Hitting Those Running Goals...
by Alexa Yancey, PT, DPT
It’s officially a New Year. At this point, you are either just now getting “into the groove” with your fitness goals or you’re thinking “new month, fresh start!”. Either way, AWESOME! It is a new month and a fresh beginning (yet again!). Whether you are starting your goal by getting off the couch or training for the race of a lifetime, this little piece of information is for you: make sure you get moving the SMART way. What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s an acronym that helps you with setting goals and making sure your goal is a good goal for YOU. Here is the breakdown:
S- Specific. Make sure you are writing down EXACTLY what you want to do. You could write a goal like “Run a 5k this year”, ok great! But do you want to run the whole time? Goal of just completing the race? Make it under a certain time? Make sure your goal is SPECIFIC!
M- Measurable. Is there a way for you to say “yes, I met this goal”? THAT IS IMPORTANT. A measurable goal is one that can be marked as “done” or “not done”.
A- Achievable. While lofty goals that make you reach for the stars are fun- they aren’t always something you can actually complete and it can drive your desire down for trying to reach the goal.
R- Realistic. Your goal needs to be something that works with your schedule, your needs, and your lifestyle. It has to be something that you know is possible for you to do at this time.
T- Timely. Don’t set a goal that is so far in the distance or too soon that it doesn’t give you the time necessary (or the motivation required) to complete the goal. Make sure you have a specific time incorporated in your goal (whether it be 2 weeks, 10 weeks, 8 months, etc.). The timeliness of the goal should correspond with the goal outcomes (for example: a 5k goal can be realistically set for a much sooner time than a 10k goal).
The best way to make sure you reach a goal - TELL A FRIEND ABOUT IT! Statistics show you are more likely to adhere to your goal if you’ve shared it with others. That is what the Milers are all about- supporting each other with our ultimate goals. Join us for a group run and make sure to share your goal with someone!
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Alexa Yancey, PT, DPT
Plantar fasciitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament- which is a thick fibrous band that travels from your heel to your toes. Everyone has a plantar fascia in each foot, but when injury/irritation occurs to that plantar fascia- that is when plantar fasciitis occurs. Most feel pain right along the bottom of the heel or the arch of the foot. Getting up in the morning especially causes pain as the plantar fascia/foot muscles stretch to accommodate your first few steps out of bed.
Who is prone to getting plantar fasciitis? Runners, of course! Those who are overweight and those who wear inadequate shoe support are also more likely to develop plantar fasciitis. This is why it is very important to wear shoes that fit well, provide great support, and aren’t “tired” (remember to replace your shoes between 300-500 miles as a general rule of thumb!). Irritation can also happen to the plantar fascia from standing on hard surfaces for long periods of time. If your job requires you to stand on concrete for extended period of time, see if you can make accommodations with a softer standing mat or sitting/propping for periods of time.
What can I do for plantar fasciitis? First off, speak to your doctor to determine a plan that works best for you. Typically, rest and ice are recommended. Unfortunately for runners/walkers, rest does mean laying off running for a bit! It could be anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months that one has to cut-back on their running/walking to help conservatively let the plantar fascia heal. Physical therapy, stretching, orthotics, and night splints are other factors that can help with conservative care as well.
This gives you a very basic overview of plantar fasciitis. If you have more questions or think this might be something you are dealing with, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. Keep a look out for next month’s article which will tell you exactly what to look for in a running/walking shoe. Preventive medicine is the best medicine!
(Stretching of left "gastroc")
(Stretching of right soleus)
You Have to Stretch!
Alexa Yancey, PT, DPT
With the cooler weather starting to fall upon us (no pun intended!), there are many of us who have decided to put our running shoes back on and take advantage of the cooler temperatures. With the start of new running programs, can also ignite the start of new problems. Within the last week, I have had several complaints of increased pain related to the lower extremity, specifically the calf/ankle/foot, from increased running/walking. My question to all of them? “Have you been stretching!?”
Not to my surprise, most of them haven’t been doing a stretching regiment at all! Oh my! Announcement to all my runners/walkers (and even the couch sitters)- stretching is VERY important!!! Today, I am going to focus on stretching the calves.
Calf issues can start as just pain in the calf but it can become even more... It can lead to heel pain, plantar fasciitis, knee/hip discomfort, and even serious injuries, like an Achilles rupture. The calf consists of two muscles called the gastrocnemius and soleus. The gastrocnemius (or shortened to ‘gastroc’) is the large muscle that crosses your knee joint and down to the ankle. The soleus muscle does not cross the knee joint, therefore to stretch this muscle it is slightly different. Calf muscles make it possible for you to lift your heels off the ground and go on your tip-toes. With all these mountains/hills in Lake County, you surely get a good calf workout every time you ascend a hill!
I have attached my favorite calf stretch that I want you to try at home, all you need is a step. They are simple but effective. Start adding them to your routine daily. Remember- you have to put in the time of stretching now to avoid the injury later. For further questions or concerns related to injuries, always talk to your doctor.
Calf stretch off step:
1) Place both feet on a step
2) Take one foot and slide heel off step so that your foot is half on/half off the step
3) Using your hands on the handrails, let the weight of your body shift to the back foot
(that is hanging off the step) and let your heel drop down towards the ground. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat 4x on each foot.
4) Perform with your back knee straight (picture 1) to stretch the gastrocnemius
5) Perform with your back knee bent (picture 2) to stretch the soleus
Pushing Through the Pain.... Right or Wrong?
by Alexa Yancey, PT, DPT
Almost every athlete has heard the infamous quote of “push through the pain!” or “no pain, no gain!”. Well, I’m here to tell you- don't live by those sayings... You could potentially be causing yourself physical ailments by “pushing through the pain.”
