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Change just 1 thing to boost your running performance

Posted on 4th Feb 2018 by

Learn from the expert’s – here’s 5 great short cuts to rapidly improving your running performance, it’s not cheating honest! Just focus on 1 and see if it helps. From our Clinical Director, Paul.

1. The HOKA Difference: I regularly and happily recommend HOKA trainers to all my patients that require improved shock absorption and reduced tissue loading when running. They involve marshmallow, rocking chair and bucket seat technology!

To me, a clinician, they’re a unique mash up of styles, designed to simply and easily improve your shock absorption, comfort, running gait and foot stability. They are designed with only a 4mm rise from heel-to- toe, with a slight rocker shaped sole, to help with midfoot strike and smooth propulsion. Think ‘barefoot running’ style with comfy shock absorbent trainers on. The best of both world’s! So get down to your local running store and test drive a pair today. Read more about Hoka’s here. You can read more about the importance of running footwear here.

You’ll feel 10 years younger & 20kg lighter – I know I did!

2. Heel to Buttocks: Essentially it’s about improving the efficiency of your running style, by spending as much of your energy as possible in the propulsion phase. Avoiding long strides in-front of your body and the increased ground reaction forces, in this inefficient deceleration phase of running.

It’s about switching on your large propulsion muscles (gluteals and hamstring) at the end of your long levers (legs) and pushing off optimally through your big toe. It’s easier done, then you may think, just think of the cue “heel to buttocks”. So as you jog along bring your heels up towards your buttocks, and lean your trunk forwards, be prepared to getting faster as you go!

3. Pump with the arms & the legs will follow: To improve speed for that sprint finish, if you pump fast with your arms, your legs will automatically move faster. It’s the way we’re neurologically wired for reciprocal movement and the pro’s have been using it for years.

4. Sleep Better: Ensure you get approx at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night especially in the midst of a running training programme, to allow your body to recover and achieve the full benefits of training. Walker (2017), in his book ‘Why we sleep’ explains that there is a significant increase in the risk of injury with a lack of sleep.

There is no better insurance policy to mitigate the risk of injury than sleep!

Walker also explains that If your consistently not getting adequate sleep, less than 6 hour per night, you will not gain the full benefits from a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and good nutrition. He concludes that “Sleep is one of the most sophisticated, potent and powerful – not to mention legal – performance enhancer’s everyone should be using fully”. So do yourself a favour a ensure you get – 8 hours of sleep each night!. Read more about the ‘Magic Elixir’ of sleep for runners here.

5. Maintain a Healthy Weight: A shortcut to making the most of what you’ve got is to maintain a healthy weight. For middle aged, social, fun runners it is by far the biggest contributor to easily increasing speed, distance, enjoyment whilst reducing the risk of injury. An average rule is that for every 2-3 kg lost you’ll easily improve your mile pace by a minute.


Sleep: The Magic Elixir for Runners

Posted on 19th Jan 2018 by

I’ve just recently read a great book, titled Why We Sleep, by the neuroscientist, Matthew Waker. Why we sleep

I wanted to share a summary of the relevant sections, which I thought would be enlightening and useful for you keen, active, health conscious runners. If it sparks your interest, I would thoroughly recommend getting hold of a copy to read it in full. It really is fascinating!

Walker explains that:

“Sleep is one of the most important aspects of life, health and longevity and yet it is increasingly neglected in 21st century society”

For the active runner, adequate sleep is crucial to help in learning new motor skills, improving athletic performance and mitigating injury risk!

In the book, Walker explains that the term ‘muscle memory’ is a misnomer, muscles have no such memory, and that in fact ‘muscle memory’ is really ‘brain memory’. As humans, we learn new motor skills and movement routines through practice. For a runner it could be working on running technique, training or strengthening muscles in the gym, which can help us better execute a skilled memory routine (running). But the routine itself – the memory programme resides firmly and exclusively within the brain.

Research over the past 20 years has unequivocally demonstrated that after practicing any motor skill, your brain will continue to improve skill memories in the absence of further practice after a full night sleep. Walker concludes that in fact

“Practice does not make perfect, it is practice followed by a nights sleep that leads to perfection”

Sleep helps the brain automate the movement routines – helping them become second nature and effortless – precisely the goal of many sports coaches when perfecting the skills of their athletes.

The 100-metre sprinter superstar Usain Bolt has, on many occasions taken naps in the hours before breaking the world record and before Olympic finals in which he won gold. The author’s studies support this wisdom: day time naps that contain sufficient numbers of sleep spindles also offer significant motor skill memory improvement, together with a restoring benefit on perceived energy and reduced muscle fatigue.

