Sports Massage for Runners

sports massage for runnersSports massage is a form of soft tissue therapy I use daily as part of a treatment regimen for various injuries. It can also be used as a stand alone therapy where there is no injury.

I see a lot of runners, especially at this time of year in the run up to spring race season. The increase in training mileage is hard on the legs, often leaving them feeling tired, achy and tight. If you’ve never had a sports massage, read on to find out how it can help your training, race day performance and recovery!

Maintenance

Sports massage is a form of deep tissue massage, where the aims are to:

  • Reduce muscular tension
  • Stretch out the muscle fibres and surrounding fascia
  • Increase blood flow to the soft tissues
  • Drain away metabolites post exercise
  • Break down soft tissue adhesions
  • Improve tissue elasticity and so overall flexibility

A regular sports massage has a cumulative effect and so the benefits increase with each session. Treatment either weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly can really help to reduce your injury rate, improve your flexibility, and ease general aches and pains.

Pre-event

A pre-event massage may be performed either 3-5 days prior to an event, or immediately before. The type of massage and the purpose of it will vary depending on how soon the event is.

When the event is a few days away, the aim of the sports massage therapist is to reduce any general muscle tension, pump lots of fresh, nutrient rich blood into the muscles and drain away any leftover metabolites. Now is not the time for a really deep massage! You don’t want to risk feeling sore for your race. It is advisable not to have a massage one or two days before an event, for that exact reason!

Pre-event sports massage is often available at events as a form of ‘warm-up. Again the therapist won’t be going too deeply into the muscles, but it should be an invigorating massage with faster, superficial stroke to warm the muscles, encourage blood flow and prepare you mentally for the race!

Post-event

Again, sports massage after an event may refer to immediately afterwards, or two to five days afterwards.

Immediately after an event the therapist is looking to flush through fresh blood to help the muscles recover, whilst helping to drain away the waste products of exercise (think lactic acid etc). It should be fairly brisk but not too deep to avoid aggravating any muscle damage sustained during the race.

If having a massage a few days later, it can be a little deeper as by now any muscle damage will have reared it’s ugly head. If there is any muscle injury, massage is definitely not recommended for a good three days, maybe longer to let everything settle. If all is well, the therapist will aim to work on any muscle tension which has resulted from the run and get you back to your best ASAP!

The Importance of Swing Phase

swing phaseWhen talking about running gait, and especially in relation to injuries, most people will focus on the stance phase – that is the section of the cycle where the foot is in contact with the ground. We’re all concerned with how the foot strikes the surface and what it does between this point and when the toes leave the floor at the end of stance. What happens at the knee and hip joints and pelvis in stance phase also gets a fair amount of attention. What very few people consider is what happens with the other leg during this time!

The most important thing I can tell you about the swing leg is that “the foot will only go where it is put”. This is a direct quote from James at Kinetic Revolution. What he is saying is that we are all concerned over how the foot impacts the floor, but how the foot hits the floor is largely dictated by the swing phase before it. Here’s an example:

In a runner with very little hip and knee flexion in their mid to late swing phase, a compensation occurs whereby the knee extends fully just as the foot hits the ground. This is to help them achieve that little bit more distance per stride, which is limited due to the reduced hip flexion. This will usually result in a heavy heel strike and the two combined can contribute to both shin and calf pain, and patellofemoral knee pain.

A slight increase in knee and hip flexion during the second half of the swing phase, means we cover more ground with each step, reducing the need for full knee extension and instead resulting in the foot hitting the ground underneath a flexing knee, rather than out in front of an extended knee. This is a much better scenario for both the lower leg and knee joint.

In addition, an increase in the flexion moments at the knee and hip during mid to late swing phase means a reduced ground contact time, or stance phase. This is also good news as less time in contact with the floor, reduces the stresses being loaded through the joints and tissues.

