Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm back

Hello again. Is anybody out there?

With high school cross country summer training just a couple of rest weeks away I thought I would share a link I came across in Running Times magazine. It is a video link for a progressive general strength and mobility for runners. GSM Running Times by Jay Johnson

Monday, August 2, 2010

Myth Busting Links

Here is a link to a couple of good posts: myth busting on latic acid and stretching.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hamstring strain recovery

Here is my post on recovery after a hamstring injury. Check out my previous post on hamstring strains for structure, function, signs, symptoms and risk factors.


When a hamstring injury is suspected it is advised to seek early medical attention from a sport medicine physician and physical therapist. They will be able to identify the severity of the injury and prescribe a very careful rehabilitation program. They will also be better is assisting you with return to sport thus minimizing the chance for re-injury. I see many patients that have made a minor injury significantly worse by trying to run too soon after the initial injury. They often feel the need to “test it” with a short run even though they don’t have a pain-free and unrestricted normal walking stride.

In the early stages of recovery stretching is avoided, as this actually slows the healing process by prohibiting muscle regeneration. I use the analogy of pulling the edges of an open wound apart. We don’t do that as it slow the healing process. When many “ old school” family practitioners diagnosis a hamstring injury, they often tell the patient to rest, heat and stretch. The research shows this is definitely the wrong approach and will likely lead to re-injury.

Restricted mobility of the hamstring is addressed by moving in the pain-free range of motion. Ice will help if it is done 2-3 times per day. The duration of ice depends on how the ice is delivered./ 5-8 minutes with an ice cup and up to 10 –20 minutes with a cold pack. Early stage exercises are done in a pain-free range of motion without direct resistance to the injured hamstring (no hamstring curl machines).

When pain-free and normal walking stride is achieved more functional strengthening is added. Aggressive stretching to end range should still be avoided. Core work and gluteal strengthening are emphasized. Hamstring curl machines are avoided as this is not strengthening the hamstring in a functional manner. Exercises that work the hamstring eccentrically (contracting but lengthening) are recommended. Speed of movement is gradually introduced and is one of the last things to improve. Return to running programs begin with downhill walks and uphill jogs progressing to continuous jogging to running over several weeks.

Hopefully this is helpful. Remember to seek help early, ice, avoid stretching an injured hamstring, avoid hamstring curl machines and don’t try to return to running too early!

Hamstring strains

Hamstrings strains are a very common running injury. These can be serious injuries, slow to heal. Nearly one third of these injuries return in the first year. The high chance for re-injury may be the result of the failure to identify several factors such as the underlying muscle imbalances, weakness, mobility and faulty movement patterns.


The hamstring consists of the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris muscles. The long head of the biceps femoris is the most often injured.
These muscles originate at the back side of the pelvis off of the ischial tuberosity. The ischial tuberosity is the part of the pelvis that we sit on. The semimembranosus, semitendinosus insert on the inside of the lower leg and the biceps femoris inserts on the outside of the lower leg.

Function and mechanisms of injury:

When most of us think of the hamstring function we think hamstring curl or bending the knee to bring the foot toward the buttocks (knee flexion) and bringing the thigh backwards (hip extension). However, with movement (walking and running) the hamstring primary function is not knee flexion. Think of the hamstring in terms as reigns of a horse. With movement, the primary function of the hamstring is to decelerate the lower leg as it swings forward. The hamstring is contracting but lengthening(eccentric contraction). This is when most hamstring injuries occur with running. In other words, the hamstring is not strong enough to handle the velocity of the lower leg before the next heel strike.

Other severe injuries, such as partial or full ruptures, may occur with sudden hip flexion with the knee extended. This commonly happens with water skiing when the skier falls forward over the skis. Dancers, yoga enthusiasts and gymnasts also often rupture the hamstring with an extreme stretch.

Signs and symptoms:

When a hamstring is injured a "grabbing" sensation is felt, followed by pain, which may limit activity. A normal stride may not be possible. When the injury is near the ischial tuberosity (sit bone)it usually indicates a severe injury which is very slow to heal. With sitting the injured hamstring will tighten up and often body weight is shifted off the injured side. If excessive ecchymosis (bruising), severe tenderness to touch and significant loss of range of motion are present, the hamstring may be fully or partially ruptured. However, even in the absence of these signs, hamstring strains are very difficult to heal and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even after rest, normal everyday activities such as kneeling, squatting and walking may be limited and may easily re-strain the hamstring.