“Sleep is one of the most sophisticated, potent and powerful – not to mention legal – performance enhancer’s everyone should be using fully”

The book’s findings are backed up with more than 750 scientific studies that have investigated the relationship between sleep and human performance. Anything less than 8 hours of sleep a night and especially less than 6 hours a night and the following can be experienced:

  • Time to physical exhaustion drops by 10 to 30%
  • Aerobic output is significantly reduced
  • Similar impairments are observed in power output, measured by limb extension force & vertical jump height
  • Decrease in peak and sustained muscle strength.
  • Marked impairments in cardio-vascular, metabolic and respiratory capabilities linked to a decrease in the amount of air the lungs can expire
  • The ability of the body to cool itself during physical exertion through sweating, a critical part of peak performance, is impaired

Injury Risk 

There is also a significant increase in the risk of injury with a lack of sleep.

“There is no better insurance policy to mitigate the risk of injury than sleep!”

Described in a research study of competitive young athlete’s in 2014, Walker explains that a chronic lack of sleep across a season predicted a massively higher risk of injury, as illustrated on the graph below.

 

Sleep and injury risk
Sleep after sporting performance is just as crucial for recovery. The book states that

“Post performance sleep accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen”

What does all this mean for the local fun runner?

Regardless of running ability, sleep is equally important for anyone who is physically active. Until recently the experts thought that adequate sleep, good nutrition and exercise were the 3 fundamentals on which to live a healthy life.

However, through a large body of research over the last 20 years, Walker has highlighted that adequate sleep is the foundation on which being healthy and exercising effectively is built upon.

In other words….without adequate sleep you will not gain the full potential benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise. So, you should be aiming for between 7-8 hours of sleep each night, especially in the midst of a running training programme, to allow your body to recover and achieve the full benefits of training.

For further information, please read Why We Sleep, by Mathew Walker

The Injured Runner Project
We are trying to find out more about what injured runners do to get back to pain-free running, and would love to hear from you! If you’re interested in helping us out, please take a few moments to answer a couple of questions by clicking on this image. Many thanks.

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How to Foam Roll – The Art of Self-Myofascial Release

Posted on 12th Jan 2018 by

Here’s a quick, no nonsense guide for runners to help improve your warm-up, performance and prevent injury with some simple foam rolling! It’s all about the fascia!

What is fascia?

Firstly, fascia is a dense connective tissue that surrounds every muscle, joint and organ in the body.

There are 3 types of fascia; superficial, deep and visceral.

  • Superficial fascia lies just beneath the skin.
  • Deep fascia penetrates and surrounds muscle tissue.
  • Visceral fascia helps keep vital organs in place.

Everything in the body is connected through fascia, but some areas are more connected than others, forming thickened sheaths and bands of fascia. These are bundled together, inseparable from the muscle tissue (myo) and it’s accompanying web of connective tissue (fascia), forming a 3D myo-fascial web throughout the body. Think of a 3D spider’s web in the shape of your body & you’re getting close!

When working optimally, this myo-fascial web helps provide support, stability, movement dynamics, force transmission and optimises sporting performance.

Why should runners foam roll?

Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller Foam rolling
We like the Grid Rollers from Trigger Point Therapy
  • For warm-up pre running, as it’s far more effective that static stretching (5)
  • To increase nutrient-rich blood flow to muscles that need it.
  • To improve the mobility and flexibility of muscles and joints (4,6,7).
  • To increase athletic performance (8,9).
  • To recover from exercise faster (1,2,3).
  • To reduce inflammation and remove toxins/chemical waste products.
  • Longer term, to break down adhesions in muscle and connective tissue.
  • You can also successfully self-treat minor injuries such as muscle strains and trigger points.

When should runners foam roll? 

  •  MB1 MB5 Trigger Point Roller Ball
    A great alternative to a foam roller is the MB1 or MB5 ball

    Before exercise: when paired with a dynamic warm up to increase blood flow to areas that may be lacking it.

  • After exercise: used within a cool-down procedure to flush out blood that has pooled in working muscles and to allow fresh nutrients and oxygen in to kick start the recovery process.

Rolling for only a few minutes can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your training session. So, if you’re stuck for time, pre-exercise rolling would provide most benefit.

How to foam roll

Remember this easy guide and apply it to each muscle group that you’re working on.

