Running Cadence

Runners; Reduce muscle injuries and soreness.

Geelong runners and long distance athletes are always asking me, “What can I do to prevent leg soreness?”

Geelong Myotherapy Injury prevention

 

While there are lots of things that you can do to help, a simple change you can make to your running or walking style is to increase your cadence (how many steps you are taking per minute). A higher cadence leads to less vertical bouncing. Therefore it reduces impact stress forces on joints, muscles, tendons and bones. Your stride length will slightly shorten and your legs will turn over at a faster pace. Think of it like riding your bike in a low gear where your legs pedal faster but it is much easier and economical.

For shin splint sufferers this is a must try for your running or walking technique. The following conditions would also benefit from a faster cadence:

  • ITB syndrome

  • Plantar fasciitis

  • Hip bursitis

  • Patellar tracking syndrome

  • Achillies tendonopathy

  • Stress fracture sufferers

So how many steps should I be taking per minute and how do I know how many I’m taking?

Ideally 180 steps per minute (SPM) for an experienced long distance runner should be your target cadence. Al though, like most things biomechanical it varies between each individual. If you are new to the activity that you are doing then I would expect you to have a slower than ideal cadence. My advice would be to figure out your current average cadence and if it is in the 160 or 170 SPM range, try and increase this in 5 SPM blocks. Taking 1-2 weeks to customize yourself to the new target before progressing to the next goal. For example, if you measure your cadence at 164 SPM try running at 169 SPM for 2 weeks. When that starts to feel comfortable try and aim for 174 SPM for the next 2 weeks.

NB an extra 5 steps per minute doesn’t sound like a lot, but give it a go, it’s harder than you think.

Below are some tips and friendly apps that can help you measure, manage and monitor your cadence.

1)      To measure your cadence you can simply count how many times just one of your feet hits the ground over a 30 second period, multiply this number by 4 and it will give you your total number of steps taken per minute.

2)      There is a smart phone app called runzi (Running cadence injury coach) that can measure your cadence for you. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.liketivist.runsafe

3)      Record Beater is a free app that changes the tempo of the song that you are listening to, this will then match the beat of your steps per minute. If you can’t run without your favourite tunes playing this app may help you from getting caught up in the music and running to the songs beat rather than your own.  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=dk.oleslir.recordbeater

4)      Download a metronome app, set the beat to say… 175 BPM and listen to the beat play while trying to sync your steps with it. This is a simple, free and effective way to help you stick to your target cadence.

5)       Running GPS watches like the “Garmin Forerunner 220 and 620” have a built in cadence sensor in the watch, giving you real time accurate cadence measurements. This is an expensive tool compared to the methods above but full of other great features to help you monitor your training progress.

So give it a go! Try and consciously increase how many steps you take while you are jogging and see if your body thanks you for the reduced joint and muscle stress forces. If you have any questions regarding cadence or have any injury concerns or queries please feel free to email me at trent@geelongmyotherapy.com.au

Happy running!

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Beginner Pain’s

Shin SplintsDespite the drop off in weather conditions that we have just encountered in Geelong, I am pleasantly surprised to find that there a still a lot of people motivated enough to start a new activity, whether that be a boot camp, walking, going to the gym or starting their first training program for an upcoming 5 or 10km run. As a Myotherapist with a general philosophy of “move it or lose it”, it’s fantastic to see people exercising, which should lead to a happier and healthier musculoskeletal system.

The only down side to this new found activity or sport can be “beginner pain’s”. Beginner pain is a non clinical term that I use to refer to injuries or pains like shin splints, runners knee, ITB syndrome, bursitis and general hip and lower back pain that only begin due to a sudden and often pretty full on increase in activity level, or starting a completely new activity for the first time.

One of the main reasons for joint soreness when you take up a new activity is that the tendons, ligaments and cartilage are adjusting to the new forces and load being placed on them. Tendons in particular hate a sudden change in work load, they respond best to gradual increases in exercises, which is normally the exact opposite of what we do when we’re on a “get fit” campaign. Doing too much too soon, is the main reason a Myotherapist would see injuries in people taking up a new activity.

The second and more common reason for soreness after exercise is general muscular soreness known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) DOMS normally beings the day after exercise, feels like your muscles are heavy and aching and usually resolves in 24 to 48 hrs. DOMS is a healthy and normal part of exercising your muscles.

How do I manage my exercise soreness?