It’s an interesting concept and one we covered a lot on the running analysis and retraining course I attended with Kinetic Revolution a couple of weeks back. It was really interesting to see how a slight adjustment to a runners swing phase really impacts the rest of the gait cycle.

Gluteus Medius Strengthening Update

Hi!

I just wanted to post a quick update about exercises to strengthen the Gluteus Medius muscle, having written an in-depth piece elsewhere last week.

If you’ve read much of my site you will know that this is a really important muscle for runners. If you have a weakness here it can lead to many different injuries, including patellofemoral knee pain and IT band syndrome.

There’s been quite a lot of debate about which are the best exercises to use to strengthen this muscle. Some exercises are more functional than others, some isolate the muscle better and others produce a higher percentage of muscle contraction. It is of course also important that whatever exercise you are performing doesn’t cause you any pain or aggravate an existing injury.

Options include (but are not limited to):

  • Side lying hip abduction
  • Clam (and it’s variations)
  • Side plank
  • Hip hitch (aka pelvic drop)
  • Single leg squat
  • Lateral band walk

All of these are valid exercises for strengthening the glute med. My personal favourites are the side lying hip abduction, for its simplicity and great %MVIC (max voluntary isometric contraction); hip hitch due to its functionality for runners and the single leg squat – again for its functionality, but also its ability to fire all of the important hip muscles for runners.

The thing I will say, is that for all of these exercises, technique is key! This is especially true with the single leg squat. Perfect form is difficult to achieve and you need to already have a certain amount of strength and flexibility to do it right. Watch videos on YouTube of how best to do it and then watch yourself in a mirror. The first minute of this video will show you the common mistakes: https://youtu.be/v2hX4qry5jY
You may only manage a couple with good form, but you can build on this as your strength and balance improves!

I really believe that every runner should be doing some strength training, especially for the glute and core muscles. This really can make a difference to your running form and therefore efficiency and performance and of course reduces your injury risk!

Why Do My Shoulders Get Tight When I Run?

This is a question I sometimes get from my running clients and I thought the answer might be helpful to some of you too! If you find yourself feeling a tight, achy pain in the region of the shoulder blade or between the shoulder and the neck during or after a run….read on!

The way I see it, there are two reasons why you might get tight and achey in the neck and shoulder region when running.

  1. You’re tight in there day-to-day anyway and running aggravates it
    or
  2. You have butt muscle issues!

Either way, both of these points actually come down to the same thing – muscle imbalances. Whether you feel this tension most days anyway, but especially when running, or if running is the only time you feel it, both are more than likely caused by postural issues and muscle imbalances elsewhere in the body.

Upper Crossed Syndrome

This is a fancy name for poor upper body posture! The jist of the problem is a slouched, rounded shoulder, chin jutting out, type posture which over time causes a shortening of the Pec Minor muscles (in the chest) and the muscles at the back of the neck. This causes a knock-on effect of inhibiting the muscles around the shoulder blades and those found deep in the front of the neck.

If the muscles around the shoulder blades (especially Serratus Anterior and the mid and lower fibres of Trapezius) are inhibited, it means they are not functioning as they should and essentially not ‘pulling their weight’. This means another muscle group has to take over and the most likely to do this is the upper fibres of Trapezius (between the shoulder and the ear) and the Levator Scapulae (between the base of the skull and the shoulder blade). These muscles then work overtime and end up becoming tight and painful.

Lower Crossed Syndrome

This is a very similar scenario but in the pelvic region. In this case, the hip flexors at the front of the hip and thigh become overly tight, as do the lower back extensor muscles. This is usually due to long periods of sitting, although not always. This combination helps to tilt your pelvis anteriorly (so your bum sticks out) which in turn lengthens and therefore inhibits the glutes (in particular Gluteus Maximus) and abdominals.

The role of the Glute Max, alongside extending the hip is to support the lower back. It does this via a connection to the Thoracolumbar fascia – a thick sheet of connective tissue which covers the lower back. When the Glute Max contracts it tightens this fascia, to help stabilise the lumbar spine.

