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Running Injuries

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One of the most common running injuries we get asked about is shin splints and how to get rid of them…

A common misconception about shin splints is that they are an actual condition of the shin bone or tibia.

Shin splints describe the pain felt along the front of your lower leg, at the shin bone. The pain concentrates in your lower leg between your knee and ankle.

The pain can be caused by inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue. 

Let’s have a look at what shin splints are in a bit more detail, but more importantly, what is the best way to avoid getting them?

Shin Splints

As we already mentioned, a common misconception about shin splints is that they are an actual condition of the shin bone or tibia.

That is not true. 

Shin splints are normally caused by one of the muscles that are running down the tibia. Typically it is the medial or inside of the shin that normally hurts.

The connective tissues between the muscle and the shin become inflamed and it starts to pull away from the shin, causing shin pain. 

That is really the pain that you are feeling. 

(Side note: extreme levels of pressure and tightness may actually indicate compartment syndrome)

There is, therefore, pressure running through the tibia…

If we don’t treat it and you keep running through the pain, shin splints will ultimately turn into a pre-stress fracture (which is a little bit of bony oedema and bleeding on the actual bone).

Ultimately, if you continue running shin splints, it could turn into a stress fracture of the tibia.

Shin splints are an extremely common novice runner’s injury.

This is because as human beings we are always driven to succeed, improve, go faster, get better and run longer.

Often this is what happens as we always build up too quickly, and we then typically get shin splints.

There are a few other main causes of shin splints…

What Are Shin Splints Caused By?

The most common causes of shin splints:

  • Doing too much too soon.
  • Running in the incorrect running shoes.
  • Not having a body that is adapted for exercise.
  • Stress reactions to bone fractures.

How To Tell If You Are At Risk Of Getting Shin Splints?

There are a few risk factors to consider that give you a higher chance of getting shin splints…

  • Not having a body that is adapted for exercise, such as flat foot syndrome.
  • muscle weakness in your thighs or buttocks
  • Lack of mobility
  • Running on a slanted surface or uneven terrain
  • Running on hard surfaces
  • Using worn-out shoes

Let’s chat a bit about the recovery process…

How long do shin splints take to heal?

There’s no way to say exactly when you will be fully recovered from your shin splints…

It really depends on what caused them. People also heal at different rates. 

When you feel that you are recovered, you should make sure to properly warm up (LINK) and, you should do so gradually over a few weeks. 

Try to start out running on soft, level ground, and wear the correct shoes.

Don’t Ignore The Pain From Shin Splints

A major issue with shin splints is people tend to ignore the pain.

Pain is a signal from your body telling you something isn’t right…

Runners think it will get better as they get a little bit fitter but that is generally not the case. This is why people often end up with quite a serious case of shin splints.

The good news is, that even if it is serious, it shouldn’t take more than two weeks to deal with the actual pain.

How To Get Rid Of Shin Splints

To heal shin splints from the acute phase can take anywhere in the region of 48 hours to two weeks, depending on how far you pushed yourself into the pain.

  • The first thing you need to do is rest.

I know, it’s the last thing a runner wants to hear…

…but continuing to run is just going to make the shin splints worse.

You can also take an anti-inflammatory if needed to help speed up recovery, but this is not a long-term solution and should be recommended by a doctor.

  • The second thing you need to do is run an ice pack over the affected shins for 20 minutes three times a day.

This will also help settle the inflammation.

Exercises like toe raise and forward & lateral band walks, for example, are perfect.

  • And then lastly, grab a foam roller and foam roll your legs. 

In summary…

What you can do right now to heal shin splints fast:

  • Rest (Take an anti-inflammatory, if needed, to settle the inflammation)
  • Run an ice pack over the affected area 3 times a day for 20 minutes
  • Strength training twice a week
  • Foam rolling daily

So avoiding shin splints altogether would be the best-case scenario, but how do you not get shin splints?

How to prevent shin splints in the first place

  1. Get Proper Running Shoes

When people start running they very seldom start off in the right pair of running shoes.

They decide they want to start running to get fit and improve the quality of their life or to run a marathon. 

Whatever the reason is, they go into their closet and pull out whatever shoes they’ve got in there.

Their excitement and exuberance to get started, plus very often incorrect footwear is a lethal combination when it comes to shin splints.

How To Choose The Correct SIZE Running Shoe For YOU: 3 Simple Hacks To Get The Perfect Fit 

  1. Strength & Conditioning Training To Get Rid of Shin Splints

Here are some of the things you can do from a strength and conditioning perspective to prevent and treat shin splints as a runner…

Strength and conditioning won’t directly help with your shin splints…

Essentially, shin splints are mostly caused by an overload issue and by an imbalance between your anterior and posterior compartments between your lower limbs…

The strength work that you should be looking at…

There is a muscle in the front of the shin called the tibialis anterior, this muscle is the one people tend to worry about because it gets very tight and starts to spasm. This muscle is not there for shock absorption… 

So when people ask if you can do strength training for shin splints… the answer is yes, but to strengthen that muscle, which is responsible for bringing your toes up (dorsiflexion). 

So really, if you’re strengthening that muscle, all you’re doing is improving your dorsiflexion not preventing shin splints. 

What we recommend is strengthening your pelvic stability, hip girdle, glutes, and definitely your inner thigh muscles. 

It’s important for people to know that if you are experiencing shin splints, it may not be an issue directly connected to your shins but rather in that chain like your hips, knees, or even shoes. 

