. Unfortunately, social media platforms, such as Instagram, do not promote posts based on the validity of the information presented.

Amongst such a vast array of information, how do you determine when you should ignore a social media post related to health, fitness, or performance physical therapy information?

  • The presenter speaks in absolutes. Commonly the best answer that a professional can give you is “it depends.” The reason for this is that a person’s experience is context dependent and is the result of several different factors that must be considered together. For example, stretching or improving mobility is often promoted as a “fix” for a given injury. However, this does not apply to those that have more important problems to solve or possess full range of motion in the area being discussed. For more information on this topic, check out our post on Is Mobility Overrated? Furthermore, it is impossible to know of every possible factor that could be contributing to pain, injury, limitations, or challenges. Therefore, even the best among us cannot claim to be 100% certain, especially on social media.
  • The information is unnecessarily complicated. An expert can take a complex topic and break it down so that it makes sense to you. Overly complicated terminology and unnecessary use of medical jargon are red flags that the presenter may not fully understand the material being presented.
  • Promoting personal success stories as evidence. Personal success stories are anecdotal. The definition of anecdotal is “not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research.” Many medical and fitness professional post personal success stories as evidence for the validity of their method, approach, or something that they are attempting to market. This ignores all the other factors that may have contributed to these results (see #1 above). Even if the results being presented are valid, it only applies to the person being shown. Quality research commonly requires thousands of trials before being considered valid. A case study of 1 or 2 people only applies to the people being referenced and ignores your unique circumstances.

**Bonus: If a presenter promotes “quick fixes”, run!

Discerning quality from poor information is very challenging in the modern age. Everyone can promote themselves as an expert, however there are several ways to determine when it is best to ignore a presenter. These are just a few of several ways that you can do so.


Photo Credits

“Social Media” by MySign AG is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Is Mobility Overrated?

Mobility has become a popular buzzword in the sports physical therapy community in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. While it is an important aspect of health and fitness, could mobility be getting more attention than it actually deserves?

What Is Mobility?

The term “mobility” refers the quantity of available movement — and how freely and efficiently you’re able to do so. Popularized by the sports physical therapy and training community, mobility is important for everyone, whether you’re an elite athlete or a busy working Mom.

Mobility is an important part of a well-designed injury rehabilitation and prevention program. It is also used to improve the quality of life for our physical therapy patients in Chevy Chase and Bethesda.

While very important, many experts feel that the booming popularity of mobility overshadows several other key health factors. In particular, the added focus on mobility often leads to a lack of attention on other important health factors, such as strength, cardiovascular health, and other global health behaviors.

What The Mobility “Craze” Makes Us Overlook

Although mobility is an important aspect of a healthy body, mobility alone won’t provide the quick fix you might be looking for. Instead, there are several complex contributing factors that need to be properly managed to improve your overall health.

Strength Training

Lean body mass and strength are some of the greatest indicators of the overall health of an individual. In fact, according to a study done by Harvard University, something as simple as grip strength can help measure an individual’s risk of heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular disease.

Focusing on mobility alone overlooks the importance of strength training. According to The Mayo Clinic, strength training can help you manage or lose weight, increase metabolism, protect your joints and ligaments, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Another important measure of the overall health of an individual is cardiovascular fitness. A simple way to gauge cardiovascular health is by measuring your resting heart rate — the number of times your heart beats per minute when not physically active.

Although the normal range of a resting heart rate is between 50–100 beats per minute, a resting heart rate greater than 90-100 BPM can put unnecessary strain on the heart. A high resting heart rate has even been linked to high blood pressure, cholesterol, and even heart disease.

By solely focusing on mobility, cardiovascular health may be overlooked.

Global Health Behaviors

Outside of strength and cardio training, there are several other important contributing factors to an individual’s health — specifically sleep, nutrition, and social connection.

Sleep plays a crucial role in your physical health. Not only does sleep heal and repair your muscles, heart, and blood vessels, but a recent study discovered done by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute discovered a link between sleep deficiency and an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Final Thoughts

All in all, mobility is only one aspect of staying healthy and active — it isn’t the only thing that should be focused on. Health is achieved through the successful balance of multiple variables, including mobility, strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and various other global health behaviors.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive program to improve your health, fitness, and quality of life, our physical therapy team in Bethesda and Chevy Chase can help. Contact us today for a free consultation!

Exercise Snacking: A Simple Approach To Aging That Can Actually Improve Muscle Function

It’s no secret that finding time to exercise gets more difficult with age. As professional, family, and personal responsibilities stack up, it becomes more and more challenging to find time to get to the gym or exercise.

As part of the aging process, our performance physical therapy patients also tend to lose muscle mass and function. One well-known combatant of muscle loss is resistance training, though it does require access to both exercise equipment and the time to work out.

If you find yourself struggling to get to the gym as you’re getting older, there’s good news! A recent study from The Centre for Sport in Chesterfield, UK, concluded that short bouts of exercise spread throughout the day are an effective method to improve muscle function in a time-efficient manner.

“Exercise snacking,” as the study coined, is the process of breaking down exercise into short sessions throughout the day. During the 28-day study, individuals doing a twice daily home-based exercise snacking program improved their lower limb muscle function and size compared to a control group. In addition, not only did their maximum leg pressing power increase, but those who followed the exercise snacking program also improved their 60-second sit-stand scores.

Although the study is still being examined, the data suggests that “exercise snacking,” or short bouts of exercise, may be a promising strategy to improve muscle function in older adults. Something as simple as a short walk could do the trick.

If you often struggle to find time to exercise, “exercise snacking” is a super time-efficient method to combat the side effects of aging while staying in shape.

For a more personalized approach, our virtual physical therapy team in Chevy Chase can help! Contact us today for a free consultation.