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Steps to Success- Running and Walking tips

Steps to Success- Running and Walking tips

By: Dr. Scott Simpson, Physiotherapist


Forward we go!


“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”  Walt Disney


Running is a simple sport, but it’s clearly not easy- this is what makes it such a great challenge. I’m a strong believer in doing preventative independent exercises as a means building a strong foundation. They are free, relatively easy and specific to the task of running. In my opinion this is the best way to fine tune your body for success. Lets break these foundations down a little- so we can build them up!


Firstly, we want to harness as much of our energy as possible in the forward direction. Energy that is spent on vertical, lateral or torsional movement slows us down and makes us more susceptible to injury.

With this in mind, we all have unique running styles, but when running, we want to move forward efficiently. Secondly, we want to ensure that all of the joints in the body have adequate range of motion, strength and stability. Most injuries that occur while running are repetitive strains and do not typically happen in isolation. In other words we can’t simply treat an injury, to a knee for example, we have to treat the individual’s movement pattern, because it might well be that something happening through the foot or hip, the knee problem.



Let me give you an example. How about I ask you to stand on one foot. Now close your eyes to take away all those visual cues. My guess is that you will feel vertical, lateral and torsional movement through your foot and ankle. This exercise would be considered a stability exercise. Since we know that these forces predispose us to injury, and that these stresses are magnified when we run, this is a very good exercise to practice. In fact, studies have shown that practicing standing on one foot with your eyes closed can help prevent ankle sprains. It all happens because there is that split second when your foot hits the ground and either you roll your ankle, or you catch it. By doing these exercises you train your body to reflexively know where your foot is relative to the ground, and thus stand a better chance of preventing the ankle sprain.



Now lets move further up the chain and visualise the knee. Anatomically, the knee is classified as a hinge joint. In other words, we are only supposed to bend it in one plane of movement- in fact we have a slew of structures that prevent it from moving in any other direction. If these structures have to work too hard they get upset. Essentially, we want our knee to track over our second toe providing movement exclusively in a forward direction. Torsion and lateral movement are the knees biggest enemies, and can lead to problems like runners knee, patellar tendonitis or IT band syndrome. So here is a good strengthening exercise to reinforce this movement pattern. Stand on one leg and try to bend your knee over your second toe. It’s not as easy as it sounds! You will feel those force enemies in action. A lot of you will feel your knee twist inwards towards your midline- this typically demonstrates a lack of strength in both the thigh and hip musculature, making us more susceptible to the aforementionned problems.


My third example would be to consider the effects of too much range of motion. For this one we will look at our mid section. I’m quite sure you will agree with me that when we run we move our lower extremity and opposite upper extremity in unison.It’s called the reciprocal gait pattern. With this in mind, we have a counterbalance system with the mid section being the zone where forces are transferred. If we have excessive movement through our upper extremity there will be an equal yet opposite force through your lower extremity. Try this, stand with your arms at your side, elbows out. Try an exaggerated wide arm swing. How does it feel on your back, hips, knees, ankles, even your feet? This is excessive motion that can lead to injury. Now try this – keep your elbows tight to your body and have your thumbs up. Move your forearms on forward plane. How does this feel on all those areas I mentioned before? Big difference eh. What’s one of the biggest causes of back pain? Twisting or torsion. It’s a lot better to prevent back pain through proper exercise, becoming self sufficient, rather than becoming dependent on treatment.



So to sum all of this up- we always want to think about the direction of movement. I’ve never been in a race that is measured in a vertical distance, or sideways, or twisting for that matter. You want to harness as much of your energy as possible in a forward direction. Above I have emphasized exercises that promote proper stability, strength and range of motion. Of course, considering we all have different running styles, there are many other specific complementary exercises that can be performed for specific weaknesses. If you can master these concepts however, you will be much less likely to get injured and you will also be able to move more quickly in the right direction.


Henry Ford once said “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”


Enjoy finding your path to success!



Manual Therapy for Back and Neck Pain

Manual Therapy for Back and Neck Pain

See the Big Picture. Treat the CAUSE of injury.

This is the ‘hands-on’ of physiotherapy which is found at the Saanichton Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic. Although there are certain improvements that can be made by stretching and massage alone, sometimes a more specific technique is required to mobilize or manipulate joints that don’t move properly. Often Manual Therapy can help minimize the likelihood of major injury by looking at the big picture. We treat the CAUSE and not just the SYMPTOM. After such a treatment, you may be shown home exercises that can be done to keep your joints functioning well.

What types of Manual & Manipulative Therapy can Physiotherapists provide?

Joint mobilization – a skilled passive slow movement applied by the therapist to the affected joint to improve its range of motion. This can be applied to any joint, from the jaw all the way to the toes.

Joint manipulation – a skilled passive fast movement applied by the therapist to a stiff joint. There is usually a characteristic ‘pop’ sound or feeling. These can be applied to most joints of the body. Manipulations of the spine itself are limited to those professionals with advanced training in this area, including physiotherapists.

Back and neck pain are among the most widespread reasons patients seek physiotherapy.  And back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 80% of people at some point during their lives. Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain, and can be acute or chronic. Neck pain, which is closely associated with back pain, occurs when muscles are strained from poor posture or injury, or when joints are worn or nerves are compressed. Both conditions can be debilitating and effect a patient’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Early access to physiotherapy (within 14 days of occurrence) has a significant long-term impact on the health of patients as it helps to prevent chronic disability and decreases the proportion of cases that become chronic.

So, if you suffer from back or neck pain, seeking the guidance of a physiotherapist is a great first step towards finding pain relief and keeping you moving for life.

  1. Vary your position. Sitting at computers and desks all day puts increased pressured on your spine. After 30 minutes of sitting make sure you walk around to keep the flow of blood and fluids to your spine. Set up a standing workstation to vary your position while working at your computer. Make sure your work desk and computer are set up properly for sitting or standing to encourage optimal posture. Your physiotherapist will prescribe suitable and safe stretches or “pause exercises” and provide tips on how to correctly position yourself in front of your computer.

  1. Stay flexible. Optimal spinal health means having flexibility in all directions. If your thorax (upper-mid back and ribcage) has limited rotation movement, more load and stress can be transferred to your low back, neck or other body parts. Check your rotation by sitting in a chair with your arms crossed across your stomach; you should be able to turn equally to the right and left and see behind you easily. If you have an asymmetry between the right and left directions, or reduced motion, your physiotherapist can assess the reason why, mobilize your spinal joints, and give you exercises to maintain your thoracic mobility – essential for a healthy low back and neck.

  1. Keep your core in check. Regain optimal control of your deep spinal muscles (core) following an episode of neck or back pain. Your physiotherapist will provide a thorough examination of your spine, provide manual therapy and other treatment techniques, and help you regain any lost mobility by instructing you on how to achieve ideal postural alignment and prescribing exercises that will support your spine.

  1. Correct postural habits. Be aware of habitual postures and positions (such as always sitting on one side of the couch, slouching with your feet on the coffee table, carrying your bag/purse always over the same shoulder, sitting cross legged, leaning usually on the same elbow etc.) Habitually poor postures may indicate weaknesses in certain muscle groups or stiffness within the body. Your physiotherapist can assess reasons why you may adopt these positions and how to correct them.

Physiotherapists are the rehabilitation specialists recommended most by physicians. They are university-educated health professionals who work with patients of all ages to diagnose and treat virtually any mobility issue. Physiotherapists provide care for orthopedic issues such as sport and workplace injuries, as well as cardiorespiratory and neurological conditions. As Canada’s most physically active health professionals, BC’s physiotherapists know how to keep British Columbians moving for life.