You can download our free strength program: HERE

  1. Build up really slowly

Follow a structured running training plan that will give your body time to adapt to the increased training…

If during your slow build-up, the pain returns, I would then suggest that you go see a physiotherapist.

Couple that with seeing a biokineticist because there is most probably a good chance then that you have an imbalance between your anterior and posterior compartments as we call it.

Effectively what that means is: The muscles on the front of your leg are stronger or weaker than the muscles on the back of your leg.

As a result… there is strain being placed on those anterior muscles causing them to get inflamed.

When To See a Doctor

If your pain has not been relieved by rest, ice, anti-inflammatory tablets, or foam rolling, then it is a good idea to make an appointment and your orthopedist or GP as they will be able to diagnose the exact source of your pain and recommend a treatment plan.

Strong female runner

Join us for a free live online presentation of the…

The Running Through Menopause Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

11am Los Angeles | 2pm New York | 7pm London

Plantar fasciitis can be extremely debilitating for a runner!

I mean… nothing can disrupt normal daily living or your exercise routine quite as much as a pain that keeps you from literally moving around…

Known as one of the most common orthopedic complaints… Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the bottom of your heel or on other parts underneath your feet. The plantar fascia is a thick, weblike ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. It acts as a shock absorber and supports the arch of your foot to help you run and walk.

Let’s have a look at how you can treat an inflamed plantar fascia and prevent painful feet when running, as well as exercises that you can do at home that will help you heal and prevent plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms Of Plantar Fasciitis

The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain at the bottom of your heel or sometimes at the bottom midfoot area. It usually affects just one foot, but it can affect both of your feet.

Symptoms also include pain that is worse in the morning or when you stand after sitting for a long time or a swollen heel.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Like with most injuries, it’s very seldom that there is one specific cause of that injury…

A few known causes of Plantar Fasciitis include:

Running shoes that have run their course & don’t provide enough support.
– Running long distances on beach sand.
– Tightness in calf muscles (soleus).
– Being overweight is a risk factor.
– Extreme inflexibility in the plantar fascia.
– Tight Achilles’ tendons and structural abnormalities, like having flat feet.

So… What do we do once we have it?

How Do You Fix Plantar Fasciitis?

We recommend rolling your plantar fasciitis gently with ice, you could freeze a bottle of water and just gently roll that on the bottom of your foot – where the pain is. You could then use a golf/cricket ball and actually massage under your feet.

Strengthening exercises will also help with plantar fasciitis.

Put a towel underneath your feet on a tiled floor. Then use your toes to pull that towel and scrunch it up under your feet. So you’re almost doing “bicep curls” with your toes to strengthen your plantar fascia.

If the pain doesn’t improve after doing these things, you should make an appointment with a sports doctor – to ensure it isn’t more serious than you might think.

How to Treat & Prevent Plantar Fasciitis in Runners (Plus Exercises To Do At Home For Pain Relief)

Being runners ourselves… We understand how difficult it is to take a break…

Does Running With Plantar Fasciitis Make It Worse?

YES! Running with plantar fasciitis will make it worse.

If you continue to run with plantar fasciitis, you will cause additional damage to the plantar fasciitis ligament, worsening the condition and causing more pain that could make even walking difficult. 

As we always say…. REST is a four-letter word no runners want to hear….

How To Keep Up Your Training When You Have Plantar Fasciitis?

Stop! 

This really depends on where on the foot it’s sore and whether it’s getting worse or not while you are exercising. 

If it’s getting worse, then don’t carry on with your training, otherwise, it’s going to get worse and worse until you can’t run even if you wanted to.

Cross-training is advisable, like stationary cycling, or perhaps some work on the elliptical, or even swimming. These are things you can do to maintain your fitness.

Note: It is possible to figure out what is causing the pain. It could even be a lack of support in your shoes…

Make Plantar Fasciitis Disappear For Good!

As we mentioned above, the pain could be coming from your shoes or there could even be a  problem with actual weakness in the underside of your foot. 

A little muscle, the fascia that connects your heel to your toes, is responsible for curling your toes.

To strengthen that, do the towel method as we said above but also get your shoes checked out, the shoes may also be allowing a little bit too much play. 

They could also be a little bit hard, in which case your foot is going to be sliding too much across the top of the shoe. Because the foot is not able to settle into the shoe nicely.

Orthotic Inserts To Help With Plantar Fasciitis

Supporting your arch with orthotics is a good way to protect your plantar fascia while it heals.

I wouldn’t use orthotic inserts as a preventative measure but they could certainly help with the healing process.

Let’s have a look at an ultimate plantar fasciitis checklist...

Checklist For Sorting Out Plantar Fasciitis

  1. Make sure you are in the correct shoes.
  1. Strength exercises.
  • Tennis Ball Roll

Place a tennis ball, rolling pin, frozen water bottle, or other cylindrical objects under your foot and gently roll.

  • Towel Stretch 

As explained earlier.

  • Toe Stretch

In a seated position, push your leg out so that just your heel is on the floor. Bend down and grab your big toe, bending it backward (Gently). Flex your ankle.

  • Calf Stretch

Stand facing a wall or something to lean onto, with one foot in front of the other (the back foot is the one with plantar fasciitis). Keeping the back leg straight, lean your weight forward, bending into the front knee. (Make sure your back heel stays on the ground).

  1. If 1 & 2 don’t help then visit a Podiatrist.
  1. Take anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen to help reduce pain and swelling.
  1. Regular icing to help reduce pain and swelling. 
  1. Stretching of the calf muscles, and when less painful introduce stretching of the plantar fascia.
  1. Reduce training volume and include cross-training.