Risk factors:

Age and prior history of hamstring injuries
Hamstring eccentric weakness with fatigue
Muscle imbalance
(very strong quadriceps to weak eccentric hamstring and glutes)
Lack of mobility
Hip flexor tightness with lower abdominal weakness

In my next post I will discuss the recovery process.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Momma Knows Best

Over the years, I've had many patients that complain of middle back, low back, neck and shoulder pain. Many of these patients also happen to be competitive or recreational runners/exercisers. A disturbing trend is developing where these clients aren't always adults. More and more, we are seeing children and teens with legitimate pain from poor posture not only in running and athletics, but in just day to day activities.
Postural weakness and pain develops from muscles being continuously put into a lengthened state (think slumped over at a computer). These muscles in between your shoulder blades and down into your lower back are much less effective in this state. They work much harder and fatigue much faster. This may result in muscle pain, trigger points, shoulder pain, back pain, or neck pain.
Now consider running. If these same muscles that are supposed to support your upper body, trunk, hips, and most importantly, your legs, are getting tired after 10 minutes of running, your body is going to fatigue much faster. Not to mention the fact that if you're slumping during a run, your lung capacity and overall breathing is going to be compromised, making your body work that much harder.
The next time you watch a race on TV, notice the form and posture of the some the world's greatest runners. They are all running with great form and posture. Now, I'm not saying that if you change your posture, you're going to be an olympian, but it will improve your stamina, prevent injury, make you more efficient over time.
Remember some of the things we talk about in this blog: core strength and functional strength. Most people think of abdominals when they hear the word "core". But, your abdominals are not the only part of your core. The muscles between your shoulder blades and throughout your trunk are all part of your "core". Your core is only as strong as the weakest link.
In the future, I will post some pics of simple postural exercises. Until then, remember what mom (or dad) said: Sit up straight! Stand tall! They were right, after all!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Here are some cool lyrics to 2 of my favorite running related songs.

"Middle Distance Runner" by Sea Wolf

Well I'm so sad tonight
And the words won't come out right
It's been a long day on the track
And its stamina that I lack

So won't you run to me tonight?
Tonight we could pretend that we're just lovers
But I'll only ever be a middle distance runner

Well my heart is beating hard
And I'm off with a shot at the start
And my legs tremble from strain
But by the finish line I am drained

So won't you run to me tonight?
Tonight let's not talk about next summer
Cause I'll only ever be a middle distance runner

Well I'm so proud tonight
Of the woman you've become
And I'm just too tired to fight
So my darling, I'll succumb

But you'll have to run to me tonight
Tonight I will love you forever
But I'll only ever be a middle distance runner

"Slowpoke" by Neil Young

I got some medals
hanging on my chest,
I've seen some good ones,
but I missed the rest.
Lady luck don't you turn on me,
I'm just a student of your history,
I'm just a student of your history.

Slowpoke I'm gonna run with you,
Wear all your clothes and
do what you do.
we got some things to find,
When I was faster,
I was always behind,
When I was faster,
I was always behind.

Let the body adjust

With further reading of the April edition of the Running Times, I found a another way for us to increase our mileage after lay off or an injury. Jack Daniels (the exercise physiologist) suggests that the old 10% a week rule is arbitrary. He recommends staying at a certain mileage for 3-4 weeks then adding approximately 10 more miles in the next week. He suggests adding 1 mile or 10 minutes to each run you do in a week. Then you would stay at that level for 3-4 weeks before the next jump. This method give s the body a chance to adjust to this stress level before a new level is introduced.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More on dynamic warm-ups

I just got my April edition of the Running Times magazine. This issue is full of some great articles, one written by Mackenzie Lobby on the benefits of a dynamic warm-up rather than static stretching. This author shares more on how static stretching inhibits muscles action. Static stretching actually relaxes muscles which is obviously counter productive when you are about to run a hard workout or a race.

Dynamic mobility exercises will better prepare the muscles involved in running to begin their work and help to avoid injury. Static stretching is better suited for post workout routines. St. Vincent Sports Performance suggests a pre-race /workout routine of slow jogging then performing dynamic mobility exercises followed by some up tempo striders.

This has been my approach for several years. I no longer do any static stretching before any work-out or race. I also avoid static stretching after a hard race or workout as well. It is my opinion that it is safer to stretch a least 1 day after a heavy load is place on muscle. Give the sore muscles groups a chance to naturally stretch during your average day. It has been my experience that runners who stretch after a hard run or race actually predispose themselves to injury.

Here is a link to view what they are doing at St. Vincent Sports Performance.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Learn to read/injury prevention

Learn how to read

January. Time to start our spring Mini Marathon training. For some of us this means building on our winter base training. For others it is time to find our shoes and our winter gear and to head out the door for the first time. Over the next several weeks we will be adding miles and possibly introducing some quality (speed). During any change in our training, which requires an increase in effort, it is important to determine how our bodies are responding to this change in work load and give them time to adapt. We need to know when to push and when to back off. In other words we must learn to read our aches and pains to determine what we can ignore versus what may be trouble brewing.

I would like to clarify this with a scenario that occurs every year.

