Beginner’s Guide to Running #2: Train to Run Smarter

The Key to Being a Better Runner

What can you do to make yourself a better runner? Many of you might need to brace yourselves for what we are about to say…

You have to do more than just run! 

Just because you run anywhere from 1 to 50 miles per week, it doesn’t make you strong. It doesn’t mean you have the best quads and leg strength. In fact, if that’s all you focus on, you probably actually have very weak legs.

This can be hard to accept because you just want to run and racking up a significant number of miles per week looks great on paper or in an app (especially if you are also a data nerd!)but training smartly and doing more than just running is truly the best way to improve. 

But why?  When you run, think about your body as a human projectile. Better control and stability lead to better outcomes every time your foot hits the ground and you projectile yourself forward again! When you run an average of 9:30min/ mile, your entire foot is on the ground for .3 seconds at a time. That is A LOT of force on the ground in a short amount of time. That force can be leveraged to give you more power but it can also be the force that causes injuries if your body is not strengthened properly in all the right ways.

Learning how to avoid one and optimize the other during that contact time on the ground is one key way to become a smarter and better runner.

Did you know? One of the weakest links in running comes from the inability to posture correctly and activate your gluteus maximus (buttocks) efficiently. One of the biggest mistakes runners make is relying too heavily on their quads and not enough through their hips and glutes.

Leaning backward while running forces you to use your quads too much (setting you up for knee injuries) and not enough from your hips. Forward movement of the body is propelled by hip extension. Any good runner has proper symmetry of the right muscles to make them a stronger runner. A Physical Therapist is a skilled clinician to assess your movement and create the proper strengthening program safely.

Train Smarter, Run Better

Running puts stress on your body. Over a period of time, your body accommodates this stress, but be careful not to overload because that is when things start to change and things start to hurt. Once something hurts, you change your form and it becomes poor…who can run well if they are hurting? Poor form leads to more stress and more pain. See the snowball effect going on here? And honestly, we get enough snow in Syracuse!

When you start to feel pain (back pain, hip pain, foot or ankle pain) this is a symptom of something, not the cause. The best question to ask yourself and the question that Physical Therapists ask themselves as Movement Specialists is “What is the biomechanical cause?” The biomechanical cause typically stems from a lack of proper strength.

Since we are all unique as runners, meaning we have our own form of running and our own unique motor pattern, the best plan for EVERY runner is to smartly strengthen.

A good training paradigm is done in 3 phases. Following this type of format will get you on your way to running smarter.

  • Phase 1 Stability – Developing muscle memory through efficient motor patterns is the first building block of creating the right form for you. This means high reps and low weights; repetition, repetition.
  • Phase 2 Strength –  Developing gross motor strength is very important as well. This must be done after form is developed or your efforts are lost to poor form and potentially working the wrong muscle too hard. This is when high intensity and heavy weights with low reps come into play.
  • Phase 3 Power – This is the time when you recruit the right muscles and perform! This combines phases one and two with increased intensity and speed.

Seek help from a Movement Specialist

Physical Therapists are Movement Specialists and have the skills to assess your movement pattern; monitoring when you have pain and at what phase of running. A PT will complete an evaluation of your entire movement pattern during running and at individual phases of running (foot strike, mid-stance, push-off, float, etc). From there, an individually unique program is developed. 

We are Movement Specialists and experts in treating and preventing injury in runners. We can help you become a better runner.

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By |2021-04-13T15:54:16+00:00April 8th, 2021|Exercise, Running|Comments Off on Beginner’s Guide to Running #2: Train to Run Smarter

About the Author:

Mary Smith, PT
Mary Smith, PT is currently practicing as a Physical Therapist in our Baldwinsville Location.
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