4 Easy Exercises to Reduce Running Injuries

Running Injury Exercises Stretches Physical Therapy Washington DC Running Stretches

Are you a runner? Chances are you have had some sort of leg pain or injury in the past. Some of you may have even sustained a longer-term injury. While there is no surefire way to prevent running injuries — trust us, we’d love to find that magic elixir as much as you would — there are ways to keep the body strong and limber enough to withstand all of the miles you are putting on it, whether you’re just going out a few times a week or training for your next marathon!

Exercise 1: Soleus Stretch

Let’s face it; most runners aren’t great about stretching, and the ones that are don’t always hit everything they should. The soleus is one of those oft-neglected muscles that could use some TLC, especially if you have had any Achilles issues in the past.

Running Injuries Physical Therapy Stretch

For this running stretch, position yourself like a normal calf stretch; move into a staggered stance, with one leg in front of your torso and one leg behind you. Keep the back heel down as you lean forward, but make sure to bend your back knee as you lean into the stretch. This one may feel a bit awkward at first, and you may need to have your feet a little closer together than usual. You can also put your big toe up on a small book or something similar to get more of a stretch in the soleus, Achilles, and even plantar fascia.

Exercise 2: Toe Yoga

Nothing is more important for a runner than taking care of your feet. Not only does this mean providing appropriate skin care and avoiding blisters, it also means keeping them nice and strong! Many runners who suffer foot or ankle injuries suffer from a lack of strength and stability within the foot’s intrinsic muscles. These muscles provide your base of support, and can affect everything else up the kinematic chain.

Running Injury Toe Feet Health Physical Therapy

For this exercise, you can either sit or stand with your foot flat on the floor. It is best to do this exercise barefoot at first, so you can see what exactly your foot is doing. Start by lifting your big toe up while keeping the rest of the foot relaxed and flat on the floor. Return your big toe to a resting position, and then lift your other toes up off the floor. You should be able to lift the other toes without the big toe curling; if so, your flexor hallucis longus (one of the muscles coming from your calf) is compensating for a lack of foot intrinsic strength. Keep working on this one until you can keep that big toe straight while lifting the others.

Exercise 3: Prone Hip Extension

Most PTs tend to focus on the hip abductors when evaluating runners for hip and knee pain, and for good reason! Runners only tend to move in one direction, resulting in weakness in the outside of their hips. However, their pain may not always be related to weakness in the gluteus medius, the main muscle responsible for hip stability on the outside of your hip. Instead, research is showing that weakness or a lack of firing in the gluteus maximus can result in hip and knee pain in runners.

Running Injury Prone Hip Extension Exercise Physical Therapy

For this exercise, lie face down and bend your knee up to 90 degrees or more. It may be a good idea to perform this exercise in front of a mirror at first to get a sense of where your knee is in space. Once in position, lift your foot straight up towards the ceiling, and focus on activating your gluteal muscles. If this gets difficult after 5 to 10 repetitions, keep working on it! Those glutes need to be nice and strong to keep you stable when running.

Single Leg Balance

If you break it down, running is merely the body jumping back and forth from one foot to another. You will never have both feet on the ground at the same time when running, so it is extremely important to have good balance on one leg!

Running Injury Single Leg Stance Exercise Physical Therapy

This one is as easy as it sounds. Stand on one foot! It may be better to do this barefoot at first, as you want to avoid your toes from “splaying,” or spreading out and trying to grip the surface you are standing on. If this seems easy, progress to standing on carpet, a pillow, or a piece of cushy foam to create a more unstable surface, forcing your foot and leg to stabilize even more.

How Winter Running Improves Your Health and Performance

winter running dc

Do you love to run but can’t bear to do it in the cold? Just because it’s the winter, doesn’t mean that you’re relegated to the treadmill or some other indoor activity in its place. There are actually some upsides to continuing your favorite pastime during the winter months. Some of which actually make cold weather running a bit more attractive than you may think.

Vanquish Visceral Fat

Studies have shown that cold weather running decreases the amount of fat that you maintain in your body. The human body has various types of fat that at one point or another can be converted into ATP to be used as energy or fuel during activity. Consistent cold weather running affects the more dangerous fats, the visceral fat, more commonly associated with LDLs and VLDLs. Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds your organs and leads to increased risk of coronary artery disease. Increased physiologic health in and of itself is a great reason to take to the cold streets.

Train Your Breathing

Along that same theme, cold weather running is a great way to keep the weight off and your body toned through the winter. Cold weather running is good for building endurance and improving body composition. By continuing to exercise outdoors during the winter, you are giving yourself the opportunity to train your breathing in such a way that your body can sustain such activity. An improved breathing pattern is a solid benefit to a runner which will pay dividends in the warmer months.

Eliminate Overheating

Running in the cold also decreases the amount of heat stress on your body. This is especially important for distance runners as they are exercising for prolonged periods of time. It is actually easier to run in some colder temperatures. Some of the powers that be have added credence to this fact. For instance, the Chicago Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon are both held in October while the New York Marathon is held in November. It is definitely on the colder side in all three of the cities that these races are held in at that time of year. There may be something to this running in cold weather after all.

Above are just some reasons that can help get you out the door for that run you so desperately want to go on but fear facing the cold. You’re not alone, so get out there and take advantage of some of the positive results that come from cold weather running. You never know, you may just train your way into a personal record.