Staying Injury-Free with Dr. Heather North, Physical Therapist and Running Coach

Dr. Heather North is the owner of Red Hammer Rehab in Louisville, Colorado, and a co-founder of Revolution Running club (she is also a coach and in-house physio for the club). She has been awarded “Best Sports Medicine Doctor” in the Mountain/West region by Competitor Magazine in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, as well as “Best Sports Medicine Rehab Facility” in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Dr. North’s focus is on sports medicine, and is known for being aggressive with injuries (hence her nickname, “The Hammer”). She also happens to be Fun Run Box’s blog writer’s physical therapist and coach, so we thought who better to ask a few questions about staying injury-free?

Fun Run Box: What is the most common running injury that you see as a PT/coach?

Dr. Heather North: We see a lot of knee injuries. Mostly because there are so many different injuries that can occur at that joint. It also is very susceptible to poor running technique, bad biomechanics, and weakness in the major stabilizers (gluteal muscles).

FRB: What is the number one thing that new runners can do to stay injury free and why is that one thing so important?

DHN: I’m going to give two because I really feel that there are two great ways. Keeping your cadence at 180 is so very important. Not only does it make you a more efficient runner, but it also decreases the amount of impact during each foot strike you make. This translates directly to less injuries and speedier running!

The second is your butt. You want a wattage cottage not only because it helps to drive you forward. That of course is the goal of running…to move forward as fast as you are able for whatever distance you race. The gluteal muslces are most importantly major injury preventers because they stabilize the leg by keeping the knee driving over the feet and preventing knee pronation (internal rotation) and helping prevent foot pronation. If you keep the mechanics lined up, you decrease injuries substantially.

FRB: What’s your favorite workout/exercise for a new runner, or a runner just getting back into it?

DHN: My favorite exercise is hill repeats. It’s a hard workout, but one that is fun and non-intimidating. Mixed repeats of short time efforts such as 30-60 seconds is perfect. Hill workouts also get the runner’s heart rate up without putting a lot of stress on the body itself. Basically it is working the engine and not the wheels, chassis, and structure of the car.

FRB: How do you know if something is just a minor tweak that you can run through or a real injury that you should take time off from?

DHN: If there is a tweak or niggle that pops up, it is smart to keep an eye on it. Don’t run hard the following day, or cross train instead. Take some ibuprofen and maybe even use a bit of ice. If it is persistenting a few days further, get a massage and take a few days off of running. Cross train instead but do stay moving. If it is still hanging on after a week or two it is time to visit your orthopedic specialist – otherwise known as your local Doctor of Physical Therapy. This person is your go-to for any injury that involves the musculoskeletal system. They are fully qualified to refer you on if need be as well and will be a wealth of information and treatment guidance. In most states DPT’s are direct access too which means you do not need a referral from your Medical Doctor.

FRB: What piece of advice would you give a new runner?

DHN: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Be patient and consistent. Realize that so much has to change in order for your body to acclimatize to this very specific pounding and weight bearing exercise. Muscles must grow, connective tissue must become tougher and more resilient, and bones must become more dense. Start off with walking in combination with running. Run every other day, but walk every day. Begin to decrease the time you walk and increase the time you run. Advice is 10-15% increases in total running time per week. Keep your heart rate around 140-150 maximum.

FRB: Is there anything else you would add?

DHN: The best advice that I give as a DPT and as a coach for Revolution Running in Colorado is to STAY CONSISTENT. This means aim to run 80% of your weekly mileage easy (90 seconds slower than your marathon pace). The remaining 20% is split evenly into tempo (10Kish pace) and interval (faster than 5K pace). This also means running 5-6 days a week each and every week. Consistent and repeated loading of the body tempers it and makes a runner quite durable. This also translates directly into performance boosting too.

Feature Photo Credit: Rachel Dehner

7 of the Best Apps for Runners

For most of us, the days of running with just an iPod are gone. We don’t know many runners who don’t head out the door without their cell phone, and it’s a good idea to have one with you anyway if you are going out alone. But lucky for us, as phones have become smarter, there has also been a boom in apps to put on your phone that will make your run easier. Here are seven of them. Prices were accurate as June 2016, but may change at any time!

RunKeeper

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Basic $0, Upgrade $9.99/mo or $39.99/yr

RunKeeper is one of the most popular apps out there, and for good reason – it does a lot. The app features GPS/distance tracking, speed monitoring, caloric output, and activity history. You can set goals, save and find new routes, and even get training plans if you upgrade. You can also link the app with your account on the website.

Spotify Running

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Basic $0, Premium $9.99/mo

If you have RunKeeper, Spotify integrates into that app, but if not, Spotify Running is a great app that chooses music based on your tempo. So if you’re going for the golden 180 steps/minute, then you can set it to that, and the beat will keep you on track.

Daily Burn

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Free 30 day trial, then $12.95/mo

Love running, but like cross training, too? DailyBurn features daily 30-minute, full-body workouts that you can stream from your iPhone or iPad. There’s also a workout library, and a motivating community you can join!

MapMyRun

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Free

Yep, you guessed it – this one is all about mapping your route, sharing your route, and finding new routes to run. You can also track your activity, connect with the website, count your calories, and share your run with your social network.

Zombies, Run!

