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Running Injuries! Correct Technique & Tips to Avoid Injuries

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in September of 2020. For the original video go to

Mike: Hi Folks, I’m Mike Kenitz, Physical Therapist Assistant.

Brad: Brad Heineck, Physical Therapist. Mike is filling in for Bob since he’s on vacation, he’s part of the Bob and Brad Crew and we are happy to have him on here. Today’s title is going to be Running Injuries, Correct Technique & Tips to Avoid Injuries. We’re going to help you and show you ways so you can run pain free, longer, faster, whether you’re a beginner or advanced. I’ve been running for over 30 years and you’ve got how many years under your belt?

Mike: I’ve been running for about 15 years on and off.

Brad: There you go. We both run. I would personally say I run semi-competitively, 5ks, 10ks, half marathons. I did one marathon and you’ve done multiple.

Mike: I’ve done 3 full marathons in the past. I’m training for a half right now.

Brad: We are going to use our experience as physical therapists, as runners over the long time as well as some research. Two books that I’ve personally read. Bob and I have both read these books. Mike hasn’t, but they’re really good if you want to reduce your injuries and correct your form and improve your form. The first one is called "Born to Run," by Christopher McDougall. It talks about long distance running, forefoot running. It’s really an enjoyable read. I liked it a lot. It gave me a lot of motivation and technical advice. Book #2 is "Pose Method of Running" written by a PhD, Dr. Nicholas Romanovs. Very technical book, a lot of really good information, a lot of drills and exercises and biomechanical advice and support for why running, particularly forefoot running is going to help you out. It switched me over from a heel striker to a forefoot runner. We’re going to get into that in a little bit.

Mike: I have gone to a seminar on forefoot running in the past. I’ve tried it, it’s fine. I like to do it more if I’m doing trail running, like grass or stuff. It’s definitely something you have to get acclimated to and it’s a totally different running mechanism than heel striking. I’m more of a midfoot/heel striker right now, but it’s definitely less of a heel striker than I used to be after going to the seminar.

Brad: If you’re going to go run, I do advise a brief warmup. I personally don’t do a lengthy warmup. There’s a controversy whether you need to warm up at all. If you’re going to go out and do a sprint or an aggressive start, for sure. If you’re just going to start out slow, I like to start walking, pick up my walking speed as part of my warmup, and then I’ll get into my jog and progress the speed as I tolerate. Mike, what do you do?

Mike: You can also do some body weight exercises real quick, just to get your heart rate elevated. Right now, I’m trying to run at a little quicker tempo starting, so that first mile is a little rough when you go from a resting heart rate in the 60's to running a heart rate at 150. It’s quite a jump. So, just get your body temperature warmed up. You can just do some ballistic stretching. You can do some jumping jacks, pushups, whatever, body weight squats if you want.

Brad: Ballistic stretching?

Mike: Static.

Brad: Ok, that’s what I thought. Static, that’s what I call it. See, we’re different generations. We talk differently.

Mike: I guess, LOL.

Brad: I do want to talk about stretching. Again, stretching, some people say you don’t need to stretch prior. I like to stretch. I think there’s three muscle groups that if you’re interested in stretching, I think should be the primary muscle groups that you should stretch, if you’re going to. Number 1 is the calf muscles. They are working awfully hard. I think, by far, an incline board is the best way to stretch your calves if you’re going to be doing a lot of running. It’s nice to have one. This is one that I made. I had the lumbar laying around, some one by sixes and a top. You can make it right cheaply if you’re handy and you have some tools. If not, you can buy them for like $15-$20. This really is a good way to stretch the calf muscles, get the soleus and the gastric. You can simply forget that and go to a wall, and do the wall stretch and it works well too. Not as well as the other one, but it works good enough for running. I have one of these right by my door. When I walk out of the door, I just simply do some stretching, obviously on both legs. Then the hamstring; if you’re running, you’ve got fairly good balance. I personally like to get on a chair. This chair is a little bit low for me actually.

Mike: You can also do it on steps.

Brad: I would do it up here on the shelf on the wall.

Mike: Ha-ha, I wouldn’t do that.

