How to Run Better, and more efficiently.

We all know how to run, right? Not necessarily. If you go to your local park and watch people running, you’ll see a million different styles. There’s the shuffler, barely picking up their feet. There’s the twister, with their whole upper body twisting with each step. There is the leg flicker with the lower legs flying out to the side. The list goes on. Now watch a 6-year-old run. They’ve probably got it about right because they haven’t picked up any bad habits yet.

So what if you run like a Shetland pony with a heavy load? Where's the harm? For some, there's no harm. But for others, poor form can result in repetitive injuries that refuse to go away. For everyone, the beauty of improving your running form is that it makes you more efficient, less prone to injury, and often quite a bit faster. If you go in to a running shop, they'll often point a camera at your feet and prescribe some trainers that aim to fix your problem. But quite a few problems are fairly simple to correct with an improvement in form.

Here are a few tips to think about when you are next out in the park…

1. CORE

People tend to talk about core strength a lot in fitness. In running, your posture is very important. The aim is to have your spine in a ‘neutral’ position, your pelvis level and your core muscles engaged. Your posture and core stability affects everything else you do - from the way you use your arms to how heavily you land. So by improving your posture, your core, stability muscles will be working better to support you.

Think about an imaginary bit of rope coming out of your head. Simply imagine that someone above is pulling that rope and lifting your head off your shoulders, lengthening the space between your earlobes and shoulders. Relax from the shoulders down and keep your eye sight forwards and not down. 

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2. LEG CYCLE

Your leg cycle should go like this: foot strikes ground roughly underneath the hips, leg pulls back, heel picks up to around knee height, and the knee drives through to begin the cycle again. If you follow the path of the heel looking from the side, there should be a circular motion of the leg cycle. Your gluts and hamstrings should do most of the work, while your feet and lower legs should remain relaxed. A common problem is over-striding where your foot lands too far in front of you. This essentially puts the break on every time you land, slowing you down and causing you to take the shock of landing through your heel.

If you’re an over-strider, focus on picking your heel up behind you as the foot leaves the ground. As the leg moves forward concentrate on lifting the knee slightly up in front.

Concentrate on either the heel lifts for a period of 20-30 seconds or the knee lifts for a similar period. Avoid doing both at the same time. At Chiswick Physio we would also advise to do some gluteal strengthening exercises to make sure your quads aren’t over compensating for a weak bottom.

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3. ARMS

You might be surprised to hear that your arms are responsible for quite a bit of the power when you’re running. They should be bent and remain at 90 degrees at the elbow, and your thumbs should be pointing upwards. They should pull back so your fist is brushing your pelvis at hip level and then forward so fist is at shoulder height, in front of the shoulder. Try to use a fluid arm movement backwards and forwards, pushing much further backward than forward. Posturally, this should open up the shoulders, and increase mobility in the upper back.

Avoid taking the arms across your trunk. You often see people who don’t move their arms much when they run and they tend to twist their whole upper body as a result. That has a knock on effect all the way down the body, even changing how you land. The answer is to make sure your arms are moving like a pendulum, forwards and backwards.

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For that little bit of extra oomph…

  • Get a friend  to film you running from the side so you can see            your style.
  • Make corrections in small doses, focusing on your form for                just a few minutes at a time during your runs to get it right.
  • Contact us here at Chiswick Physio for a dynamic assessment of your biomechanics and a specific strengthening programme.

And for a bit of inspiration, watch the perfect form of some of the world’s elite distance runners like Haile Gebrselassie.

Happy running, folks.

Exercise and your pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy is something I feel very strongly about. Most women will find some benefit from exercising whether it is physically, emotionally or both. A twenty minute walk, a spin, Pilates or yoga class; whatever it is that motivates you, anything is better than nothing. Every women and every pregnancy is unique but with the right guidance you can find some sort of physical activity to help you gain the benefits.

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For me personally, exercise gave me back some control. When you fall pregnant you give your body over to your baby. For the next nine months everything you do can impact the baby. Before making any decision you will be thinking, ‘does this affect my baby’? I enjoyed pregnancy but I also liked being able to exercise my body. Exercise was my medicine. It made me feel like me, Jade for a short while and not just another pregnant woman. Your body is changing; there is no denying that but being able to manage that change can empower you.

