Tag Archives: injury prevention

Strong Hips for Runners: 3 Exercises

Runners need strong hips.  They’re the driving force behind every stride you take and the better they are able to perform the faster you’ll cover ground.  Tight hip flexors and weak glutes are common and contribute to a myriad of injuries from IT Band syndrome to runner’s knee.  Strengthening your hips and glutes helps prevent injuries while improving running form and increasing speed.  Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite hip power building exercises.

Fire Hydrant.  This simple body weight exercise is a winner for working the hip abductors.  Start with your hands and knees on the ground in an all fours position then lift your leg away from your midline.  Be sure to keep your hips still while focusing on the activation of hip and glute strong hipsmuscles.  Pause at the top then repeat for your desired number of reps and sets.

Clam Shells.  Another uncomplicated exercise, clam shells also work the hip abductors.  You can step the difficulty up by adding a resistance band above your knees but that’s not necessary to get the benefits.  Begin lying on your side with a neutral spine.  Bend your knees to 90 strong hipsdegrees and hips to 45 with your top leg stacked directly on your bottom one.  Keeping your feet together raise your top knee away from the bottom one (abducting your hip).  Pause at the top then repeat for your target number of reps and sets.

Seated Band Hip Abduction.  Use this move to earn strong hips anstrong hipsd glutes.  Begin sitting on a bench or chair with a flat back and feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart.  Place a resistance band around your legs above the knees.  Grip the front of the bench with both hands and maintain good posture while you pull your knees apart.  Do not let your knees cave in after you pause and return to the starting position for your goal reps and sets.

Strong hips are important and using these three exercises will help you earn them.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Injury Free Training

Every runner dreads injury.  Not only can it derail all of your recent training effort, it can be painful, uncomfortable and come with a potentially hefty medical bill.  The best way to keep logging miles without some sort of boo-boo or broken bone sidelining you is to use preventative care.  That can mean lots of things but here are Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to run injury free all year long.

Strength Train.  Strength training and cross training are extremely important elements of a training plan that helps you steer clear of injuries.  It will help you build muscle to support the pounding your body takes from running.  Strength training also makes you a more durable, injury resistant, athlete.  No matter what kind of strength training you choose make sure it’s something you like.  There are tons of options available out there from Crossfit to spin class so you’re guaranteed to find something fun.injury free

Listen.  Pay attention to what your body is telling you on a daily basis and you’ll be able to head off any injury before it happens.  Injury free running isn’t a dream.  It’s a reality if you’re able to pick up on what your body needs.  A day off?  An adjusted workout?  What about that massage you’ve been waiting for?  Stop waiting, rest up and tone it down.  No one know what your body needs better than you if you’re willing to listen to it.

Gear Check.  From chaffing to shin splints worn out, poorly fitted gear or improper gear can lead to disaster.  If you’re tackling trails, don’t wear your track spikes.  Be aware of training environment and dress appropriately.  Check in regularly with your clothing and especially your running shoes.  Crummy old shoes love creating problems from lack of support.  Stay injury free by having the right gear in the right condition.

Eat.  While every runner has different nutritional needs, eating is important.  Eating too much can lead to weight gain and numerous health issues while eating too little means your body can’t recover or build muscle like it wants to.  Poor nutritional habits can result in stress fractures, excess fatigue and bad workouts.  Consult a professional when designing your meal plan to make sure you’re taking in enough calories to stay injury free.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Do You Need an Off Season?

Professional runners across all disciplines get an off season.  Whether they’re choosing to compete at certain times of the year or their sport predetermines it, they are sure to take time off between seasons.  For those of us who aren’t professional athletes, however, options to compete carry on all year long.  You can run a 5k every single weekend if you want to but you can’t race one.

If you’re just out there to get moving every time you toe the line, odds are you aren’t training at a very high level.  You might run for fun.  You might just run with friends.  If, on the other hand, you’re an age group or contending athlete your training is intense.  The more intense each training cycle is the more likely you are to need an off season.  Here are three reasons why.off season

Recover.  Injury prevention is a big reason to take an off season.  Our bodies cannot continue indefinitely to be beat up the way they are when we train and race hard all year long.  Work load is dramatically decreased, especially running, during the off season.  Both our minds and bodies need a break from the constant barrage of stimuli that come along with a hard training cycle.

