Runner and Walker Recovery – Knee Pain

Let’s move on to the 2nd biggest complaint among runners and walkers, knee pain (if you have the 1st, foot pain, please see my last post).  I know “knee pain” is such a broad term, but let’s start big picture and then move into the details.

Pain in the knee, if not caused by trauma (getting side-tackled for example), comes from a dysfunction of your biomechanics, or movements.  The movement I am talking about most is your gait, whether walking or running.  When you have a breakdown in the mechanics of your gait, that deficiency gets highlighted over thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of repetitions with each training session.

It is important to have a professional assess your walking and running patterns to identify any inefficiencies you may have in your stride.  But for now, we are going to focus on one of the more common points of pain, patellofemoral pain.  This is the pain commonly felt just below the kneecap and is usually a signal of over-used quadriceps and an under-utilized posterior kinetic chain (arch, calves, hamstrings, and glutes).

Try the exercises below to help prevent the onset of patellofemoral pain and keep your knees happy!

Runner and Walker Recovery – Foot Pain

One of the main complaints I hear from my runners and walkers is about pain their feet.  Whether it be the heel, arch, or ball of the foot, it seems every pedestrian ends up with foot pain at one point or another.

There are many factors that can cause inflammation on the bottom of the foot.  It is best to get an assessment by a movement specialist to determine your precise cause.  However, there are a few general movements you can start doing to help you keep the pain at bay or even prevent it from starting in the first place.  Check out the video below and follow along to help increase your foot’s flexibility and strength.

Fix Your Forward Head Posture

Did you know it has been estimated that up to 90% of us have forward head posture?  Want to know if you do?  Stand up right now, turn your camera on, hold your arm straight out to the side and snap a pic of your profile, including your shoulder.  Take a look.  Are you ears forward of your shoulders?  Congratulations!  You have forward head posture.

Let’s take a quick look at what causes forward head posture (from now on we will call this FHP to save me some time sitting at the computer).  There are the obvious culprits – prolong sitting, computer use, texting, and trauma such as whiplash from a car accident.  But there are also things we don’t think about – the sports we play, the heavy backpack we carry, our jobs, the way we breath.

{Side Note}  Let’s talk about this last one for a hot second.  The stress of our daily lives has left most people with shallow, stressed, labored breathing.  We no longer take relaxed breaths.  Instead, most of us have a habit (without even noticing it) of holding our breath or breathing faster than we need.  This alone can not only affect things like your heart, your oxygen intake, and your mood, but it can also start to tighten down the muscles at the front of the neck, pulling your head forward.  For more on how to help your breathing, check out my past blog post, Breathe Deep.

Symptoms of FHP don’t just include looking like a sad puppy, there are also REAL issues that can occur.  Because of the strain FHP puts on the cervical spine, every system is affected.  This includes the musculoskeletal systems (headaches anyone?), the nervous system (maybe you are a tingling hands kind of person?), and the vascular system (raise your hand if you have sleep apnea!).  The longer your head hangs out there, the more vulnerable you are to muscle spams, bulging and herniated discs, and even TMJ.

So, let’s get to work.  Perform these 8 moves a couple times a week.  Use them as a warm-up to your other activities or do them right before bed.

6 Exercises for Stronger Feet

We all know our feet are important.  They are our foundation and help keep everything above them safe.  But weak feet can lead to aches, pains, and injury.  So, here are 6 exercises you can do using a rolled up yoga mat (I use a 1/2 roller in the videos).  That’s it!  That is all you need to help strengthen your feet and simultaneously improve your balance, strengthen your hips, and take stress off your spine.

Swing Your Arms!!

With the days getting longer and the temperatures getting a bit warmer, Spring has invited to me to start walking more.  I am a person who loves to stack things, so I have started walking to my weekly Yoga class.  I have to leave only about 15 minutes earlier than I usually do, and I get a nice 25 min walk there and back through my local parks.

Last week, I walked to class and it was fairly pleasant outside, but after class, the temps had fallen a bit.  I mention this because this lead me to put my hands in my pockets to keep them warm.  I noticed about 15 minutes into my walk that my mid-back was getting stiff and my neck and shoulders were a little achy.  I tried to think about what we had done in class that would have caused this to happen.  I thought “I just took a Yoga class.  I should feel awesome!” when I realized my hands had been in my pockets this whole time.

