In this series of Lessons From LIFT Physiotherapy, we will focus on how to improve running. Whether you run recreationally, competitively, or even if you’re just looking to get started, the lessons we will share can help to improve performance and mitigate the risk of repetitive strain injury by addressing some of the key concerns. Areas of focus will include flexibility, strength, stability, breathing, and awareness specific to the activity of running.
Running Lesson #1 – Breathing/Posture
Improve Your Breathing, Run Further!
One’s ability to breathe optimally while running is imperative, and posture plays a large role in breathing mechanics. Upper body postural dysfunctions, such as rounded shoulders, forward head, or a slouched upper back can limit proper breathing, and hinder oxygen delivery to the body. This can cause a multitude of negative symptoms, including muscle cramps/spasms, premature fatigue, hyperventilation, anxiety, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, headaches, and dizziness.
Exercises which open the chest and shoulders and strengthen the mid-back and diaphragm can be used to ensure that runners are able to breathe deeply, utilizing their full lung capacity and thereby maximizing the delivery of oxygen to the body. Breathing deeply will aid in recovery during a long bout of exercise or between intervals of higher intensity running. Recognizing that different individuals may require a different approach, below are a few variations of such exercises, adopted from the fields of Physiotherapy (Therapeutic), Yoga, and Athletic Conditioning. A full table with pictures can be found at the end of this Blog.
- – Pectoral Stretch
- – Wall Angel / Scapular W’s
- – Band Resisted W’s
Yoga Pose (Asanas)
- – Breathing (Bhastrika)
- – Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
- – Cable Resisted W’s
Running Lesson #2 – Core & Hip Stability
Stability is Key! Improve your efficiency and reduce unwanted stress and strain on your lower extremities.
Broken up into its individual components, running is a series of single limb stance postures. In order to maintain adequate balance and efficiency through running, we depend on the use of our core and hips. In short, the core will help to limit excessive spinal movement by providing stability. Adequate endurance of the hip muscles will aid in keeping the torso and pelvis straight. It is critical to have good core control and endurance of the hips as running is performed over a long duration. Although our bodies are resilient and meant to withstand forces over time, they will break down eventually if they have not developed a strong foundation of movement.
In this series, we suggest several core and hip stability exercises from a physiotherapy, yoga, and athletic conditioning standpoint. Have a look, and make sure to incorporate some of these in your running preparation.
- – Assisted Deadlift
- – Resisted Step up with High Knee
- – Balancing Tabletop Pose
- – Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- – High Lunge with Airplane Arms
- – Resisted Hip Flexion on Step, Quick up, slow down
- – Pallof Press
- – Staggered Pallof press
- – Single leg pallof press
Running Lesson # 3 – Foot & Ankle Work
Increase your mileage! Build up stamina & mobility in those feet.
Regardless of whether or not you are a forefoot, midfoot or hindfoot striker, it is important that your foot and ankle have good mobility and endurance when running. Depending on your strike preference, the way your body adapts to the shock of the initial ground contact will be affected by your foot. This is even more important if you are a trail runner, having to negotiate different surfaces and terrains. A stiff, immobile foot will increase the stresses on other part of the body. Along with mobility, having good endurance of your foot muscles will help to sustain you through your run. In this series, we recommend a variety of foot and ankle mobility and endurance exercises. Try them out and see if you notice a difference in your run.
- – Knee to wall
- – Eccentric Tibialis Posterior with Theraband
- – Hero Pose (Virasana)
- – Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
- – Heel raises with resistance band
DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that these Lessons from LIFT Physiotherapy were created to share content on different topics. As such, we appreciate that there will be many different opinions regarding the topics discussed below. For clarification, the clinicians who have collaborated on and created these blogs are offering suggestions based on their experiences. We understand that there are a variety of exercises that would be applicable to the featured topic, however, we have chosen to highlight a select few for simplicity. The program outlined below will not be appropriate for everyone. Skill level, strength, mobility, stability and body awareness will determine whether the suggestions are appropriate. It is advisable to see a healthcare professional prior to engaging in any of the activities outlined.