Download one of our free, world-famous strength training plans: Here

A lot of people don’t know that the term “Runners Knee” is a broad term used to describe the pain you feel if you have one of several knee problems. 

You might have heard a doctor call it Patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome can be better understood as…

Pain around the front of the knee (patella). This is where the knee connects with the lower end of the thigh bone (femur).

Let’s have a deeper look into Patellofemoral pain or… more commonly known as runner’s knee…

What Is Runners Knee?

Most of the big five fall into the overuse category, but like shin splints, runners knee or patella-femoral knee pain, in particular, does come down to people building up too quickly.

We have got four muscles that make up our quadriceps, (quad meaning four).  

You’ve got a little guy called the Vastus Medialis oblique which is primarily responsible for stabilizing your patella. 

Then you’ve got some pretty big muscles too…

The point is when you’ve been inactive for some time your proprioception or the body’s ability to adjust itself to protect the joints is one of the things that becomes the most compromised. 

Those big quad muscles will stay quite big and they will work quite well but your Vastus Medialis oblique is probably not going to work so well. 

This results in some misalignment with your patella tracking. Particularly If you build up too quickly and you don’t give your body a chance for that Vastus Medialis oblique to start activating as it should and to start getting a little bit stronger… in a nutshell, it will lead to problems such as pain, particularly in and around your knee cap.

Similarly, if you have some biomechanical issues you may pick up Runner’s knee…

Your quadriceps run into your patella tendon and your quadriceps tendon runs over and around the patella and becomes the patella tendon that joins the leg on the tibia or below the knee. 

If you have some imbalances or problems with biomechanics in particular then you can get that pulling on the patella at an angle and that can also cause you some patella-femoral pain or some irritation of the knee cap.

It may seem obvious but if you are going to start running in squash shoes or in the shoes you had in high school, you are going to run into problems. 

Often when people who have been running for years develop Runners knee or patella-femoral knee pain it is very often in response to their shoes.

This Is How To Tell You Need New Running Shoes

The knee is one of those joints that really needs to work in one plane. 

Your knee joint opens and closes, which is pretty much what it does. Where you have other joints like your ankle or your hip and they’re a little more forgiving because they move in multiple directions…

So if imbalance creeps in or if there is another injury and you come back from that injury but it has caused some change or shift in your running gait and you finally find yourself in a position where you are landing on the ground and your knee is no longer able to move in just that straight plain thereby causing a bit of stress on the knee….That could also potentially cause patella-femoral knee pain.

Symptoms Of Runners Knee

There are 3 main symptoms of Runner’s knee.

  1. Pain
  • Pain in/ around your kneecap that happens when you are exercising.
  • As well as pain after sitting for a long time with the knees bent. 
  1. Grinding Sounds
  • Rubbing, grinding, or clicking sound of the kneecap that you hear when you bend and straighten your knee.
  1. Tender Kneecap
  • If your Kneecap is tender to the touch.

How Is Runner’s Knee Diagnosed?

Healthcare providers can diagnose Runner’s knee by looking at your health history and by conducting a physical exam, possibly using an X-ray machine.

Let’s have a look at some of the main reasons why you could experience Runner’s knee…

Causes Of Runners Knee

  1. Overtraining
  2. An Imbalance
  3. Not Warming Up Correctly
  4. Knee Trauma

Overtraining

Long periods of overtraining can cause runner’s knee in even the most experienced athletes. This is why proper recovery is so important. 

By not recovering properly, and if you continue to follow your running program without strategically planning rest days, you are at risk of injuries like patellofemoral syndrome.

An Imbalance

Our knees sit between our ankles and hips, so if there is an imbalance or dysfunction in either our ankles or our hips… there is a higher chance that we will experience runners knee.

Not Warming Up Correctly

If you want to avoid getting injured as a runner, only running is not enough!

In the video below, we walk you through exactly what to do before every run that you do.

It only takes a few minutes but if you start doing this as part of your pre-run routine, you can save yourself a lot of time and heartache down the line because of training missed due to injuries

Knee Trauma

When an accident happens and it involves a direct impact on your kneecap… it can lead to inflammation and therefore Runner’s knee.

Now that we know the causes of Runner’s knee, the good news is that it is treatable!

How To Treat Runners Knee

Firstly and very importantly, rest. 

We then need to wake up that Vastus Medialis oblique and that is not a difficult thing to do…

It’s done in two ways:

Strength Exercises

This would involve 30-degree squats (or even less if there is a pain), a little pain-free range of motion such as single-leg squats, single-leg press-ups, and step-ups onto a very low step at first.

We’ll have a detailed look at strength training exercises for Runner’s knee in the next section.

Work On The Proprioception Simultaneously

The easiest way to do this is to stand on a thick carpet or rug, balance on one leg, and close your eyes. 

That will throw yourself completely out of kilter and all the muscles in your ankle, in your bum, and around the knee that are supposed to stabilize those joints will be forced to engage better because there will be an exaggeration of the movement.

As you repeat that over time, that loss of balance will get smaller and smaller as those proprioceptors do their job, your Vastus Medialis oblique will be doing its job better and your runner’s knee or patella-femoral knee pain shouldn’t be bothering you anymore.

As we mentioned above, our strength & conditioning expert Shona Hendricks talks about what strength training you can do to prevent Runner’s knee. 

Strength Training for Runner’s Knee

To prevent knee pain when running, download our free strength program here.