If the Glute Max isn’t firing when it should, the lower back needs extra support and so another muscle which attaches to the thoracolumbar fascia steps in – the Latissimus Dorsi – or Lats. These big muscles, found on either side of the back, extend up and actually attach to the upper arm, close to the shoulder. If they are working overtime due to Glute Max inhibition, they too will eventually tighten up and cause a downward force on the shoulder joint. This causes the Upper Trapz to fight this force to elevate the shoulder and hey presto – they become overworked here too!

What’s the Answer?

There are some simple exercises which will really help. Whilst it feels like the right thing to do is to stretch the tight area, this will not have any long term effect as the muscles simply tighten up again. The best thing to do is to focus on correcting the postural issues.

Instead, spend time stretching your hip flexors, lats and chest. Strengthening exercises for the scapula stabilisors are vital. An exercise known as Scaption has been shown to best recruit the lower / mid Trapz and Serratus Anterior. Row and reverse fly exercises are also good.

As for the Glute Max – here’s a little test for you. Lay on your front. Get someone (you trust!) to place one hand on your hamstrings (back of the thigh) and the other on the bum muscles of the same leg. Lift your whole leg just up off the floor – keeping the knee completely straight. Ask your helper to feel for when the hamstrings contract and when (or if!) the Glutes contract. They may need you to lift your legs a few times to be sure. Make sure you completely relax the leg inbetween!

In a perfect scenario, the hamstrings and glutes will fire at the same time to lift the leg. A less perfect result is the hamstrings firing and then the glutes. The worst case is that nothing happens in the glutes at all! If anything but the first scenario occurs, you know you need to be working on your glutes. Luckily, it’s not so much about their strength necessarily, but more that they are effectively switched off. Surprisingly, switching them back on is often easier than strengthening them! Here’s a couple of exercises to try:

Glute Squeeze & Lift

  • Laying on the front, bend one knee to a right angle
  • Squeeze the bum muscles
  • Lift the knee just off the couch
  • Rest and repeat 15-20 times
  • Ensure the back doesn’t arch when lifting the leg – a small lift is fine.

Hip Ex/Abd/Er

  • Laying on the front, turn one foot and knee outwards
  • Lift the whole leg (knee straight) up and out on a diagonal
  • Again it doesn’t have to be a huge movement
  • Rest and repeat 15-20 times

Perform these every day, along with the hip flexor stretching and before long your glutes should be functioning better. I’ve had clients perform these exercises and within a week feel that their glutes were contracting when walking and running which they hadn’t before!

As with all injuries and other pain problems, if you try the home fix and it doesn’t improve – seek the assistance of a sports injury professional!

 

 

 

 

Post-Event Recovery

marathon recovery

First of all….A big Congratulations to everyone who completed the London Marathon yesterday! As happens every year, I watch it with great admiration for everyone taking part, no matter what their level of fitness and running prowess! It always makes me think….’maybe I should try it one day’….and then I realise I can’t even complete a half at the moment! One step at a time!

Secondly, sorry for my very long absence when it comes to writing new posts. I can’t believe it was November in which I last posted an article and on running in the cold at that! We’ve had some lovely sunny, mild days of late and my focus is definitely on the summer :-)

So, very on topic, I decided to make my next post about recovering from events, such as the marathon. Although it doesn’t have to be an actual marathon…but it may be your own personal marathon. Whatever event or distance it is you’ve been training for and pushing yourself towards. Recovery is so important, especially if you have another event on the horizon, or just want to get back to training as soon as possible.

Immediately Post Race

You’ve crossed the finish line, you’re exhausted, and all you want to do is collapse in a heap on the floor! But don’t do it….your body will thank you for it later, even if not right now!

Keep moving. Slowly walk around to keep the blood pumping around your legs and to stop the muscles seizing up. You should be doing this for at least 15 minutes after the race. Put on something dry and warm to stop you getting cold.

