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Breaking Things Down – For Runners

Breaking Things Down – For Runners
PTs are always breaking things down. Like your running stride – we’re breaking down a 5-mile run into 10,000 steps. Each step makes an impact and over miles and miles, impact matters. Breaking things reminds me of an old-fashioned egg toss. Let’s talk eggs. Have you ever been tossed a raw egg? Did it break in your hands? If so, how would you have kept the shell from cracking as you caught it?
What we instinctively do is control the impulse to keep the egg from cracking. Impulse is a physics term to describe force applied over time. In the egg toss we typically catch the egg and cradle it in our hands, then move our hands downwards with the egg. Moving our hands with the egg increases the amount of time we have to “catch” the egg. When we influence the time a force is applied, we keep the shell from cracking.
In running what this looks like is “catching” yourself with each step. Your legs give as you impact the ground by bending to increase the time you are absorbing the force of your body weight. You can also think of the legs acting as springs compressing when you run. Click on video below to see example.
Try jumping up and down on a stiff leg with as little knee and hip movement as possible. Now, repeat with some hip and knee bend. Did it feel different? Responding to landing by flexing at the hip, knees, and foot is our natural way to soften the landing. What we can do next is apply this principle to evaluate your running form because running is essentially hopping repeatedly.
In a running analysis we look at your form from several angles to evaluate how you impact the ground. We compare this to your strength and joint mobility to help us understand why you are inefficient or injured by running. We can also use this information to see what will help prevent injuries from developing or how to improve the efficiency of your running form.
Nina Carson, PT, DPT, OCS working on hip strength with a runner.
How your physical therapist uses this information depends on your goals. If your goal is to prevent the return of your dreaded plantar fasciitis, then they will address that. A running analysis can guide your physical therapist to determine if it’s weakness, tightness, or posture that is affecting your running form and your ability to soften your landing and be more efficient. Runners will be amazed at how subtle changes in running form and improvements in strength or mobility can result in running with greater ease and fewer injuries. If you want to be a smarter, faster, better runner, ALTA is here! Sign up for a clinical running analysis today.

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