Repair.  Take the time now to deal with any lingering issues.  See that physical therapist you’ve been putting off.  Get massages and take bubble baths.  Build strength in the muscles that got you through race season.  Eliminate weak spots and work towards strength goals that will help you run faster next race season.

Plan.  Goal setting is incredibly important.  Use this down time to look back at how your season went.  Why did it go that way?  Put time and effort in determining what went well and what didn’t rather than nailing each workout.  Decide what races you’ll target during your next training cycle and how to best prepare for them.  Set realistic goals based on past performances.

Taking an off season can be a wonderful training tool and a welcome break.  It’s the time to relax and have fun while letting your body heal and prepare for the next cycle of hard work.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Cross vs Strength Training

Often used interchangeably, cross training and strength training are something all runners should have in their training plan.  They are, however, not the same activities.  Cross training is any activity that increases or maintains your fitness while giving you a break from your most trained modality.  That means biking or kayaking if you’re a runner and swimming or rowing if strength trainingyou’re a cyclist.  It also means strength training.  Strength training is a type of cross training that makes your muscles stronger, not just give your body a variety of stimuli.

Cross training makes us better athletes.  It gives our bodies different stresses to respond to and leads to more flexibility with improved coordination.  It helps prevent injury, aids recovery and staves off boredom.  Having options other than running is also a must for when the weather gets ugly.  Too hot, too icy, too windy or too dangerous, you don’t need to miss a workout if you have a solid cross training option ready to go.

Strength training, on the other hand, is meant to make us stronger.  Building muscle mass isn’t strength trainingour goal as runners but being tougher is.  A weak core means poor posture and less speed.  Stronger legs generate more power and last longer in a race.  Unilateral strength exercises eliminate muscle imbalances and improve balance.

Runners should focus on exercises and activities that will strengthen running specific muscles while being sure not to neglect your incredibly important upper body.  Improve power with box jumps and jump rope.  Maintain good posture with push-ups and pull-ups.  Keep your core strong with planks and sit-ups.  Stay even with lunges and step-ups.

Any quality training plan will include both cross training and specific strength training.  They are key elements in building a quality athlete who is injury resistant and ready to compete successfully.

Coach Meredith

The Every Runner Foot Care Plan

Having two healthy feet is something most runners take for granted.  Until one gets injured.  Foot care is often overlooked by runners who stretch hamstrings, quads and calves but miss their most important part.  Feet take the first impact of every step.  They also help us stay upright, balance and learn about our environments.  Here are some of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to keep them healthy and happy.

Find the right shoes.  If your shoes are too loose they can rub and causing blisters.  Too narrow and you’re susceptible to callouses, too.  If they’re too small, add in the risk of black or foot carefalling off toenails.  When you buy running shoes, do so from a reputable running store and make sure the fit is correct.  And, once you have the correct shoes, know when it’s time for new ones.

Socks.  There are tons of socks out there, and you want to be sure you’re running in the right ones.  Cotton socks can lead to blisters while other materials, such as acrylic, can help protect your feet from rubbing by pulling sweat and moisture away.  You might need to vary your sock choice based on the weather, a light sock won’t be equally fit for a speed workout and racing a marathon.  Although there are lots of choices, socks are fairly inexpensive, so try different brands, fabrics and cuts until you find what works best.

Keep your feet dry.  This can be hard if you’re running in the rain, on the trails, in snow or on the beach.  Waterproof trail shoes are a great choice for those who brave nature, but for those who run mostly on pavement or a treadmill, the answer is usually to wear moisture wicking fabrics.  Never start with damp or wet socks and shoes and keep an extra pair nearby for when you’re finished.

Massage your feet by rolling them on golf or lacrosse balls, a rolling pin or foot roller.  Not only will a foot massage relax those hard working muscles, it’ll give you a few minutes to chill out foot careand take a break.  Be careful, though.  Rolling or massaging your feet too hard can cause damage to tender fascia and harm, rather than help, this important body part.

Make them strong.  Do foot and ankle strengthening exercises.  Weak feet mean you lose out on power and speed while increasing your risk of injury.  Try being barefoot as much as you can.  Shoes support muscles so they don’t have to work.  Taking off your shoes will strengthen the arch of your foot while aiding in your body’s ability to sense what’s happening around it.

Use these tips to keep your feet in good working condition and they’ll help you hit a new PR.

Coach Meredith

4 Ways to Decide You Need New Running Shoes

Lots of runners find a pair of shoes they end up falling in love with.  Unfortunately just because you love them doesn’t mean they’ll last forever.  Everything wears out and eventually we all need new running shoes.  Here are four of Team ECRP‘s tried and true methods for determining when it’s time to pick up a new pair.