Drink. Sip at a isotonic drink whilst moving around. Your body will be dehydrated and the sooner you can replace those lost fluids and salts the faster you will recover.

Stretch. Perform some simple, gentle static stretches. Don’t push yourself hard – just take the muscles through their range of motion to help prevent them stiffening up.

Eat something light. A banana, protein bar or something small that can easily be eaten within the first half an hour after finishing the race.

Get a massage. Many events now offer post-event massage which can be really beneficial in your recovery as they will keep the blood circulating to your tired muscles; stretch out the muscle fibres and flush away lactic acid etc. Added bonus – there’s usually a queue so this will force you to stay standing for a little longer rather than jumping into a cramped car etc.

Eat some more. Drink some more. Make sure you have a proper meal within two hours of completing your event. This should include carbohydrates and proteins in particular, to help replenish your glycogen stores and aid muscle repair. Continue drinking steadily – water is fine at this point. Try to avoid alcohol.

Later that day

Don’t soak it up! Once you’re home, resist the urge for a long hot soak in the tub! By all means have a shower (please have a shower!), hot or cold is fine, whatever you prefer. Unless your particularly sadistic, I don’t recommend an ice bath. The latest research has finally shown no benefits. Thank god.

Keep drinking. You should have really got through some fluids by now. Unless you’re a clever monkey and you weighed yourself pre-race, there’s no exact way of knowing when you are fully hydrated again. The best indicators are the colour and smell of your urine and how often you are peeing. Light coloured and relatively odourless urine is the target and you should be back to peeing regularly – every couple of hours.

Go for a walk. This will help loosen everything off and further stop you from cramping up. Just a nice slow 20 minute walk can work wonders.

Have a good stretch. You can stretch a little more vigorously now – although not into pain. Every stretch should be comfortable. A good 10-15 minutes stretching before bed will make the world of difference to your ability to get out of bed tomorrow!

The Day After

Light exercise. You’ll want to skip any form of intense exercise today, but something light like a nice long walk, or swim will be a great idea to loosen the muscles off and get the blood flowing again – in order to repair any soft tissue damage.

Get warm. Hot tubs and saunas / steam rooms can also be a great way of loosening off. Just be wary that you could still be a little dehydrated so don’t stay in too long.

Stretch. Stretch regularly throughout the day – every few hours. And if you dare, try your foam roller to really iron the muscles out.

Keep drinking. Eat plenty and eat three healthy meals, with a snack or two in-between to keep replenishing those depleted stores.

Two-Four Days Later

You should be really starting to loosen off by now and so now is the time to get a sports massage. Doing this too early can be just plain painful and pointless, so it’s worth waiting that extra day or two.

Start to think about doing some exercise again – be it running or cross-training. Start lightly and don’t force yourself into anything heavy until you feel 100% ready both physically and psychologically. It may be that you feel you need a whole week, or longer, off and that’s absolutely fine – after all – you earned it!

 

 

Top Tips for Running in the Cold

Running in the cold

If Santa can run why can’t I?

If you’ve read my bio on the home page of this site, you’ll know I’m something of a fair-weather runner and usually hang up the trainers altogether between December and March! But this year, I’d really like to keep running in the cold winter – just 5k’s probably – to make sure that when spring comes I don’t have to start all over again!

So, if you’re like me and hate running in the cold – here are some tips I’ve put together to survive the winter in running shoes!