Brad: Some people don’t have this flexible of hamstrings. I do it, and this is less work for me. So, get a level that’s comfortable to you. Keep your back straight and stretch. You can go 30 seconds times three, or on/off for 5-10 reps. I would prefer the on/off myself. Then you have hip flexion. This is probably the easiest hip flexion stretch. Don’t do it on a hard surface, you’ll hurt your knee. Grass or carpet and good posture. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on these stretches, but just so you see the ones I really think are the primary ones. I do not do the hip flexor stretch before I run. I do the other two. I do this one in another part of my exercise week.

Mike: I actually don’t stretch a whole lot before, more after. Every morning though, before I run or eat every morning, I actually use the foot massage to warm up my feet.

Brad: Oh, you do?

Mike: Usually they’re a little achy, yeah.

Brad: Who massages your feet?

Mike: The shiatsu foot massager.

Brad: Male or female? Oh, you mean a machine.

Mike: The machine! Or the massage gun I’ll use that too on my calves, kind of dig in.

Brad: Oh, that’s a good idea.

Mike: That’s what I like to do just to get the circulation in your feet going, because when I wake up in the morning my feet are a little achy. They’re just stiff and sore.

Brad: Yup.

Mike: That’s what I do every time I go running, it’s great.

Brad: Once you start running, I was taught this by coaches over the years and I just held onto it, is learned to relax when you run. If you relax, your energy goes to the muscles that need it. One thing that helped me is one of my coaches, in cross country said keep your fingertips touching very gently. Not a fist, nothing tight in your hands. If you’ve got a fist, you may have tightened muscles. You’re not even aware of it, so you have to have a lot of awareness. Some people run tight and are not aware of it.

Mike: I actually run with fists, but I don’t like to have a tight fist. They are just like a loose fist, but I never really thought about it. I just thought it was awkward running with my hands open. I used to also hold my iPod back in the day or my phone before I got a Flip Belt, which Brad’s actually wearing right now, to hold my phone for my music because I like to run with music.

Brad: I’ve tried to run with a phone for my timer, and it just throws me off because you have to hold it, your muscles are tight. I’m completely not relaxed.

Mike: Put the Flip Belt on or you get a GPS watch.

Brad: Also, I check my jaw muscles. If my jaw muscles are tight, a lot of times you’re not even aware of it. Everything is going to be tight up here. Once your face is tight, it goes down into your hands, your lungs or your shoulders and your lungs. If these muscles are loose, everything else seems to be loose with me, relaxed breathing, relaxed upper body. Let the energy go to those hips and the legs, keep moving forward.

Mike: I actually run with gum.

Brad: Chew gum?

Mike: Yeah. It keeps my saliva glands going and it doesn’t give me dry mouth. So, I’m going on a long, like 10 mile run and it’s hot out, I don’t have water breaks, because I don’t really need them for 10 miles, so I just chew gum to get that saliva going in my mouth.

Brad: You run 10 miles without water?

Mike: Yeah,

Brad: Wow, you must be like a camel. My wife is like that.

Mike: The most I’ve done is 15 and it was pretty rough.

Brad: Hydration is very critical.

Mike: I super hydrate before it and had a bunch of electrolytes. It was kind of on purpose to see what I can do.

Brad: Especially in hot weather, you really need to hydrate before and during the run, if you’re running any longer.

Mike: Go early in the morning, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Brad: I don’t run long distances anymore, so I don’t have that issue. I do want to touch on posture. Just want to say, the biggest mistake that we see with people running is forward posture and not being aware of it. It takes a lot of energy. When you’re forward, you cannot breathe as well. Your diaphragm is stuck in there against your visceral organs. You have to get up so you can breathe better, shoulders back. There are a couple instances where this is not true, is if you’re running up a hill, you obviously need to run forward. Run into that hill, climb the hill. One of my coaches taught me that, and I keep it with me today. The next thing is, if you’re a forefoot runner,

Mike: Then you lean forward.

Brad: Slightly lean forward but it’s not enough to really know. But there is a slight forward posture.

Mike: Yeah, forefoot running’s different. You're kind of falling into the step as I would say, from what I watched in the seminar.