  • 4 linear rolls (to search the muscle for areas of tightness, we call these ‘hot spots’).
  • 30 second holds on each hot spot.
  • 4 joint movements (to move the muscle underneath the roller).
  1. Underside of the foot (plantar fascia)

TrP Foot roller Foam rolling

  • Place the roller under the sole of the foot.
  • Apply pressure and roll slowly towards the heel and back to the sole of the foot, 4 times.
  • Hold pressure on any hot spots you may find.
  • Once this hot spot starts to reduce, maintain pressure and add in movement of the toes by flexing and extending them all 4 times.
  • Repeat the process 3-4 times.
  1. Calves (gastrocnemius and soleus)TrP Calf Roller
  • Zone A = achilles to mid-calf.
  • Zone B = mid-calf to just below the knee.
  • Roll zone A, followed by zone B.
  • Begin by sitting on the floor with the roller on your Achilles tendon.
  • Place your hands behind you and the other leg on top to add pressure.
  • Roll up and down searching for hot spots. If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • You can also ‘span’ the muscle by turning your foot inwards and outwards whilst maintaining pressure on a hot spot.
  • Repeat this process 3-4 times before moving on to zone B.
  1. Thighs (quadriceps)
  • Zone A = front of the hip to mid-thigh.
  • Zone B = mid-thigh to just above the knee. TrP Quads
  • Roll zone A, followed by zone B.
  • Begin by lying on your front with the roller at the front of your hip just below the bone.
  • Support yourself with your elbows out in front and the other leg bent up to the side.
  • Roll up and down in search of hot spots. If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • You can also ‘span’ the muscle by turning your foot inwards and outwards whilst maintaining pressure on a hot spot.
  • Now, once on a hot spot, bend and straighten the knee 4 times.
  • Repeat this process 3-4 times before moving on to zone B.
  1. Buttock (gluteals and piriformis)
  • Begin by sitting on the roller with your hands behind you for support.
  • Shift your weight onto one side as you bring that leg up and cross it over the other.
  • Aim to have the roller ‘in your back pocket’.TrP Glutes Foam Rolling
  • Roll along the length of your glute in search of hot spots. If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the process 3-4 times.
  1. Upper back (paraspinals, rhomboids, trapezius)
  • Lay on your back with the roller just below the shoulder blades.
  • Place your arms behind your head or cross them in front of your chest.TrP Upper Back Foam Rolling
  • Lift your hips off the floor and use your legs to roll up and down the spine.
  • Carefully extend your back over the roller.
  • Add in side bends to target various muscle groups.
  • Again, if any hot spots are identified, hold this pressure for 30 seconds before moving on.
  1. Chest (pectoralis major/minor)
  • Lay on your front and place the roller (or trigger point ball) just inside the shoulder joint, on the pectoralis tendon. Pec TrP
  • With the arm above the head roll up and down in search of hot spots.
  • If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • Add in arm movements to manipulate the soft tissue underneath the roller. 4 straight-arm scoops should do it.
  • Repeat this process 3-4 times.
  1. Latissimus Dorsi
  • Lay on your side with one arm above your head for support.
  • Place the roller at a 45° angle just underneath your armpit.Lat Dorsi TrP
  • Shift your weight to roll up and down in search of hot spots.
  • If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • Add in straight arm movements to release the tissues further, 4 movements followed by 4 rolls.
  • Repeat this process 3-4 times.

References

  1. Pearcey GP, Bradbury-Squires DJ, Kawamoto J, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG, Button DC. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Athl Train. 2015;50:5–13.
  2. Macdonald et al. (2014) Macdonald GZ, Button DC, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG. Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2014;46(1):131–142.
  3. Rey E, Padron-Cabo A, Costa PB, Barcala-Furelos R. The effects of foam rolling as a recovery tool in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;
  4. Bushell JE, Dawson SM, Webster MM. Clinical relevance of foam rolling on hip extension angle in a functional lunge position. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29:2397–403.
  5. Su H, Chang NJ, Wu WL, Guo LY, Chu IH. Acute effects of foam rolling, static stretching, and dynamic stretching during warm-ups on muscular flexibility and strength in young adults. J Sport Rehabil. 2016; 1-24.
  6. Kelly S., Beardsley C. (2016) Specific and cross-over effects of foam rolling on ankle dorsiflexion range of motion. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 11(4), 544-551.
  7. Macdonald GZ, Penney M, Mullaley ME, Cuconato AL, Drake CD, Behm DG, Button DC. An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27:812–821.
  8. Peacock CA, Krein DD, Silver TA, Sanders GJ, von Carlowitz KPA. An acute bout of self-myofascial release in the form of foam rolling improves performance testing. Int J Exerc Sci. 2014;7:202-211
  9. Monteiro et al. Acute effects of different self-massage volumes on the FMS overhead deep squat performance. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2017; 12(1): 94-104.
  10. Monteiro ER Correa Neto VG. Effect of different foam rolling volumes on knee extension fatigue. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2016;11(7):1076‐1081.