Have you ever felt a sharp pain or ache on the outside of your knee, which even spreads up or down your leg, and occasionally up towards your hip.

The pain sometimes starts when you begin to run and then stops when you stop running…

Well, if the outside of your knee is tender to the touch and you have some swelling… chances are VERY high that you are suffering from Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB).

The IT band is a ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh, from the top of the hip to the outside of the knee. IT band syndrome happens when that ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh thickens and rubs the knee bone, causing inflammation and pain.

Let’s have a deeper look into what IT Band Syndrome is…

IT Band Syndrome

Your iliotibial band commonly referred to as your IT band, is a long piece of connective tissue that runs from your outer hip to your knee.

The purpose of your IT band is to help stabilize your knee when you’re walking or running.

ITB is common in runners due to tension in the ITB due to tight hip flexors, tight quads, weak glutes, weak abdominals, and weak hips.

Now that we know what it is… How do we prevent getting it in the first place?

How To Prevent Getting IT Band Syndrome

One can prevent getting ITB by maintaining a really good range of motion in the hips, by maintaining flexibility in the hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors. 

Flexibility in the hip flexors needs to be maintained in particular because we spend a lot of our time sitting at desks and driving cars. 

ITB often starts from us just sitting too often for too long periods. What we notice is that there is a slight turning in of the femur (which is the thigh bone) and that causes tightening up of the glutes and the glute medius as well as the tensor fascia lata (which goes straight into the Iliotibial Band) and that is what tightens that system up and causes it to catch on the Bursa.

  • Having nice, strong glutes will help to pull that femur back into the position it is supposed to be in. 
  • Stretching your hip flexors will help you to have a good range of motion and take pressure off that whole system. 

This FREE STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM will definitely help you strengthen those glutes and stretch your hip flexors. 

What To Do If You Experience Iliotibial Band Syndrome While Training

If you’re in the middle of a big training block and say for example you’re training for a marathon coming up… and all of sudden you start showing symptoms of ITB…

This is what you need to do:

Firstly, the good news is that ITB is hardly ever solved with rest.

ITB is what we call a low-level inflammatory disease, basically… you only feel it when you are running. 

The fact that you only feel ITB when you are running means that your body doesn’t see it as a priority because it’s actually not that debilitating.

Even when you are running and feel the pain, it’s more irritating than too painful to stop running. 

If you experience ITB while training we recommend cutting back on your running mileage and the intensity you are running your runs at. 

The most important thing to do with Iliotibial Band Syndrome is that if you DON’T treat it then you WILL struggle with it for months and months.

On that note… let’s see how you can treat ITB

If ITB is stopping you from running then Brad and Shona have the strength training solution for you:

IT Band Syndrome Treatment

  • Hip flexor stretches
  • Glute strengthening
  • Visit a physiotherapist to help with the inflammation and to assess if it is the actual cause. 

We would go as far as to say that 9 out of 10 Iliotibial Band Syndrome cases are caused by a combination of overuse and very tight hip flexors.

The initial treatment for ITB syndrome should aim to reduce your pain and inflammation. 

Further treatment includes physiotherapy to gradually get you back to your usual activities.

Most people recover and can go back to sports or running within four to six weeks.

IT Band Syndrome & Foam Rolling

A lot of people have asked us if foam rolling can help treat ITB and the jury is out…

Massage does work and foam rolling is a type of massage, although using a foam roller while your ITB is inflamed will actually worsen the pain.

For this type of injury and particularly where it’s hard to get the right kind of pressure on it, we recommend using a golf ball or a good old baking rolling pin to get in there. 

As we mentioned above, to REALLY release your hip flexors we recommend physiotherapy.

Exercises That Cure ITB Super Fast

As we touched on earlier, the causes of ITB essentially stem from a lack of strength, which would then cause biomechanical issues. 

The aim of these exercises is to strengthen the pelvic area (being the glutes and hip area) as well as your posterior chain (being your hamstrings and glutes).

What happens when you have ITB is that your hips start to become internally rotated, so if you can keep your hips open, it will keep your whole running gait in check.

Running is catabolic and is a repetitive motion, so you need to ensure that you have the strength to sustain that repetitive motion.

An inflamed ITB is uncomfortable, annoying, and can be painful… let’s have a look at some of the things you can do to alleviate the pain

What To Do If You Have ITB Syndrome

From a strength and conditioning point of view… There are a couple of things one can do but first, we need to remember that ITB can become chronic really quickly.

You should not try to run through Iliotibial Band Syndrome. We know runners tend to run through pain …  and that is just not ideal. 

You need to try and prevent it from becoming chronic because then it becomes really difficult to get rid of ITB Syndrome.

Firstly, we suggest a little bit of extra Rest, although unfortunately in this situation it’s not like shin splints, where the rest will fix it…

A little bit of rest will help relieve that compounding effect.

Secondly, in strength training, specifically, while you are strengthening your posterior chain, you should aim to loosen up or stretch your hip flexors. 

The combination of stretching your hip flexors and strengthening your glutes & hips will make a HUGE difference.

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…

Being sidelined from a running injury is the last thing any runner wants. 

Based on this case study, more than 80% of running injuries are caused by repetitive stress and according to the same study, the knees, legs, and feet are the most common injury areas for runners. 