Worn out treads.  If your shoes look like the pair on the right in this photo, it’s time for them to new running shoesgo.  When you’ve run enough to wear down the rubber on the bottom of your shoe, they’re not much help.  Your traction on slippery roads or trails is gone.  If your treads lack definition, it’s time to upgrade.

Pain train.  Do you feet hurt after a workout?  They shouldn’t.  What about a sudden onset of shin splints?  Both can indicate it’s time for new running shoes.  As running shoes age, they start to break down.  That breakdown means your cushion isn’t quite so fluffy, your arch isn’t getting the help it needs and your feet aren’t as well protected from the road.  Old, broken down shoes can increase your risk for injury.  No runner wants that.

Newer is better.  You love the model you’re in.  To avoid the changes that are made each year you stocked up with multiple pairs.  If you slide on a new pair that feels cushier, more comfortable, supportive and softer, it’s time to can the old ones.  If they’re pretty close, you’re probably in the clear to keep both pairs in your rotation.

Lots of miles.  Lots of runners track their mileage and lots of them don’t.  Whether you’re an avid Strava user or not, it’s pretty easy to guess how many miles are on your shoes.  Shoes vary widely in how long they’ll last.  If you’re running on hard surfaces they won’t last as long as they would if you tackled the trails every day.  Heavier runners are tougher on shoes than lighter ones.  A good baseline is 300-400 miles per pair but take into account the kind of running you do before tossing anything based purely on mileage. 

The good news is there are always new models, technologies and colors out there so when one pair wears out you might just find something you like even more!  Take these tips with you on your next outing to decide if it’s time for you to pick up a shiny new pair of running shoes.

Coach Meredith

Unilateral Movement for Runners

Unilateral movement can sound intimidating.  Thankfully, however, the movements themselves aren’t.  Any runner can and will benefit from practicing using one side of their body at a time.  When we use both legs to complete a squat or jump, the stronger side often takes over while the weaker side stays that way.  This can be a recipe for a funky gait, less running power, muscle imbalances and even injuries.  Unilateral training works to make weak sides stronger, increase muscle recruitment, eliminate muscle imbalances and strengthen the core as a bonus.

Team ECRP loves unilateral movement and here are three of our favorites.  Each one will help you get stronger and run with better form.  These movements work the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, ankles, feet and abs all on their own.  If you’re looking to hit your upper body too, safely add carried or overhead weights.unilateral movement

Lunges.  Take a giant step forward with one leg then drop your back knee down towards the ground.  Be sure to keep the front knee behind to your toe, aiming for a 90 degree angle.  Once that back knee hits the ground, push back up to standing position and bring your feet back together.  Repeat on both sides.

Step-upsUsing a box, chair or table that’s strong enough to hold you and a comfortable height, place one foot fully onto the flat raised surface.  Use your front leg to lift your body upunilateral movement, bringing your back foot onto the box as well.

Single Leg Deadlifts.  Single leg deadlifts require lots of balance and hamstring mobility.  Start by standing feet together then raise one leg straight behind you while your shoulder come forward as a counter balance.  Keep your working leg steady but don’t lock out your knee as you keep your non-working hip open and back flat.  Touch the ground then slowly return to the starting position.

Include these unilateral movements in your training plan for stronger, better balanced running.

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries: Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a nasty and common running injury.  A seriously no fun thing to face, PF is something all runners dread but luckily, it is 100% preventable.  Learn more about what PF is, how it happens and how to treat it by reading on!plantar fasciitis

What:  Plantar fasciitis (PF) is the most common source of heel pain in runners new and old.  It is the result of inflammation in the thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to the rest of your foot.

Cause:  PF is cause by inflammation of the plantar fascia as it rounds the heel bone.  These tissues, the plantar fascia, are a support for the arch of your foot and act like a shock absorber when the foot lands.  If they become overworked, the results are inflammation and tenderness.  Drastically increasing mileage and worn out shoes are common causes.  People who are overweight, who have weak feet, poor movement mechanics or wear shoes without enough support are especially at risk.

Symptoms:  Plantar fasciitis is characterized by a sharp stabbing pain in the foot with the first movements of your day.  The pain will then usually subside or ease once the foot has warmed up.  PF pain can resume when you stand for a long period of time or when you stand up from sitting or lying down.  This injury can limit the amount of running, jumping, walking and dancing you are able to tolerate.