  • Loading is really important in the management of your pain, less is more when you are starting out. Aim for a one day on, two day off program for the first 2-4 weeks (eg. Exercise Monday, rest Tuesday and Wednesday, exercise Thursday). This gives your body time to recover and repair any micro damage to the soft tissue structures. After the first 4 weeks you can slowly add more exercise days into your week.
  • If that knee or hip has been sore for over a week, and you are feeling that pain in an isolated area of your body consistently, then get is checked out by your therapist. It’s ok to feel like a truck has hit you a day or two after exercise. It’s the pains that are focal to a specific area of the body that raise injury concerns as opposed to general muscle soreness like DOMS.
  • Ice any sore spots as soon as practically possible after exercise, 10 min of icing every hour or two is good practice. Ice reduces excess swelling that may occur within injured tissue and leads to a faster recovery time.
  • Stretch! 5 min of stretching after you exercise can reduce muscle soreness, but is vital for overall muscle and joint health.
  • How old are those shoes? Are you still wearing your runners from 3 years ago? The materials that provide the cushioning in your shoe compress down over time, so even if they look ok on the outside your shoes may not be providing you with enough cushioning any more.

Conclusion

The positive news is that if managed correctly these aching knees, ankles or hips shouldn’t keep you from doing your new found activity or hobby for long. The key though is to act quickly on aches and pains that have been present for 1-2 weeks, at this stage small courses of treatment and minor changes in your exercise routine will lead to fast and positive outcomes. This will see you looking forward to signing up for your next boot camp or fun run rather than dreading it.

 

 

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Tight hamstrings or weak hamstrings?

A Geelong Myotherapist’s take on why your hamstrings could be so “tight”

I read an article from a fitness blog this morning and came across the old holly grail….. “The stretching routine to cure tight hamstrings.” As a Myotherapist and Massage Therapist working in a sporting town like Geelong for nearly 10 years, I have come across countless hamstring problems ranging from recurring tears, painful tightness and very bad flexibility. The confusing part is that for all the “tight” hamstrings I’ve seen, rarely does the problem go away just from deep tissue massage or sports massage to the hamstring muscle group. So, just what is the exact cause of these “tight” hamstrings if massage alone does not release them? Firstly lets have a quick look at the muscles function.

The hamstrings flex (bend) the knee, most people are aware of that. But the hamstrings play a very important functional role within the hip and pelvis as well. The hamstrings extend the hip and assist in rotating or tilting the pelvis. The last two actions being very important in running and helping maintain a strong lower back and good posture.

The center photo shows how your posture can look due to weak Hamstrings and Glutes

The center photo shows how your posture can look due to weak Hamstrings and Glutes

Myotherapy can fix those tight hamstrings…………

Though you might just need to do some of the hard work too!!

Most people that I see with tight hamstring complaints actually have weak hamstrings or at least have an an imbalance in the hip and pelvic muscles that leads to the hamstring muscle group being placed in a lengthened position even when they are at rest (making them feel tight). Most exercises that we do for our legs whether it be at a boot camp, football training or the gym tend to focus on our knee extensors (Quadriceps) far more heavily than they do on the knee flexors or hip extensors (Hamstrings and Gluteus Maximus). I believe that this imbalance happens for a number of reasons, but mainly the following:

The Hamstrings and Glutes working against or "oppose" the Quadriceps

The Hamstrings and Glutes working against or “oppose” the Quadriceps

  1. It is easier to exercise the knee extensors when cross training or playing sport
  2. Often hip extensor exercises are done with incorrect form, too much weight or both
  3. It is difficult to naturally strengthen the hip extensors through normal cardio based exercise.
Squats are meant to target the hip extensors, but ones performed like this one will strengthen the Quadriceps NB. the first two images on the bottom line you SHOULD NOT have any pressure on your toes

Squats are meant to target the hip extensors like the Glutes, but ones performed like in the photo above will often still recruit the Quadriceps group more than the Glutes.

 

So how do you fix those tight Hamstrings?

Well firstly Myotherapy or Remedial Massage to release your likely tight and contracted Quadriceps, Hip Flexors and lower back muscles (and no they wont feel tight, until you start having them worked on) will speed the process up greatly. Secondly, you need to add a good 5-10 minute hip extensor strength program into your workout routine. You will need to be doing this 3-4 times per week to see results. There are other things that may need to be addressed as each case has it’s own individual needs, but this is a great start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reduce your neck and back pain

Improve your computer posture

As mentioned in the previous post, it is really important to have your computer screen at the right height. This ensures that minimal strain is placed on the spine and the surrounding muscles, improving your posture and office ergonomics could significantly reduce your neck pain, back pain and headaches.