According to the case study, the location-specific incidence of running injuries is as follows:

  • Knees: 7.2% to 50%
  • Lower leg: 9.0% to 32.2%
  • Upper leg: 3.4% to 38.1%
  • Foot: 5.7% to 39.3%
  • Ankles: 3.9% to 16.6%
  • Hips, pelvis, or groin: 3.3% to 11.5%
  • Lower back: 5.3% to 19.1%

Now that we know that running injuries usually happen when you push yourself too hard, let’s have a look at our first common running injury of the series…

Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis syndrome can be a real pain in the butt for runners! Literally…

Piriformis is a muscle in your glutes and hip structure, which plays a massive role in your walking gait and running gait. 

Piriformis syndrome is when that muscle becomes so tight that it compresses the sciatic nerve and creates a lot of pain.

Two main causes of Piriformis syndrome:

  1. Some people have anatomy where the sciatic nerve runs through the Piriformis and if the Piriformis gets irritated, then there will be a pain.
  1. Having tight, inflexible, immobile hips. Couple with the fact that we sit at our desks for most of the day with poor posture.

Why Do Runners Get Piriformis Syndrome?

Our glutes are so important in stabilizing the pelvis and also in creating the ‘hip drive’ every time we step. 

The Piriformis muscle (which is VERY little) has to work overtime. While it’s working constantly it’s getting tighter and tighter and if it’s weak it gets even tighter because it’s not able to contract correctly.

Now that we know what it is and how runners get Piriformis pain in the first place, let’s have a look at how we can alleviate the pain…

3 Key Stretches To Help Alleviate Piriformis Pain

  1. Spine Rotation

Lie down on your back and put your arms out at shoulder height on each side of you.
Keeping both shoulders flat on the floor, bring your knees into your chest.

Gently roll both knees down towards the floor on your left side and hold that stretch in the lower back and glute. Then do the same on the right side.

You can use one hand to help pull the legs down and then hold for a few seconds (20 to 30 seconds). If you feel the need to repeat this, you can for two or three times on each side. 

  1. Piriformis Stretch/ Glute Stretch

This stretch can be done either seated or standing.

Cross your right leg over your left leg knee and lean the body forwards slightly. You can even use one hand to push your right knee down a little. 

And do the same on the other side. (for 20 to 30 seconds)

None of this should be a balancing act as we are just trying to alleviate tension.

  1. Groin Adductor Stretch

Seat yourself on the floor and place your legs out wide in front of you, keeping your knees as straight as possible.

Next, lean your body forward, place your hands on the floor if it makes it easier. 

The goal is to keep your legs as straight as possible and just feel the groin stretching and hold for 20 to 30 seconds

So, we know that by doing those 3 stretches we can alleviate the pain from Piriformis syndrome… but how do we prevent it from coming back again?

Stopping Piriformis Syndrome From Coming Back

It’s important to have that muscle, not in a tight state but it’s even more important to STRENGTHEN that muscle.

The reason we need to strengthen that muscle is so that it doesn’t get weak and then in turn get tight again. 

You need to do specific glute strength work to strengthen the Piriformis muscle. 

Strength Exercises To Prevent Piriformis Syndrome:

  1. Lying on the floor clams… progressed to Clams with a band around the knees….progressed to Clams in a standing position.
  1. Band walks. Putting the band around your knees and doing a couple of lateral or forward and backward walks… progressed to putting the band around your ankles.

By strengthening our glutes we are helping our glutes hold out pelvis into a much more stable position every time you step and run. 

If you’d like to download a free strength plan that will help, you can by clicking here!

As runners, almost all of us have experienced this situation…

Last week I headed out for a lovely Sunday morning EASY 10km with my trusty pup at hand and a cheerful smile on my face… the sun was shining and I was feeling absolutely fantastic…

That is until… 4km in and all of a sudden I feel intense muscle cramps in my legs.

I stop and try to massage my calves as well as possible… but that doesn’t help, I try to walk it out and that doesn’t help either… 

On my walk home I was thinking to myself all the million-dollar questions…

Will breathing through my mouth as opposed to my nose help prevent cramps?

Should I run slower to prevent muscle cramps?

Will muscle cramp pills help me?

What about using salt to prevent muscle cramps?”

People mean well when giving advice about preventing muscle cramps but the truth is that not even experts can say with certainty what the cause of muscle cramps is.

We do not know EXACTLY what causes cramps… but let’s have a look at what we do know.

Muscle Cramps

Cramps are seldom caused by a lack of electrolytes and in cases where this is the case, it’s generally accompanied by nighttime cramping.

It’s important to note that while a shortage of electrolytes in extreme conditions can contribute to cramping, too high a concentration of electrolytes will have the same impact as too little.

There is only one mechanism for cramps: Cross Bridge fatigue.

Simply put, as we proceed with exercise, there is an association with fatigue, a gradual decay in the signaling that instructs the muscles to contract and relax.

As this process delays we get to a point where your agonist (calf) and antagonist (peroneal and/or anterior tibialis) contract at the same time, this leads to cramping.

The cause of this cross-bridge fatigue is most commonly from muscle fatigue and in less than 30% of cases from nutrition (low magnesium, calcium, and/or potassium).

Strength training is likely contributing to this fatigue in the shorter term but should assist in the longer term.

Let’s have a look at lactic acid and if it’s the reason you are cramping when you run…

Is Lactic Acid The Cause Of Muscle Cramps?

It seems like everyone has their own theories about lactic acid and how they prevent it…

Lactic acid is real, it is measured as blood lactate. Lactic acid is NOT the reason for workouts to end. In fact, blood lactate is cleared very quickly and is used by the body to produce energy.

Everyone needs to understand that lactic acid is an important part of our energy metabolism.