“Jeff” decided to begin his Mini Marathon training program. He has been active over the winter doing the elliptical and spinning classes. He found the same shoes that he wore in last year’s race. They have about 400 miles of wear on them.

In the first two weeks of the training program he ran 2 miles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He continued to do his Friday spinning class. Later that day he felt a dull ache on the back of his heel where the Achilles tendon is attached. Saturday when he woke up he felt fairly stiff and noted that his Achilles was even stiffer and a little sore. He stretched his calf muscle really hard. By the time he started his scheduled 45 minute tempo run his aches had gone away. He was really feeling good, so he pushed the pace. Half way into his run he felt that ache again. He stretched really aggressively but it seemed to make the aching worse. Sunday was a scheduled rest day but he decided he would run anyway. His Achilles ached the entire run. On Monday morning he was almost limping on the way to his spinning class. His Achilles was sore the entire class and during his day at work. He really had to push himself to finish his Monday night run.

On Tuesday he could barely stand and walking was very painful. When he tried to stretch he thought he felt a “pop” on the back of his lower leg. Jeff now has a very severe injury to his Achilles tendon.

Where did Jeff go wrong in this scenario? How could he have avoided this injury?

First Jeff should have started out by purchasing a pair of new running shoes. Wearing shoes that are worn or have greater than 300 miles on them increases the risk of injury significantly.

Sunday he should have stuck to his training schedule. Rest is rest and is just as important as a training day. Our bodies need rest in order to recover and remodel so we can become stronger. Ignoring rest days will lead to burn out and injury. Jeff may have benefited from decreasing the intensity and frequency of his spinning class as he is starting his Mini marathon training. Spin class should be considered as a hard training day. It is not to be considered as a running rest day just because it isn’t running. They have very similar demands on the legs and in Jeff’s case, spinning continued to load his irritated Achilles tendon. Cross training is generally fine but sometimes doing an activity that doesn’t load the legs is a safer option. Swimming with a pull buoy is a good choice.

Jeff’s biggest mistake was his inability to read and listen to his symptoms. When he felt the aching the first time, he should have used ice on his heel/Achilles and avoided the aggressive stretching. When symptoms are felt during a workout and they don’t go away or if they worsen, STOP. At least slow down and shorten the work out. ICE and avoid aggressive stretching. If an area is aching, stretching needs to be gentle and non painful. Stretching aggressively may make a minor injury much more symptomatic.

If the symptoms go away and don’t return, a work out may be completed. It is still prudent to shorten the workout and ice. If symptoms are felt during the day just walking around, it is better to not workout. REST or cross train without loading the sore area. ICE frequently. Do no running until pain-free during everyday activities. Then the return to running needs to be short and easy and should be followed by a rest day. This will allow Jeff to evaluate how the Achilles is handling the return to running with less chance for re-injury.

Learn to read your body.
I hope this is helpful!

Log it


This marks my 31st year of using the Complete Runner's Day by Day Log. Sure there are some great online logs such as RunningAHEAD and Active but I still enjoy having a hard copy of my running data. A hard copy allows for a quick reference of past workouts,splits, times and long forgotten races. It is useful to look back and see training errors and past injuries. I have also use my running logs to record important events in my life such as family accomplishments and vacations.
What ever log you use, I hope you find it useful and enjoyable.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the aging runner

I read an excellent article in the November issue of the Running times by Richard Lovett on the Science of Aging. I will summarized some of what I read and add some of my thoughts as well.

the bad news

Runners will slow approximately 7% per decade starting in their 40's/ 50's/ 60's and then more quickly. Why? VO2 max declines, flexibility and strength declines, body fat may increase, max heart rate drops 1 beat per minute each year and we (the aging) have a reduced ability to clear lactic acid.

the good news

VO2 max in sedentary people declines by 10% per decade after age 30. VO2 max in runners who stick with training can cut that decline in half. Long runs of at least 1 hour at a moderate pace and continuing to race can help maintain VO2 max. We should maintain the intensity of our harder workouts but we may need to reduce the frequency our of hard runs. We need to allow more time to recover/ more rest days.
I swim twice a week with a pull buoy. This allows my legs to rest while I still get a cardio workout.

Flexibility and strength: We must keep our functional mobility or in other words our ability to squat and kneel. How many of our peers can't get out of their chairs without using their arms or squat to check their tire pressure? If functional mobility/strength is lost our running will suffer. We will be at a higher risk for injury. We should work on dynamic stretching, foam rolling and careful static stretching. We need to use the range of motion that we have during everyday activities. Use or lose it! Strength training with manageable amount of weight to the point of moderate fatigue or "burn" will help maintain our baseline strength.

"Long may you run"
Neil Young

"Cherish it. Its a beautiful thing, when you can click the miles along. Its a beautiful thing, and you better cherish it." Meb Keflezighi

So true. We sometimes don't realize this until its gone. Train smart, seek help early and stay healthy.