Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Wellness

Is Running Bad For You?

Out of all the fitness rumors and fads, the statement “running isn’t good for you” is one that I actually understand. At least, I understand why it’s come up time and time again (though this rumor may have been started by someone forced to run in a PE class somewhere (me.. Circa 2007)…).

There’s a few things I will add to this as we go, but in short.. No. Running is not bad for you.

Using running as your only form of cross training has the potential to do you harm, yes.

Running without a planned out strategy (see above) will likely end in burn out and pain.

Running with uncorrected muscle imbalances will indeed lead to injury. Most runners I meet are in this situation!!

However- running at its purest form is an excellent and age old way to get cardio work in. The truth is- as with pretty much everything else- if you correct any postural imbalances you have, run appropriately for your goals, and do appropriate mobility/strength training alongside your running program.. There is no way running should cause you issue, or impact your health/performance negatively.

Injuries and pain arise in running when our biomechanics aren’t on our side. Just the same as they do in our rides, or other training. With running, the most common imbalances to see are decreased hip stability, poor foot activation (we will talk about footwear in a second), and poor breathing technique.

When our hips aren’t stable, this means that other muscles around the hips will attempt to take over pelvic stability. With this we see a tightening of the hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors. There also tends to be an increase in knee pain (think runner’s knee). On top of this, most of us buy into the fad of either highly cushioned and supportive shoes OR jump right into minimalist/barefoot trends.

Neither are necessarily great. Shoes are designed to protect our feet- but in this day and age, they are marketed to do much more. The painful (often literally) truth behind this is that the more “supportive” and cushioned a shoe is advertised as, the more likely it is to just turn off your foot’s natural activation and cause postural issues elsewhere.

But what about my flat feet, you ask? Well.. with a little bit of effort you can correct most foot postural issues (like flat feet) yourself, for free. This doesn’t mean that you should be ditching all footwear and running barefoot, either. While running in minimalist style footwear is something I typically will suggest for some people- it is only after we’ve gone through a rigorous postural correction program to find and fix any imbalances they have, and then slowly worked them down to a minimalist level of footwear for their training (both running, and otherwise). If you choose to go cold turkey on cushioned footwear- you will likely be extremely sore, and want to never use your calves again.

When we start running, it’s important to take time to do some hip stability work (I’ve given many of these moves in previous articles.. Look for clamshells, hip circuits, balance work, side bridges!), foot reactivation (think toe curls with a towel, spreading the toes out as wide as you can (harder than you think!), and utilizing products like toe spreaders in your down time.

As humans – it’s important for us to maintain cardio, and running offers us a great way to build in that training. It is of course not the only option for cardio, and needs to be done with intelligent preparation. If you have doubts as to you running technique, many gyms/therapy clinics offer gait analysis to runners to help them spot and correct major postural dysfunction. 

If you’re new to running, start with low distance/intensity and build up to tolerance. Unless your goals include marathons, running a few days a week is all most of us need in our training program.  

Want to know if your running form is up to snuff? Book a consult with one of our certified Athletic Therapists or Kinesiologists this winter, and we can help you figure it all out.

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Free Workouts, Posture, Wellness

Knee pain: It’s not complicated (usually)

After seeing an older woman in the clinic the other day a few weeks into her post-knee replacement rehabilitation- her daughter approached me stating she knew she was headed in the same direction as here mom (aka, was already having knee and hip pain in her life) and wanted to know if there was anything she could do to prevent the process.. or if it was just inherent that she too would eventually have to replace a joint or two.

If there is one thing I want to get across to people it’s that nothing to do with our health is guaranteed.

What I mean by that is.. just because you have a family history of something does not mean it can’t be prevented or course corrected. ESPECIALLY when it comes to our movement health!

When it comes to the knees.. generally the actual problem is coming from the hips and/or feet. I refer to the knee as a bridge joint. It is designed to improve efficiency of transit, absorb and transfer force. If the lines of force get messed with (aka you lack stability in the joints above and below), then the efficiency of that joint and it’s movement go right out the window. Stress builds up and that leads to warning signs (pain), inflammation, stiffening, and of course eventually degeneration of the structures within the joint. This can present via tendonopathies, osteoarthritis, runner’s knee/jumper’s knee (both tendonopathies), patellofemoral syndrome or patellar chondromalacia, and even increase your risk of ACL/MCL and meniscal injuries.

Barring external trauma (but yes postural dysfunction can even contribute to the risk of this), pain and issues in the knee generally are coming from above or below.

This is why I always recommend those passionate about running or other repetitive movement based activities get their gait screened by a professional. Catching dysfunction early and prescribing appropriate corrective movements is key in preventing problems down the chain.

Here are 4 “simple” exercises I prescribe routinely to clients experiencing knee/hip/back pain or rehabbing a joint replacement.

1. Clamshells.

You’ve probably seen these before. Designed to activate the lateral stabilizers in the hip, you should feel the burn on the top side of your hip as that is where the activation should come from. Laying on your side with knees bent to approx. 90deg, hips and ankles stacked- clamshell the knee open lifting from the hip. Do not let your hips fall backwards, they should remain stacked and level throughout the movement. Hold the clam at the top range of motion (wherever you can raise to without your hip sliding back!) for 10seconds, slowly return back to the start position.

Repeat 3 sets of 10-15 routinely in your day. The more you activate the muscles properly, the more the brain makes it automatic.

2. Gait Activation

Laying on your stomach, tuck your chin to lift your head (nose should remain pointed down to the ground!), and squeeze your butt cheeks together. Holding and maintaining this position, press opposite arm and leg to the ground while lifting the other opposite limbs off the floor. Hold for 4seconds, switch and repeat process.

This activates Deep postural muscles and connects the brain to a proper gait transfer pattern. It also cues butt activation and neck stabilizers.

Repeat 3-5round of 20 a day.

3. Single Leg Bridging

If you struggle with regular bridging, this is a advanced progression- so work towards it with holds before movements. Glute activation is key here!

Finding your bridge, lift one leg off the ground maintaining your glute activation. Lower the pelvis down half way and then push back up to full bridge on the one leg. Your hips should be the pivot point, not your low back! Core should remain strong, and glutes should be the main push to full hip extension. Drive up through the supporting heel to help engage the back half of the body/butt.

Repeat 6-10/leg for 3 – 5 rounds.

4. Side Bridges

Classic hip hinging activation exercise. All these movements also double as releases for the front of the hip (tight hip flexors anyone??).

On your side, supported by your elbow, shoulder, and core activation, pivoting from the knees- use glutes to actively push hips up and forward through a hinge motion. Hold at the top for 5-10seconds, then sit back and down through the hip hinge.

Common mistakes here: slouching into the shoulder (push UP through the ground/elbow and squeeze shoulder blades together), lack of core activation/bracing allowing for the spine to hinge instead of the hips (think of a squat motion at the hips!), lifting up THEN forwards.. try and make this simultaneous, as if your hips are moving up and down a ramp.

Repeat 6-12x for rounds of 3-5. Great used as a warm-up to other activities.

You would also do well to add in some foot exercises! @thefootcollective on instagram is one of my fav resources- but you can also refer to our existing post about old person feet here!

Struggling to figure these out? We offer complimentary movement assessments and consults to new clients. Prevention and rehab programs for all sorts of clients are available. Have questions? Leave a comment or find us directly at katmahtraining@gmail.com. We’re always happy to help you get your movement right!

Have fun kids!