Treatments:  Anti-inflammatories, rest and ice are good treatments.  Orthotics and surgical options exist for those who have unbearable pain.  Those paths should only be taken in very extreme cases of completely collapsed or permanently damaged plantar fascia.  An important part of any treatment plan is determining the cause of your plantar fasciitis.  Work with a physical therapist or certified coach to ensure you don’t become re-injured.

Recovery:  Prevention is the best way to treat PF.  Be sure spending time barefoot, foam rolling and regular foot, ankle and lower leg strength and mobility exercises are part of your training plan.  You’ll want to build stronger arches, more flexible ankles and looser Achilles tendons that are less likely to become inflamed during the recovery phase.  If you do come down with plantar fasciitis, recovery can be a long road.  Work with a coach or therapist to find the treatment plan that works best for you.

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries: Shin Splints

Shin splints are a common injury.  Seen most often in new runners, they can be painful but typically come with a shorter recovery time than the dreaded stress fracture.  Here’s how to identify your shin splints, treat them and avoid getting them again.shin splints

What are shin splints:  They are the common name for a medial condition officially known as medial tibial stress syndrome.  A shin splint causes pain along the bone at the front of the lower leg, the tibia, and is most frequently seen in new runners or those increasing mileage.

What causes them?  Shin splints are the result of inflammation of the muscles, tissues and tendons surrounding the tibia.  This inflammation most often comes from a sudden change in training routines.  It can also be caused by worn out shoes, another injury, weak hips or a lack of core stability.

Symptoms:  Tenderness and soreness along the length of the tibia as well as possible swelling are red flags.  Sometimes pain will disappear with activity but it will eventually become constant.  If you reach the point of constant pain, be sure to rule out the more serious stress fracture by getting an x-ray.

Treatment Options:  Shin splints are best treated by slowing things down.  Decrease mileage or try water running.  Lower impact activities are a must until the inflammation goes away.  Anti-inflammatories, ice and heat are additional options.  This is also a good time to make sure you have a quality shoe that offers the support you need and isn’t worn out.

Recovery:  The most important part of recovery is to figure out what caused your injury.  Treat the source of the shin splints, not just the symptom.  Have a gait analysis.  Strengthen weak areas like hips and core muscles.  Ease back into activity, coming back from this injury slowly.  Too much, too soon will inevitably lead to reinjury.

Coach Meredith

The Benefits of Fatigue

Fatigue can be a nasty word.  Like anything else, too much is definitely not a good thing.  Excessive fatigue can lead to over training, stress fractures, mental burnout and loads of other injuries.  An appropriate dose of accumulated fatigue, however, is the prescription for a good training plan.

Most important among those things is adaption.  No workout happens by itself.  It’s surrounded by other workouts, life events, nutrition and sleep.  It’s the build up of stress on muscles and depleted energy stores that make training work.  Our bodies adapt to these tired or less than 100% states and get stronger.  In fact, it can take up to 14 days to recover from a hard fatigueworkout.  But you’ll keep running.  Easy running is incredibly important to help torn up muscle fibers repair.  It keeps our bodies working without adding so much stress we start to break down.

We can also take advantage of accumulated fatigue when preparing for a race.  Since you’re probably not going run 26.2 miles during training, use the previous day’s workout to help make 20 miles feel like 26.  Running a steady state six to eight miler the day before your long run means you’re starting that run with six miles under your belt.  It’s like starting at Mile 6 instead of the start line and both our bodies and brains benefit.

The mental toughness garnered from a pair of fatigue inducing workouts like that is a great tool for race day.  We gain confidence with each tough workout we power through.  Every run that’s one mile longer or 1% tougher tells our brain ‘hey, we can do this’.  Once we’ve broken that ‘I can do it’ barrier enough, it goes away.  We become familiar with the tiredness we’ll experience at the end of a long race and learn to push through it.

Now, let’s not forget to relax.  We all need a down week every four to six weeks.  It gives us a chance to heal significantly before going back to hard training.  That’s also the goal of tapering.  Get rid of all that accumulated training fatigue.  Allow your body to make the final adjustments it can so you are in peak performance shape on race day.  Fill up your fuel tank, let your muscles get as strong as they can and give your brain a breather.

Use accumulated fatigue to your advantage and reap the benefits on race day.

Coach Meredith