  1. Warm-up (even more) thoroughly
    Warming up is always important when going for a run. It will improve your neuromuscular control (movement patterns) and make sure you get into your stride sooner. The added benefit of warming up in the winter is that it makes it feel less cold! If you’re already warm and the house feels like a sauna before you leave, it will be nice to get outside! Also, it means you wear an appropriate level of clothing on leaving the house, rather than dressing up like Michelin man and then regretting it 10 minutes later!
  2. Wear appropriate clothes
    Following on from the above, you don’t want to over-dress, but it’s also important to wear enough to stay warm and to wear the right type of clothes which will protect you from the cold, wind and rain (or snow…eeek!) outside, but keep you dry inside by wicking away sweat! This often takes a bit of trial and error to find out what works for you. But the general guidelines are to stay away from clothes made of cotton as they hold the moisture and instead go for a synthetic under layer with wicking properties. An outer layer which is water and wind proof, usually made of nylon or similar is then a great bet. If it is zero ᵒC (32ᵒF) or lower, you may well want a third layer in-between too. Other things to think about include wearing a hat and gloves to keep the warmth in and trainers with as little mesh as possible to avoid your feet getting wet and maybe some grip for when it gets slippy! Trail shoes may be better at this point. Finally – make sure you can be seen! If you’re running in the dark, even in areas with good street lighting, make sure you wear bright colours and reflective patches or even a head torch so you can’t be missed!
  3. Train with people
    Setting a time and place to meet a fellow runner is a great way to make sure you don’t decide that sitting on the sofa eating that whole packet of cookies is a better way to spend the evening! If someone is waiting for you, you’re more likely to go as you don’t want to a) let them down and b) let them think you’re a sissy who can’t bear a little rain!
  4. Enter events
    In most places there are running events that go on throughout the winter. In the UK, we have national Park Runs which are free 5k fun runs held every Saturday morning at local parks. These are great events for getting into running and for just maintaining your running over the winter and having something to aim for to keep the motivation going! If you really want a push, book yourself onto a spring event which will require you to increase your training to complete it. There are loads of races from 5k to marathons in the spring which mean you’ll have to start training in the midst of winter!
  5. Run into the wind
    This is a great tip I picked up from Runners World recently which I hadn’t thought of. Check the wind direction before you head out and start off running into the wind. This means you’ll be running with a tail wind on the way home – making it that bit easier and meaning that you don’t get blasted with wind when you’re already wet and sweaty which can be a real chiller!

Other things to consider when running in the winter are that you should not be aiming for speed! Just go at a pace which feels comfortable. Pushing yourself in already difficult conditions is not advisable. Also, when you get home, change straight away into something dry and warm. Your body temperature will drop quickly once you stop and if you let it drop too quick hypothermia could come a knocking! Also, whilst you want to feel warm, don’t follow the urge to have a really hot bath or shower immediately – this is asking for trouble in the form of chilblains at best – and you don’t really want those sore itchy little buggers! Instead, slowly warm-up around the house, have a warm drink and take a bath or shower later.

Overlook Hip Internal Rotation Flexibility at Your Peril!

We all know that hip flexibility is important as a runner. A lack of hip flexibility can drastically increase your risk of picking up an injury. Anything from actual hip pain, to lower back pain, knee problems or even as low as your feet!

Hip extension and flexion are the ones that everyone seems to talk about the most – i.e. tight hip flexors (restricting extension) and tight hamstrings (restricting hip flexion). And they are right to be paying attention to these issues. But there is one area of flexibility which is so massively overlooked, that many runners don’t really know what it is or how to increase it. I’m talking about hip internal rotation (aka medial rotation).

What is it?

Hip internal rotation can be demonstrated a number of ways. These are the two easiest:

  1. Sit on a high chair or stool with the legs dangling down. With the knees together, move your ankles apart – this is hip internal rotation.
  2. Lay on your back on the floor – legs straight. Twist your whole leg so that the foot and knee point in towards the other leg – this is also hip internal rotation.

It occurs when the femur rotates in the hip socket towards the midline of the body.

Why is it so important to runners?

Hip internal rotation allows us to extend the hip fully, which in turn leads to better engagement of the glutes. The glutes are the powerhouse of the body which propel us forwards when we run. If they don’t work efficiently then more work is required of other muscles and poor form and imbalances really start to take hold.