  • Try to have the screen no greater than 10 degrees above or below eye level.
  • Your elbows and wrists should be almost level when your are mousing or typing.
  • Try not to go “wandering” with your mouse and keep it as close to your body as practically possible.

Working on a PC not a laptop? It still pays to adjust your monitor height, even if it means sitting the monitor stand up on some old phone books, magazines or text books.

Healthier computer posture

Healthier computer posture

Poor posture, loading the spine and supportive muscles

Poor posture, loading the spine and supportive muscles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn your laptop into a back and neck friendly work station

Working on your laptop for any amount of time greater than 30 minutes can place your spine and the postural muscles supporting it under damaging amount of stress. Posture like you can see in the diagram on the right is a responsible factor in many of the upper back complaints and headaches that our Myotherapists treat.

A simple fix to make your laptop more back friendly around the home or office is to purchase a wireless keyboard and mouse combo. I purchased two of these (one for home and one to stay at work) from Officeworks http://www.officeworks.com.au/retail/products/Technology/Computer-Accessories/Keyboards-and-Mice/Keyboard-and-Mice-Bundles/INLOG44322

Make your laptop more neck and back friendly

Make your laptop more neck and back friendly

Once you have your wireless keyboard and mouse, sit some old books or magazines under your laptop to raise it up to an appropriate height and you are ready to go (remember you don’t want to have to look up or down at the screen by more than 10 degrees).

Happy typing!!

 

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A quick post about my last few years as a Myotherapist in Geelong.

A Myotherapist in Geelong

The last few years have seen my passion to deliver top quality Myotherapy treatment in Geelong grow exponentially. I also really want to help people understand exactly what Myotherapy is, what differentiates it from Massage and what a Myotherapist can do for them. So the next few months of blogging will explore different elements of Myotherapy treatment and ways you can help your body at home work without even having to see a therapist.

Over the last 3 or so years I have been lucky enough to work in a great private practice seeing a wide spectrum of people, complaints, aches, pains and injuries. But as well as this I have been extremely lucky to hold a part time position with the AFL football club Geelong. Working closely with elite athletes and a wide range of the general public has taught me a really important lesson, and that is just how similar the complaints about pain in the body are between the two groups. The main difference between the two groups is that it is one groups full time job is to work on improving and caring for their bodies through exercise, treatment and rehabilitation. While the second group desperately tries to squeeze in some form of exercise or stretching into their daily grind, often taking ultimately costly short cuts along the way so that they can fit more into their already busy lifestyles. The moral of the story is that even elite athletes have their weak points, injuries, pains and set backs, but they deal with and attend to them on a daily basis. It is too easy for us (the general public) to use the excuse that we are too busy to exercise and look after ourselves or the fatal trap of “I’ll start those exercises next week. We need to make the time in our lives to exercise, stretch, get a massage before the niggle become a problem or start doing the “boring” core exercises that your P.T. or therapist gave you. Our bodies have an incredible ability to get better on their own, but we need to give it some basic essentials to like exercise, stretching and good posture to allow it to do so.

3 simple things that you could do today to help out your musculo-skeletal system.

  1. Improve your posture. How are you reading this blogg post? Smart phone, tablet, sitting with your laptop on the couch? These devices are great for doing quick tasks on the go on the internet, but prolonged use (greater than 20 min) leads to us placing our bodies into stressful postural positions. Even using your laptop at your desk isn’t great for your spine, as the laptop screen is down too low. A simple solution to this is spend around $35 on a wireless keyboard and mouse and sit your laptop up higher on some old phone or text books on your desk, the center of the screen should be around eye level or 10 degrees above or below and should be straight in front of you, not to the left or right. This avoids sustained neck flexion which can lead to upper back and neck pain as well as headaches.
  2. Move!!!! Exercising your body doesn’t mean that you have to hit the gym and work up a sweat, just go for a brisk 20 minute walk or ride around the block, swim or do a yoga or pilates DVD at home. Often our muscles and spine get sore due to a lack of movement through their full range, so a good 20-30 min of exercise a day is like a grease and oil change for the body.
  3. Rest. Rest and sleep are really important for out bodies recovery phase. A common cause for a bad nights sleep is not having the right pillow. To improve your quality of sleep, make sure that pillow is supportive enough and at the right height. When you are lying on your side your spine should be in a nice straight position.

pillow posture

If you think your pillow is to low try folding a towel in half a few times and placing it underneath your pillow to raise it up slightly.

 

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