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Free, but lots of in-app purchases

This app is a great way to mix up your run when motivation is lacking. Each time you start a run, you are given a mission and music. When zombies come, you speed up. Interval training at it’s finest (funnest?). There is also an 8-week 5K training plan that you can get for $1.99.

Strava

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Basic $0, Premium $6/mo or $59/yr

This app is a must-have for anyone who is competitive and has competitive friends. It’s called the “social network for athletes” and doesn’t just let you track your runs and download your Garmin data, but let’s you connect with friends and compete against them in challenges. The premium version includes personalized training and   advanced data analysis options.

Endomondo

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Basic $0, Premium $5.99/mo or $29.99/yr

Another tracking app, that offers basic information: duration, distance, speed, calories burned, and it maps your route. You can also set goals and review your workouts. There is a premium version that offers training plans and coaching. The coolest thing about this app is that you can leave motivational “peptalks” for your friends that also use the app (and they can leave messages for you!).

What apps do you use regularly?

Feature Photo Credit: Georgia Papadon

 

9 Ways to Recover After a Long Run or Race

Recovery. One of the most important (and overlooked) components of a training plan. According to RunnersWorld.com, recovery is:

“the restoration of energy-producing enzymes inside the muscles, functional proteins, fat and carbohydrate stores, and the regeneration of the endocrine and immune systems, Stellingwerff says. Recovery comes down to repairing, resting and refueling–while still allowing the body to adapt to the training workload and reap fitness gains. So the seconds, hours and days between all those bouts of running matter.”

But what is the best way to start the recovery process after a long run or race? It’s normal to be tired and have some soreness after pushing your body, but there are a few things to try and see what helps your body bounce back faster.

Before you worry about recovery, though, make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating good foods, and staying well-hydrated. The better you take care of your body when you aren’t running, the more you can set yourself up for success in the first place.

Now, on to the recovery options!

1. Recovery Drinks

While studies have shown that chocolate milk and coconut water could be good options post-workout, a drink specifically made for recovery, with a 3:1 or a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is going to give you the best returns. Ideally, get this down within 30 minutes of finishing your activity.

2. Eat Something

If you didn’t eat something with your recovery drink, the other window for consuming fuel for optimal recovery is one to three hours post-run. This would be a good time for a nutritious meal.

3. Ice Bath

The ice bath is a strategy that some swear by, while other studies show that long-term use of the ice bath can actually hamper recovery. That being said, anyone who has soaked their legs in the cold ocean after a long run knows that it seems to have some benefit. Cold water (it doesn’t even have to be freezing!) can reduce inflammation and improve circulation to your muscles.

4. Massage

Getting a massage on sore, tired muscles will reduce swelling and put you back at 100% more quickly. The sooner after a hard workout, the better.

5. Foam Roller

Can’t afford or don’t have time for a massage? Pull out the foam roller or tennis ball, and get on those tired muscles!

6. ROLL Recovery R8

The ROLL Recovery R8 is a relatively new recovery product that has several spring-loaded wheels. You can get a deeper massage than a foam roller, but still do it on your own at home.

7. Compression Socks

While there is conflicting information about compression socks as well, they are known to reduce next day soreness. Like massage, the sooner you get them on after a hard workout, the better.

8. Stretch

Don’t let those tired muscles tighten up! A good time to stretch is right after your run, or after a warm shower, and can be anything from this squat to a set of post-run stretches.

What methods of recovery have you had success with after a long run or race?

Feature Photo Credit: Resilience Fitness & Nutrition

Quick Guide to Running with Your Dog

If you are a runner and have a dog, chances are you would love to be able to run together. And even if your dog pulls, stops to pee every 5 seconds, or is terribly out of shape, in most cases it’s simply a matter of getting them in shape and used to running. That being said, check with your vet before starting your dog on a running program, just to make sure your four-legged friend is as ready as you are!

1. Make sure your dog is ready.

Besides a vet visit, this means:

  • staying up-to-date on vaccinations,
  • nail trimmings, grooming (if applicable),
  • sunscreen (if your dog has super light skin or thin fur),
  • make sure your dog is older than 1.5 years.

2. Get the equipment. 

You may want to get your dog a reflective collar or even a light to attach to his harness or collar. I prefer to run with my dog with a harness, just in case he sniffs something – I don’t want to jerk his neck.

You can also get a hands-free waist leash, which will make your life a lot easier and won’t interfere with your running form as much as holding a regular leash might.

3. Start easy.

If you haven’t been walking your dog regularly because of winter weather, start with walking a few days a week. As you are walking with your dog, don’t let him stop and sniff without a command such as “go ahead”, “okay”, or “sniff”, so that he learns that he can’t just stop and sniff anywhere he wants (which will be helpful when you start running).

4. Introduce running and gradually build up your dog’s endurance.

Depending on your dog, this may be a running/walking program, or a jogging program. Start with 10 minutes of running and see how your dog does. Add 10 minutes each week until you get up to your desired time/distance. At first, your dog may want to go much faster, but he will get used to your pace in time and after that initial excitement.

5. Other things to consider:

  • If it’s too cold or your dog has shorter hair, he may need a jacket.
  • In the summer, try to go in the morning or later in the evening when the pavement is cooler. Also, don’t give your dog boots in the summer because he may overheat.
  • Bring extra water for your dog when your runs start to get longer.