What’s more, if you can’t get enough hip extension our bodies have a cunny way of overcoming this by overcompensating with other movements. The more frequently seen ones are: overpronation at the foot; external rotation of the foot towards the end of stance phase; knee valgus (falling inwards); increased knee & lower back extension etc etc. All of these compensations will eventually lead to other problems, with a lack of hip IR at the root of the issue.

How to test it

A ‘optimal’ range of hip internal rotation is 45 degrees. Although very few people get anywhere near this amount and 35 is often seen as sufficient. To test your hip rotation, sit on a high chair or stool with the knees together and move the ankles apart – you should be able to achieve a minimum of a 35 degree angle here. Here’s my attempt below – a bit on the tight side but not too bad! My left is a little worse than my right!

internal or medial rotation of the hip assessment

If you’re no better, or even worse than me – get to work with:

Increasing internal rotation

Stretching the opposing muscle group (in this case the external rotators) is the first thing that comes to mind to most people if you mention increasing a range of motion and rightly so. Here’s a simple IR stretch:

  • Lay on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Take the feet as wide apart as you can comfortably get them and then allow the knees to fall inwards towards each other. Relax in this position and you should feel a stretch around the outside of the hips.

But for many people, the reduction in internal rotation may actually be at least in part down to weakness, so strengthening the internal rotators is also a good idea.

  • Lay on your side, knees bent and feet in line with your spine. Ensure the hips are stacked one directly on top of the other. Keep the knees together as you lift the top ankle away from the bottom one. Rest and repeat 3 sets 12-15 reps.

FAQ’s: Hot or Cold for Injuries?

Hot or cold for injuries?

What can I say? I’m a cat lover!

This is a question which has come up a couple of times lately, and one which I feel that everyone should know the answer to. In fact, not knowing the answer could actually do you some harm. So when should you use cold and when should you use heat, after an injury.

The basic rule to follow is that in the first 48-72 hours of suffering an injury, ice is the way forward.

Cool it down
The aim of applying ice after an injury is to reduce the blood flow to the area to slow any bleeding, as well as slowing the metabolic rate of the tissues to help control inflammation. So, if you’ve gone over on your ankle; fallen hard onto your knees; been kicked in the calf; pulled a hamstring or anything else which happened suddenly, get some ice on it ASAP. It’s also recommended to continue to apply ice every 2-4 hours. Depending on the depth of the injury and size of the area to be treated, keep the ice on for 10-20 minutes. Always use a dry cloth / towel between the skin and the ice to avoid ice burns.

Heat it up
Once you are sure that all bleeding has stopped (no new bruising has appeared for a day) and the injured area no longer feels warm to the touch, then you are safe to apply heat to the area. Usually this will take 2-3 days. In severe injuries it may be as long as a week. The aim of applying heat is to open the blood vessels and encourage a new surge of fresh blood to the area, to help flush out any dead blood and excess fluids. The warmth will also help to reduce muscle spasm. Again, depending on the area being treated, apply for 10-20 minutes at a time.

—Warning—

Never apply heat to a new injury!
Applying heat in the early stages can do more harm than good as it will only increase the bleeding and swelling in the area. If you’re really unlucky, you could end up with something called ‘Myositis Ossificans’.
I won’t go into the details of this but it basically involves growing a new bit of bone within your muscle. And that’s never a good thing!

Mix it up
So you may have also heard people talking about alternating hot and cold. This can be a great treatment to use. Due to the use of heat, this still shouldn’t be done in the first few days, but once bleeding and swelling have stopped it can be really helpful to flush some new blood through the area as the blood vessels constrict and then dilate. This change from one to another also results in a pump like effect to help drain fluids. I would personally use it about a week after an ankle sprain or other injury with some residual swelling to help flush it out. Start with cold for 5 minutes, then warm for 5. Repeat this again (total of 20 minutes) – ending on warm to finish with a nice fresh blood supply.

Contradictions

The only time I can think of when the ‘no heat for 48 hours’ rule doesn’t apply is in the case of cramp, or muscle spasm. When a muscle spasms uncontrollably, this is known as cramp. Because there is no damage to the muscle or bleeding in the area, it’s ok to heat the muscle gently to help reduce the cramp.