Let’s break down what lactic acid is exactly…

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is a by-product of the system when your body is breaking down chemical bonds inside the muscle that provides the chemical energy for the body to do mechanical work.

Almost as soon as lactate is produced it is shuttled away by the blood very quickly to the liver where it is processed. 

A lot of people swear that cramping is caused by a build-up of lactic acid…

This is NOT necessarily true… 

It’s more likely that cramps are caused by other by-products of energy metabolism which do cause the acidity or PH of the muscles to drop and for acidosis to take place, which causes interference of muscle function.

The Role Of Lactic Acid

Lactic acid’s role in exercise is still not properly understood.

At least we’ve gotten to the point where we know that it definitely provides some of the chemical energy that we need to produce the mechanical energy of movement. 

What we do know is that massages on the side of the road do absolutely nothing to help you get to the finish line…  so how do we prevent these dreaded cramps??

How to Prevent Cramps

  1. Strength Training

Running is a compounding sport, it places that eccentric strain on your muscles.

Strength training helps build the structures around the joints and helps make the joints stronger, allowing your body to sustain the load from running so much better. 

Free Strength Training Program Here!

  1. Pace Yourself Correctly

If you train logging 10-minute miles and you start racing 8:45-minute miles, your muscles won’t be prepared for that effort, and you’ll place yourself at a higher risk of cramping.

  1. Warming Up & Cooling Down Correctly 

Lindsey, Shona, and Devlin walk you through exactly what to do before every run that you do.

It only takes a few minutes but if you start doing this as part of your pre-run routine, you can save yourself a lot of time and heartache down the line because of training missed due to injuries.

Let’s have a look at some common theories when it comes to preventing cramps while running…

Does Salt Prevent Cramps? 

We’ve seen it at races… People taking literal handfuls of salt and shoving it into their mouths… the question is… Does it help?

As we established above, there are a few people who suffer from cramping because of an electrolyte imbalance but that is not the main cause of cramping. Having salt to prevent leg cramps does help those specific people.

If you have very low stores of sodium then it can lead to cramping, although things like magnesium and calcium shortages are probably worse than having sodium shortage.

The reason why people shouldn’t take a blanket approach and just start taking salt tablets is that TOO MUCH SODIUM CAN ALSO LEAD TO CRAMPING.

So, in very long, ultra distances and multi-day races it is important to do some sodium replacement. 

For most people cramping is caused by fatigue, there is a delay in the signaling (due to fatigue) in telling muscles when to relax and contract. 

Eg. Your quads and hamstrings. When your quads are relaxed your hamstrings should contract and vice versa.

Watch this video to see when having salt is handy during race time.

Do Potato Chips Prevent Leg Cramps While Running?

Potato chips can prevent leg cramps because they contain potassium and sodium – two important electrolytes that help your muscles to contract, relax and function smoothly.

However, these nutrients can be found in many different foods, so eating a balanced diet, in general, will also help in preventing muscle cramps.

Potato chips contain potassium and sodium (salt) which are both important electrolytes that help muscles to function properly. 

Potassium aids in electrical impulse generation, so if you’re not getting enough of it, your muscles are more susceptible to cramping.  

It’s important to note that if you suffer from leg cramps, it’s difficult to say which food group you should be eating more of or what supplements you should take if your diet does not allow for all food groups because it’s different for everyone. 

You need to analyze your diet and see which food group you may be neglecting. It’s all about trial and error so find what works for you and stick to it.

When potassium is mentioned the first thing to pop into most people’s minds is BANANAS…

Do Bananas Prevent Leg Cramps While Running?

If you are susceptible to cramping, chances are that you’ve heard the notion that bananas can help to prevent or relieve leg cramps.

Bananas do help prevent leg cramps (to a certain extent). They are rich in several important nutrients including potassium and magnesium. These nutrients play a crucial role in the way our muscles function, so getting enough of them is vital for our muscles to work normally.

That being said, there is no scientific evidence to prove that bananas alone prevent your legs from cramping when you run.

If you’re suffering from tight calves you’ve going to LOVE this guide: Get Rid Of Tight Calves FOREVER – The Ultimate Guide

Do you sometimes experience tense, hardened, or cramped calves after or during a run? Well, you’re not alone. 

Most experienced runners can recall at least one time they’ve found themselves on the side of the course rubbing a calf to alleviate a cramp.

For runners, tight calves are a very common problem and can range from being a mild nuisance to being quite painful. There are a variety of conditions that affect the calf muscles and cause tightness or soreness in the lower leg.

The good news is that many of these conditions are treatable and preventable.

So, what are the symptoms of tight calves?

Symptoms Of Tight Calves

There are so many different causes of right calves which make the symptoms vary considerably. 

Symptoms of tight calves include: 

  • Cramping in the calf muscle.
  • Sudden pain in the back of your calf or behind your knee.
  • Difficulty standing on your tiptoes.
  • Pain when resistance is applied to the muscles.
  • Pain in the calf while resting or during exercise.
  • Limited mobility in your ankle.
  • Numbness or tingling along the lower leg.

What Causes Tight Calf Muscles

Tight calves may be the result of a strain or tear in one of the calf muscles or it could be due to a cramp or spasm in the muscle, which is painful.

We actually don’t know how to treat cramping. If we did we would be millionaires living on an island somewhere…

Tightness in the calf muscle is also sometimes a symptom of overuse so if you are experiencing some pain and stiffness it might be a signal from your body that you are placing too much of a load on your muscles. 