With my hands tucked into my coat pockets, my arms were unable to swing in their natural movement.

No swinging = no natural rotation of the spine = pain in my mid-back and shoulders.

When we don’t swing our arms when walking, we lose the subtle rotation of the spine that needs to happen for proper movement.  That rotational force needs to go somewhere, meaning we rotate too much at other places, including the low-back.  In my case, not only was I putting extra force through my low-back, but my mid-back and neck were also bracing against the rotational force that should have been happening.  Hence, the tight back and shoulders.

So the quick lesson of the day is Swing Your Arms!  And make sure you are swinging them with a whole-body movement.  None of this moving from the elbow BS (more on this later).

Play Day-to-Day

The world is a heavy place with a lot of responsibilities.  You have responsibilities to your family, to yourself, to your work, not to mention simple responsibilities like taking out the trash and washing the car.  It seems everyone right now is weighted down with this sense of responsibility.  I normally add to those responsibilities with solutions of how to take better care of your body, but today, lets take a breather.

Today, I want you to approach your day with a little more play.  This doesn’t mean you have to skip the office for the playground (but you should skip instead of walk), just add a sense of joy and lightness to your day.  I will even make this post brief so you don’t have to be so adult and READ, you can just DO!

Here are just few easy ways to bring some play to your day-to-day:

  • Play games – Busy at the supermarket?  See if you can duck and dodge your way through the crowd without bumping into anyone!
  • Notice what you like – The sky, the color of the car next to you, some ladies hat, the wagging tail of a dog.  It doesn’t have to be a lot.
  • Engage with strangers – When you lose the game in #1 and you bump a stranger, smile, laugh, make eye contact, or give them a compliment.  You can do this with people you don’t bump into (and probably get better results) as well.
  • Enjoy music – Sing or dance or just carry the tune in your head as you go about your daily errands.  When you notice someone belting out Whitney Houston in the car next to you, don’t you smile and think that person is having the BEST time!
  • Smile – Just cause.
  • Move – Exercise is great, but as adults, we have even taken the fun out of that.  Challenge yourself to skip, hop, crawl, chase (children and dogs are excellent playmates), instead of just going for a jog.
  • Laugh – At how much we take ourselves seriously when we have absolutely no control over anything.

Have a happy day my friends!  If you feel like it, let me know how you found play in the comments below!  Also, let your friends know so they can start playing too!

Opt Outside! Treadmill vs Outdoor Running

The great debate – treadmill walking and running versus outside.  Well, you can tell by the title, I have my own clear winner.  But, if you are still reading past the headline, I bet you want to know more…you want to know the WHY.

In a nutshell, when you run or walk outside, the muscles of the leg have to propel you forward.  When you run or walk on a treadmill, the muscles of your leg have to catch you as you fall forward.  So even though it looks like the same exercise, they are actually two different exercises using different muscles.

When you are on a treadmill, the floor is moving under your feet.  With each stride your body is hitting this moving surface and getting pushed into a forward motion.  Your opposite leg then has to get out in front of you and hit the treadmill before you fall forward.  So with each stride you are literally just catching yourself from falling instead of running forward.

Outside, the ground is stable, so your foot has to push against that stable surface and push you forward.  For one, this takes a lot more strength and muscle activation to do than running on a treadmill so you will actually burn more calories and get a better workout.  Secondly, and my favorite part, is that it is safer on your body.  By pushing yourself forward, you are using your body the way it was designed to be used, as well as using all the muscles of the back of the leg to help counteract the effects from all your sitting time.  Total win.

When we go around catching ourselves from falling instead of propelling ourselves forward, we put a lot of stress on our hip, knee, and ankle joints.  Not to mention the load we put on our feet.  This extra load leads to some of the most common aches and pains among runners – plantar fasciitis, hamstring tendinopathy, and runner’s knee just to mention a few.  Where as running (correctly, more on that below) outside can actually help strengthen some of the most commonly weak postural muscles in the body.

So you are now convinced to take your run outside.  Fantastic!  Just a quick word…It is also possible to do the “fall and catch” outside as well.  This usually occurs because the mobility in our hips and ankles restricts our body’s ability to move our legs in the appropriate way.  So make sure you spend time opening up your hips (try these hip openers) and your calves.  In fact, you can start right now with the exercise below!