There are also some occasions where an older injury may warrant icing rather than heat. For example, when returning to running after a case of achilles or patella tendinopathy, ice may be more suitable than heat, just to calm the injury down and reduce any potential symptoms.

But in general, if you’re unsure – apply ice. When used carefully ice will do no harm, whereas heat could!

Runners Trots!

WARNING! This is not a post you want to read over your lunch or if you have a weak stomach!

runners trots - diarrhea after running

Image reproduced from Flickr thanks to thinboyfatter

But diarrhea (diarrhoea) is something that affects so many runners, myself included, and yet rarely gets discussed. Probably because it’s a bit gross and toilet issues make appropriate conversation in very few situations! But this can be enough to put a new runner off, so….I’m going to talk poo!

My Experience of Runners Trots!

Runners trots is a rather affectionate term used to describe loose bowel movements, or diarrhea after running, or sometimes even during. The exact symptoms vary a little from person to person, but for me, it meant stomach pain which would develop at some point into my run and then come and go, getting gradually worse. Luckily for me I always managed to make it home without embarrassment, although at times I felt I wouldn’t! It then nearly always resulted in a fair length of time spent in the bathroom which subsequently relieved my symptoms.

This can obviously be pretty distressing and certainly enough to put someone off running if it happens enough. Luckily for me it wasn’t happening every time I ran, so I realised there must be something triggering it.

After a bit of research, I stumbled upon the idea that a high fibre meal before your run could be the culprit. So, I experimented. I was usually running in the mornings, although with the occasional late afternoon run thrown in after an early shift. Before morning runs, I tended to eat a bowl of cereal, usually shredded wheat and then wait about an hour and a half before I went out. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see the fibre content of shredded wheat to be 11.9g per 100g. I found that to be pretty high compared to some of the other cereals in my parents cupboard, so I tried Crunchy Nut Cornflakes which contain only 2.5g per 100. After a couple of weeks I’d had no problems with morning runs. So, I then applied this theory to when I was planning an afternoon run, consuming lower fibre meals throughout the day – and again no problems.

6 years later and I rarely get bowel problems after running now. I still run mainly in the mornings and don’t tend to eat a lot now before I run – maybe just a handful of mixed nuts or a banana. If I plan on doing an afternoon/evening run, I tend to avoid wholemeal breads, pasta, rice, cereals etc in the daytime. I don’t seem to have a problem with fibre from fruit and vegetables, so a green salad with chicken or salmon etc is fine.

So What Causes Diarrhea After Exercise?

Running jostles your insides about – that’s a large part of it – all that bouncing up and down! But add into that the reduced blood flow to your bowels (it’s all headed to your muscles and skin);  hormonal changes which affect your intestines transit time and reabsorption rates and dehydration too and you’ve got an embarrassing accident waiting to happen! This is especially true if you already have a bowel issue such as IBS, lactose intolerance or celiac disease. It’s also more common for women, especially around the time of menstruation. The link with fibre is that insoluble fibres such as those found in bread and cereals actually help speed up transit time through your digestive system and soften your poop.

There are other factors which may contribute to diarrhea after running, including caffeine, sorbitol (found in ‘sugar-free’ products), milk (or rather the lactose in milk) and fatty or spicy foods. I don’t have any experience of these causing a problem, but if reducing fibre doesn’t work for you, they are worth a shot.

Anything Else?

The other thing I do, which I debated including in this blog post as it’s a little personal, but here goes….is to sit on the toilet before I go for my run and make sure I’m empty! Sometimes it might take a while so this time has to be factored in when I plan my runs, but to me it’s worth it and helps to stop me worrying about the dreaded crouching in a field scenario! In fact, Mr D does this too, so it’s just as well we have two toilets in our house!