5 reasons you may have tight calf muscles:

  1. Cramps in the calves
  2. Overuse – Simply training too much/not recovering enough
  3. A muscle strain or pulling a calf muscle
  4. A lack of warming up 
  5. Poor biomechanics in the foot

Let’s have a look at these reasons in more detail…

Cramping In Your Calf Muscle

Cramps in the calf muscles are very common.

We do not know EXACTLY what causes cramps.

Cramps are seldom caused by a lack of electrolytes and in cases where this is the case, it’s generally accompanied by nighttime cramping.

It’s important to note that while a shortage of electrolytes in extreme conditions can contribute to cramping, too high a concentration of electrolytes will have the same impact as too little.

There is only one mechanism for cramps: Cross Bridge fatigue.

Simply put, as we proceed with exercise, there is an association with fatigue, a gradual decay in the signaling that instructs the muscles to contract and relax.

As this process delays we get to a point where your agonist (calf) and antagonist (peroneal and/or anterior tibialis) contract at the same time, this leads to cramping.

The cause of this cross-bridge fatigue is most commonly from muscle fatigue and in less than 30% of cases from nutrition (low magnesium, calcium, and/or potassium).

Strength training is likely contributing to this fatigue in the shorter term but should assist in the longer term.

Overuse

Just like any muscle in your body, adaptation to increased training load takes time. If you increase that load too quickly or if you continue to train without allowing your calf muscles to recover, you run the risk of picking up an overuse injury.

Your calf muscles are used daily, especially if you’re a runner, and when you haven’t warmed up before a run or stretched properly afterward, their flexibility is limited.

This puts more strain and pressure on other parts of your legs and makes you more susceptible to pain, tightness, and injury.

Running is very taxing on your calf muscles and lower limb stabilizers. Therefore if there is an imbalance between stabilizers and prime movers then the smaller muscles work overtime and the bigger muscle groups just take over. This then causes extra stress on ligaments and tendons around these structures, which can lead to injury. So people who train too hard or too long are at higher risk of getting calf tightness, pain, or cramps.

A Calf Muscle Strain/ Pull

Many muscles run along the back of your lower leg but there are two of the biggest ones – the Gastrocnemius muscle and the Soleus muscle.

The Gastrocnemius (prime mover) is a large muscle that runs from the top of the knee joint to the heel of the foot while the smaller Soleus muscle (stabilizer) lies underneath the Gastrocnemius and attaches to the bottom of the knee joint down to the heel.

A muscle strain is when a tear occurs in the muscle fiber. The pain and tightness of the calf will then depend on the severity of the tear. Symptoms of a muscle strain include sharp, sudden pain and tenderness around the muscle.

Lack of a Warm-Up

A lack of a proper warm-up routine before your run, or not consistently stretching or foam rolling/massaging your calves before or after running could be the cause of the muscle tightness you’re experiencing in your calves.

If you don’t stretch your calf muscles regularly then your muscles may shorten and therefore become tighter.

Note: Wearing high heels constantly also results in adaptive shortening of the calf muscles.

Foot Biomechanics

Your running style, the way your foot hits the ground when you are running and your ankle mobility could also contribute to calf tightness.

Overpronating (when the foot rolls in or flattens) can put a strain on your calf muscles every time you run or walk, which may cause the muscle to tighten in response to the repetitive strain.

We all pronate. The foot needs to pronate to create what we call the windlass mechanism. If the foot is not strong enough THEN this becomes a problem. This is why we focus so so much on the FOOT CORE in our plans.

The strength of the foot intrinsics is VITAL to good biomechanics of the foot and lower limb stability and strength.

Pro Tip: Watch this video where Sports Scientists, Shona Hendricks, and Devlin Eydin give you all the inside info you need when it comes to building strong and healthy feet and ankles for running…

Now that we’ve covered what is the cause of tight calves, what happens when you get back from a run and your calves have tightened up?… What can you do to release a tight calf muscle?

How To Release Tight Calves

  1. Stretching
  2. Compression
  3. Foam Rolling your calf muscles
  4. Sports Massage therapy
  5. The RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate)
  6. Physical therapy

Stretching

Regular stretching can help relieve some of the pain and tightness in your calves as well as prevent tightness from occurring after you exercise.

It’s important to stretch after you’ve run and while the calf muscle is still warm. Static stretching before you’ve warmed up could compound the problem.

See why static stretching before a run is a big no-no: Here.

Compression

A calf compression sleeve can be used to support the calf muscles and enhance circulation in your lower leg. 

Scientific literature is not 100% sold on this, and it seems to be a very subjective feeling. So if you feel it works for you then go for it

Wearing compression sleeves can help aid in the recovery of calf tightness and can provide some immediate relief.

Rolling Your Muscles

Foam rollers can be used to relieve tension in the calf muscles if done properly. 

You can target the different muscles and areas of your calves by positioning your legs differently on the roller and applying pressure by using your body weight.

Massage Therapy

Sports massage therapy can help to relax your muscles as well as improve your flexibility. 

A massage therapist will know how to relieve the tension in your calves and enhance circulation in your calves which will help with recovery and healing.

The RICE method

Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation are good rules of thumb for immediate treatment for tight or sore calves and can help reduce possible damage to the muscles.

Physical Therapy

If you suffer from chronic tightness or pain in your calf muscles, consider going to see a physiotherapist who can then recommend more specialized stretches and treatments to suit your specific needs.

There is much truth in the old adage that prevention is better than cure. 

Strength and foot core are key for this.