There is always a time and a place for everything. That includes pain. Pain is your body’s way of telling the brain “Hey! Something is wrong! Help me out!". Most of the time, pain receptors are really GOOD things (how else would you know to take your hand off of a hot plate unless your nervous system told your brain “MOVE!”). Pain receptors are trying to tell you something to help protect you. It can be confusing for those just starting their exercise journey, as soreness can sometimes be associated with pain. However, soreness is a temporary sensation that diminishes over time and eases away. Pain has different characteristics.
Here is a quick guide regarding pain (adapted from American Physical Therapy Association):
1) If you’re having sharp, shooting feelings of pain- that is an immediate reason to stop. Sharp, shooting pain should not be associated with your fitness routine. If it is a dull and achy pain that coincides with exercise changes (example: running farther or faster), then most likely that is muscle soreness caused from fatigue/muscle deficits.
2) Pain does not subside after running. It is normal to be sore after running, but NOT normal to have pain for hours or days after a run. If you find yourself constantly rubbing a certain spot or your mind is distracted due to pain after your run, this is not normal.
3) Pain that wakes you up at night. There is absolutely NO reason AT ALL for you to be waking up due to pain. This is an immediate red flag.
4) Pain that worsens when you run. If you typically have specific pain throughout your day to day (or even just intermittently), but then running exasperates that pain each time- this is not typical.
5) Pain that persists in the same area, every time you run. While it is okay to have soreness after an intense race or with extensive training, it is not normal to have reoccurring pain in a pinpoint location after each run.
Keep these characteristics of pain in mind while performing any exercise and it may prevent further injury down the road. If you do find yourself having pain symptoms related to any of the list above, talk with your doctor. The moral? Listen to your body- it is trying to tell you something for a reason!
Running... Should I Be Worried About My Knees?
Alexa Yancey, PT, DPT
I’m sure you’ve heard it from many people... “you shouldn’t be running that much, it is bad for your knees” or “aren’t you worried all this running will ruin your knees for the future?” or my favorite “you only have so many steps in your legs, don’t waste them early in life by running so much!” Many people associate running, especially long distances, with knee osteoarthritis (also just called “arthritis”). While runners can have injuries (just like any sport!), osteoarthritis is not a concern for healthy runners.
Lets debunk the myth right now- running does NOT cause osteoarthritis. A study completed in 2014 (see first link below) looked at the loads placed on knees in running versus walking. Yes, it is obvious that running will be placing more load through the joint than walking due to the higher-impact. However, when a walker and runner both complete a mile- the walker has taken MANY more steps than the runner. Ultimately, the joint load evens out, where the runner has a higher joint load but less steps and the walker has a lower joint load but many more steps.
A different cross-sectional study published in 2013 (see second link below) assessed almost 75,000 runners with the conclusion that there is "no evidence that running increases the risk of osteoarthritis, including participation in marathons.” In fact, the article went on to discuss how BMI (body mass index = ratio of weight to height) plays a larger factor with the onset of arthritis than running or walking. Want to know the BEST part? Runners were LESS likely to have arthritis due to most runners having a healthier BMI.
Ok, ok... so those of you who have your thinking caps on, I’m sure you’re thinking “that is only TWO studies, show me more”. I’m here to do just that! Below is a list of various articles for you to peruse and enjoy. Next time someone asks you if you’re worried about your knees, you can tell them confidently “you should be worried about yours!”
11 Tips To Make Running Easier
No one heads out on a run thinking, “I want this to feel as hard as possible.” Nuh-uh. We want it to feel good. We want it to feel less difficult than before. And it will if you try out these 11 simple-to-follow running tips:
1. Shorten Your Stride
It’s counterintuitive, sure, but shortening your stride and aiming to take more steps per minute (180 is ideal) can help you run more efficiently. It saves you energy you would have spent trying to cover more ground with each step.
2. Look Ahead
Keeping your eyes focused on a target in front of you can actually make your runs seem shorter and easier, according to research from New York University. You'll likely perceive your target as closer in distance than you would have if you were taking in everything else around you.
3. Lean Forward
Let gravity help you out. Leaning forward from your ankles (not your hips!) will help you “fall forward” with every step, which takes some of the work away from your legs.
4. Get New Shoes
If you don’t replace your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles, they get worn out and can actually make your run more difficult.
5. Relax Your Arms
Tensing your shoulders and tightly bending your elbows wastes energy that can be better spent moving forward. Here are some tips for switching up your arms for a better run.
6. Break Up Your Runs
Sure, seven miles is seven miles. But if you divvy up your mileage into a one-mile warm-up, five-mile run, and one-mile cool down, each leg will feel a little less overwhelming.
7. Dress Comfortably
Running is hard enough without a bra strap digging into your side or blisters forming between your toes. Take some time to find quality, sweat-wicking workout gear that makes you feel both physically and mentally comfortable.
8. Drink Up
Dehydration is serious stuff. Sweating out even two percent of your body’s weight (that’s just a pound or two!) can wreck your physical performance—not to mention cause cramps, dizziness, and fatigue. Basically, it makes running miserable. Learn how much water you need to drink while running.
9. Race Someone
Picking out a runner on the sidewalk to rival can help you run faster without even knowing it. In one New York University study, runners who competed with at least one fellow runner cut almost eight seconds off of their mile pace.
10. Keep Yourself Entertained
Sometimes the hardest thing about running is the boredom. To help pass the time, tag along with a running buddy, or download some podcasts, audiobooks, or new tunes. These 25 playlists for every possible workout routine on the planet should do the trick.
11. Take Time to Recover
Scheduling recovery workouts and rest days into your schedule will actually help those hard days seem a little less difficult. Your muscles need time to recoup. Follow these six recovery tips for runners.