Oh…and just a little caveat. DON’T reduce your fibre content completely! Only in the day before you are going to run. Fibre is really important in our diets as it improves digestive health, but is also thought to protect against heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and even some forms of cancer. So don’t cut it out – just time when you have it!

I hope this helps anyone struggling with this problem. I’d love to hear your feedback!

 

My Most Common Running Injuries

most common running injuries top 5 list

“What is the most common running injury?”

This is a question I get asked a lot. By runners mainly, especially those relatively new to it, but also by the odd non-runner. In this case they usually know someone who runs and is or has been injured, or maybe tried to start running themselves but sustained an injury pretty quick and stopped.

There are various stats out there that show which injuries are most common in specific sports and running is no different. But this is MY list! This list is compiled based on the people I see and speak to in my clinic, and the number of hits I get on particular pages of this website!

I think it’s interesting reading and well worth knowing which are the most prevalent injuries in your sport, as this can help you to prevent becoming a victim yourself!

The Top 5 Most Common Running Injuries

#5 – Plantar Fasciitis

Coming in at number 5 is that pesky condition known as Plantar Fasciitis, which despite most runners being barely able to pronounce it, we all know what it is! Just for those who don’t – it’s a degenerative condition of the thick band of fascia under the sole of the foot, where it attaches to the heel bone. Symptoms include pain and stiffness for the first few steps every day and after resting and pain under the heel. I guess I see a case of this every couple of months and about 50% of these are due to running. Learn more here, including how to prevent plantar fasciitis

#4 – Achilles Tendinopathies

Next up are all forms of Achilles overuse injuries, nicely covered by the umbrella term tendinopathies. These are again, degenerative conditions which affect either the Achilles tendon itself or the sheath surrounding it. The symptoms include pain in the Achilles, stiffness in the calf and Achilles (again – first thing in the morning and after periods of rest), a creaking feeling in the tendon when moving and the tendon might look thicker than the one on the other leg! Find out more about treating and preventing Achilles tendinopathies here.

#3 – Piriformis Syndrome

This is a personal favourite of mine (if you can have a favourite injury!). This is firstly due to the fact that I have had it and know how It feels. I also like it because often patients with sciatic symptoms, as occur in piriformis syndrome, have been told they have ‘probably slipped a disc’ in their back. So their reactions and relief to find that this is not the case and there’s no need to get the scalpel out just yet is great to see.
Not all sciatic symptoms are coming from the spine. Tight butt muscles pressing on the same nerve (just a bit lower) can be extremely painful and debilitating – much to most peoples surprise! Learn more about Piriformis Syndrome symptoms and causes here.

#2 – Shin Splints

Shin splints are at number two. Technically they shouldn’t be as there are up to 30 different conditions which could be classed as ‘shin splints’! But, as even I can only name a few of them, we’ll bend the rules on this occasion! All cases of shin splints cause pain on the inside lower part of the shin. They are often due to footwear issues and biomechanical problems – from both above and below the injured area. Training errors are also often a cause. Learn more on the causes and prevention of shin splints here.

#1 – Calf Pain / Tightness

And the winner of most common running injuries is….CALF PAIN! And this is a pretty convincing victory too. In the last month my calf tightness whilst running page has seen 6890 visitors. The next closest had just 3469 visitors!calf pain and tightness

Why is it such a common problem? I think it’s largely a case of your calf muscles working overtime when running and then not getting the chance to rest in between workouts . Just think – every time you push-off with each step, your calf muscles are propelling your body weight up and forwards. Then, once the training is over, they still have the same job to do (although in a less intense form) just to allow us to walk from A to B.

Add in to this equation the increased stress placed on the calf muscles from the following issues: overpronation; oversupination; excess body weight; unsuitable running shoes; forefoot running; high heels (not when running – I hope!); hip and glute muscle inhibition; and the list goes on!

So there you have it! My most common running injuries. If you’re just starting running, it is well worth having a read up about these injuries and what causes them, so that you know what to do or not do, to help avoid them happening to you!