Brad: Yes, that’s what they’ll talk about in the books I mentioned. You feel like you’re falling forward, so your feet have to keep up with you. It’s a subtle fall. You just feel a little bit that way. It’s like you’re pulling yourself forward. It is really a nice experience once I figured it out. I was a heel striker for at least 20 years. Landed on my heel, roll through. That’s the way I was taught in high school back in the 70s. You have to roll through, got very used to it. Then I decided, because I have spondylolisthesis, I want to save my back for the long haul. I’m going to become a forefoot runner. It took me about two years to break the habit so I could do it and now I can run without thinking about it. However, it took a while and a lot of calf strengthening that first year, because all of a sudden that impact, instead of going through your joints, your calf absorbs it like a shock absorber. Then it takes it out on you, so you have to build it up. The shoes I used to wear, I’d always buy a cushioned shoe, which this is, I wouldn’t run with this shoe, but more of a cushion in here. I would take the factory insert out, put a cushioned insert in. Then when I have cushion, I always felt better. When I was a forefoot runner, I’d get minimal issues and I run on my forefoot, and these are thick compared not my old pair. Very little support is needed because you’re running on your forefoot. It’s a nice advantage, I think. They’re lighter. What do you use Mike?

Mike: So, I have a Saucony and Endorphin Speed. They have the rolling heel technology, compared to a standard shoe, as you can see here. It kind of propels you forward. If you do land more on your heel, it’s definitely different. When I first bought them, I noticed, my feet kind of had to get used to them. I enjoy them now. They are pretty thick. They are a little flexible, but I like these ones. They’re definitely, if you want good shoes, you have to buy what terrain you’re going to train on. So, if you’re going to do more cross country running, or if you’re going to do road running, or you can do trail running, you need the different grips. The shoes are completely designed differently. These are $160.00. A good pair of shoes are not cheap but they’re well worth the investment. What other shoes have you used? New balance?

Brad: I used to use New Balance, Asics, those were my two big ones when I was a heel striker, but that was years ago, and they change. They never keep the same shoe from season to season.

Mike: Yeah, they always change.

Brad: It’s like you get one you like and then the next year you get the same name, and they change it a little bit. That’s a frustration.

Mike: I’ve used New Balance, Saucony’s and I’ve had Asics as well. I like them all, they all make good shoes, I’d say. There’s a brand called Hoka that’s out there now too. They’re a little newer and a lot thicker. That’s more for the high mileage runners, like the ultra-runners.

Brad: Keep the cushion, protect the joints and back. So, spend time with your shoe selection. That is one thing you do need to spend some time in the store and try on a number of different shoes. Get one that feels good for you, that matches your running style. Last but not least, find a running buddy or support group. There’s going to be days you don’t feel like running, and you’ve got your goal to achieve so many miles per week, or you’ve got a race or event coming up that you want to prepare for. Always more fun, always helps to have someone to cheer you on. You’re supposed to meet someone at 6AM before work. A lot of times I won’t do it unless there’s someone there I have to meet, then I’m going to be there and then you’re happier when you’re done. So, find some support, a buddy, carry on at that route. Anything else you got, Mike?

Mike: My support buddy is digital. Through my apple watch here because he has an apple watch. Whenever we work out, we each see what the other person worked out. It gets sent to our watches. So, I know if he did his runs for the day and he knows if I did mine.

Brad: Without even being there.

Mike: Yes, he lives two and a half hours away from me. So, he’s kind of seeing me run, so he’s running now. He actually hasn’t done distance running before.

Brad: That’s kind of weird for me. I kind of like it in a way.

Mike: Future, Brad.

Brad: It’s going to take me a little while to get into that, but I will. I’ll work on that for next year.

Mike: These apple watches are super nice too because you can see your pacing, like how fast you’re running. Super handy just to look at your wrist real quick, then look at your phone.

Brad: I definitely will consider that. Then I’d have to find a buddy that also has one of these. That would be hard because at my age, a lot of them, you know, that’s another story.

Mike: I’ll add you to my list.

Brad: People are tired of listening to us, they’re all gone now, ha-ha. Enjoy.

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