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Runners – How To Avoid Injuries

Posted on 4th Jan 2018 by

No one wants an injury, particularly runners. Not being able to run because of an injury is highly frustrating. The good news is, so many running injuries can be avoided very easily.

Sports Therapist, Tom, shares some top ways of helping to prevent an injury if you’re a runner.

Warm Up Effectively

A solid warm up should consist of foam rolling (which can improve performance), mobility work to maximise joint health and longevity, dynamic stretching and muscle activation to fire up the key players in running (calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes). Running backwards is a great way of activating your glutes which play a huge role in stabilising the hips and promoting good form when running forwards. Read more about warming up here.

Route Knowledge

Know your run. If you’re heading out on a new route, make sure you know the terrain, any obstacles, gradients or side-planes and are equipped for the specific weather and conditions that you’re running in.

Train Smart

Increase mileage safely and run with proper form. There are so many resources now online to help guide and direct your training in a ‘smart’ way. This is crucial to preventing injuries if you’re serious about progressing your running. Joining a running club or group is a great way to get guidance and support too.

Increasing Mileage

Beginners should avoid increasing their mileage every week. Instead try every 3-4 weeks. Add an extra day into your running week to increase your weekly mileage. Advanced runners should increase their mileage by 5-10% of their current mileage and remain there until they’re comfortable. This may take several weeks. Injury can occur easily if you ramp up your speed or mileage too quickly. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

Form

If you’ve been injury free for a long time and you aren’t looking to shave seconds off of your PB, I wouldn’t advise you to alter your running form. However, if you have an injury and a gait analysis suggests you would benefit from altering your form, it would make sense to address this issue. Try to reduce your stride length so that you plant the foot with a vertical shin, this will reduce the forces transmitted through your legs and limit any deceleration from planting your foot too far forward. Also, try to maintain space between the knees. Allowing the thigh to internally rotate or drop in when you run can lead to overuse injuries occurring at the hip, knee and foot. If you need expert advice and guidance on this, consider something like our running rehab service.

Footwear Advice

Ensure that you wear a comfortable shoe that fits well. Rubbing and blisters can put an end to anybody’s run. Don’t be tempted to buy the shoes that look the nicest, fashion won’t help keep you injury free. If you have low arches, find a shoe that supports you in the areas that you need it. Seek professional advice from a reputable running shop where you can try the shoes and they have video gait analysis. Read more about the importance of getting your footwear right here.

Strength Work Between Runs

A stronger kinetic chain will decrease ground reaction forces (GRF), making running more comfortable and more efficient. Working on your core stability will promote the transfer of forces from your upper and lower limbs, meaning less work for your legs. Strong glutes will stabilise your hips and prevent poor biomechanical loading from occurring. Pilates is a great way to help this.

Balance & Proprioception

Proprioception is your body’s awareness of where it is in space – so your joints and brain and muscles all talking to each other! Along with balance, it’s a crucial component to keeping you injury free. It enables your body to cope and respond to uneven terrain, pot holes and curbs and varied weather conditions. Both are very trainable with the right exercises.

If you’ve ever sprained an ankle and haven’t undergone a rehabilitation programme, the chances of you re-spraining that same ankle are very high. After an injury your ankle suffers from a loss of proprioceptive ability and strength, which needs to be rebuilt with balance, proprioception and strength work. If you’re lucky enough to have never sprained an ankle but enjoy running both on and off road, lower limb stability with balance and proprioception work should be a part of your regular gym routine.

Catching Minor Injuries In The Early Stages (Recognition & Treatment)

Being able to recognise the early stages of injury will allow you to nip them in the bud before they become an issue. Examples include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, shin splints, patella tendinopathy, ITB syndrome and muscle strains. As soon as any signs or symptoms are noticed, your best option is to consult an injury specialist. We all know what muscle soreness (DOMS) feels like. If it’s a different pain, don’t run through it.

Cool Down Correctly

Exercise causes our muscles to break down on a microscopic level, which can lead to muscle shortening if left untreated. Stretching after running will help maintain the resting length of your muscles and prevent any imbalances from occurring. Sports massage is a great way of helping recover too. A sports massage will help flush out any lactic acid and waste products left sitting in your muscles following exercise, as well as promote the flow of nutrient-rich blood to those areas to facilitate healing and decrease recovery times.

Sleep

Sleep is very important when talking about injury prevention in runners. When you sleep, hormones are released that promote recovery. When you don’t get enough sleep, stress hormones and inflammatory markers remain elevated which adversely affects your ability to recover. These hormones can also alter appetite regulation, potentially leading to weight gain. To remain injury-free, you need to sleep and recover to the best of your ability. Establish good habits by going to and getting out of bed at the same time each day, and try to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep each night as a minimum, 8 hours is great.