There are many ways in which exercise can help you during your pregnancy. Just by being active and leading a healthy lifestyle can lift you both physically and mentally. It is a great way to reduce or even eliminate pregnancy related pain.

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When you exercise, you release hormones that make you feel good. Any woman that has been through pregnancy will tell you it’s an emotional time and although you may be thrilled to be pregnant, there will be days when it’s all too much. This is down to all the hormones flying around your body and exercise can help level you and feel good about yourself.

Tiredness……..it can be overwhelming how tired you can get. Exercise can help counteract it; exercise can invigorate and energise you.

During pregnancy you will gain weight - this is unavoidable. You are growing a tiny human in your body, BUT it is only a tiny human, not a fully grown replica of you. You are not eating for two.  Managing your food intake, eating healthy nutrient rich foods is essential. In fact during the different trimesters you only need as much as 450 extra calories (3rd trimester) and less for the earlier ones. This is not a lot of food, so just be aware of what you are putting in.

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The increased weight adds physical stress to the body and the demand on your muscles and joints is increased with the increased load. By exercising and staying strong this will help your body to cope with the increased demands placed upon it and also help to manage the weight gain throughout the pregnancy.

Another reason you need to be strong is your ligaments are less supportive during pregnancy due to the hormones. Ligaments need to become stretchy to allow for the changes in the body and for child birth but this can also lead to increased pain and excessive movement. By keeping your muscles strong you give your body, in particular your lower back and pelvis the support it needs during these tough times.

And then at the end of it, there’s labour. Probably one of the hardest endurance events you might do in your life. Being in the best physical shape you can be will only enhance your whole experience and help you to deal with the physical demands of child birth.

Needless to say I am a massive ADVOCATE for exercise and pregnancy. I have had three very happy and healthy pregnancy’s ending in one birth centre and two home births. I’m not saying all of that is because I exercised during pregnancy but I’m sure it only helped and my recovery postnatally was quick and without complication.

Written by Jade Rodham, our woman's health physiotherapist at Chiswick Physio. To hear more about the benefits of exercise please inquire on info@chiswick-physio.co.uk or look out on our Facebook page for one of Jade's regular free talks.

 

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Thought I'd re-share some information from a talk given by Dr Alexander Brand, a consultant Rheumatologist which I attended in January 2012.

Ankylosing Spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the axial skeleton with variable involvement of peripheral joints and non-articular structures. It mainly affects joints in the spine and the sacroiliac joint in the pelvis, and can cause eventual fusion of the spine. 

Presentation

-         Predominently in 35 year old males

-         Always starts in the sacroiliac joint

-         May suffer from some other inflammatory disorder – psorasis, iritis, IBS

-         Morning stiffness that is prolonged – 60-90 minutes buttock pain and into the thighs

-         Systemically unwell – continual flu symptoms

-         CRP and ESR may be normal

-         HLA B27+ is high in only 90% of cases. If it is high does not mead you have AS. If it is low you still may have AS. Not definitive in diagnosis.

Main diagnosis test is MRI – will show bone marrow oedema of the SIJ.

Physiotherapy treatment

–        The main aim is maintain range of movement.

–        Swimming, is one of the preferred exercises since it involves all muscles and joints in a low-impact, buoyant environment.

–        Slow movement muscle extending exercises like stretchingyoga, climbing, t'ai chiPilates method, is recommended.

–        Moderate-to-high impact exercises like jogging are generally not recommended or recommended with restrictions due to the jarring of affected vertebrae that can worsen pain and stiffness in some patients.

–        Manipulation is contraindicated and has sometimes led to spinal fractures.

Medication

-         Pain relieving drugs – NSAID’s and opiod analgesics

-         Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) - used to reduce the immune system response through immunosuppression.

-         TNFα blockers (also known as biologics), are indicated for the treatment of and are effective immunosuppressants in AS as in other autoimmune diseases.