If you want to avoid missing out on running due to your calves tightening up then there are a few things you can do…

How To Prevent Your Calf Muscles From Tightening Up 

Warm-up Before & Stretch After You Run

Stretching is one of the main ways to prevent tightness and pain in your calves during or after exercise. Make sure you warm up before you start running to get the blood flowing and to warm up the muscle fibers in your calf.

Stretching after you run to help alleviate any stiffness or tightness as you cool down.

Improve every run by doing this first:  

Wear The Right Shoes

Make sure you have a good quality pair of running shoes that provide enough support for your feet and ankles so that you don’t put any extra strain on your calves. 

It’s also important to look at the drop of your running shoe.

The drop is the difference in height between the heel of your running shoe and the toe of the shoe. The drop affects the angle of your foot in relation to your calf muscle. 

Changing from a higher drop running shoe to a lower drop running shoe will put added strain on your Achilles tendon and calf muscle due to the change in angle.

It is therefore important to ensure you are running in the right pair of shoes for you.

Regular Massage Therapy

If your budget allows for it, try to go for massage therapy regularly. 

Massage therapy can help relieve tension and enhance blood circulation so that your muscles stay strong and in good shape. 

Regular sports massages also help pick up any problem areas before they become major injury concerns.

Eat Well & Stay Hydrated

Eating a balanced diet and drinking enough water throughout the day helps to ensure that your muscles and your body are healthy and can cope better with physical activity.

Note: It’s not an electrolyte imbalance that causes cramping.

Strength and Conditioning Training

Improving your overall fitness and adding some strength work into your training schedule can also help to prevent tightness in your calves.

Strength work will help you to condition your muscles to ensure you’re not putting any extra strain on your calves or any other parts of your body.

The free strength training plan below is a perfect addition to any running training plan.

FREE STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM

As mentioned already stretching of the calf muscles can go a long way to preventing and treating tightness and stiffness in your calves.

Stretches For Tight Calf Muscles

Note: It’s important to do these after you have warmed up correctly and not to overextend the muscle.

The Wall Stretch

Stand with your hands up against a wall and step back with one foot keeping your leg straight and your heel on the ground or as close to the ground as you can get. 

This will stretch out the Gastrocnemius muscles.

If you stay in the same position and bend your knee, you will feel the stretch deeper in your calf in your Soleus muscle. Hold the stretch for about 30-60 seconds at a time.

To add a soleus stretch, do the same as above but with your back leg bent

Eccentric Calf Raises

Stand on a step with the balls of your feet so that your heels hang off the edge. Rise onto the balls of your foot and then slowly lower your heels below the step. 

Go back up onto the balls of your feet and repeat. You can hold onto a rail or wall to help you keep your balance during this stretch.

Note: This is a strength exercise not a stretch and is an important strength exercise for calves. 

You could also add in the calf raise with a ball, as well as heel walks as this strengthens the front of the shin.

Double Calf Stretch

Stand facing a wall with your legs hip-width apart. Put your hands on the wall and lean forward while keeping your heels on the ground. 

Bending your knees slightly can help stretch the muscles more if you’re not feeling it.

Single-Leg Calf Stretch

Sit on the floor with one leg stretched out in front of you and the other bent inwards. Then lean forward, lowering your chest towards your leg, and reach for your toes with your hands or a band while flexing your foot.

Downward Facing Dog

This move is great for stretching your muscles after a workout. 

Start on all fours with your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders. Step back onto your feet to go into a high plank and then raise your hips so that your body forms a triangle with the ground. 

Keep your back straight and place most of your weight onto your legs.

Then bend one knee and push the heel of your other foot into the mat to stretch the calf. 

Hold this position for about 10-15 seconds and then swap legs and repeat.

Tight calves are not a cause for concern unless…

When Should You See a Doctor?

Even though calf tightness and pain usually disappear with stretching, compression, foam rolling, sports massages, the RICE method, and physical therapy.

You should consult a doctor if you are experiencing sudden & severe pain in your calves,  recurrent symptoms, or when a reduction in training load has not reduced the calf pain.

Sometimes the right treatment has to be given quickly to avoid long-term health problems.

The calf muscles play a huge role in running, and avoiding tight calves by using the methods outlined above will go a long way to keeping you injury-free and on the road or trails where you belong.

Let’s tackle the biggest objection to running we hear: Running is bad for your knees. 

The truth may surprise you …

Running is NOT bad for your knees. Research shows us that doing nothing is bad for your knees. 

If you are not doing any kind of activity- that is essentially what is going to be bad for your knees. If you are running & including strength training, then you are looking after your knees.  

There are some contrary indications around this…

If you do struggle with things like Osteoarthritis or arthritis in your knees, or if you’ve had knee surgeries then you need to be very specific about these things and not just dive into the deep end. 

Strength Training

A lot of new science is indicating that you need to incorporate strength training into your workouts if you struggle with things like arthritis. This is because strength training will place a load on your bones, which will help your bones to maintain that little bit of strength that’s already there, therefore helping you manage the running load. 

Free Strength Training Program HERE!

At Coach Parry, if you do struggle with arthritis in your knees or Osteoarthritis then we can adapt your training program to include some more cross-training sessions, for example, swapping out a running day for a swimming session. This will ensure that you are still building your aerobic capacity, but not with the load of running.

Non- negotiable: If you are a runner with Osteoarthritis then strength training is a MUST.

So now that we know that running is safe and not bad for your knees, let’s cover the factors that can potentially lead to some problems…

What Causes Damage In Your Knees While You Are Running

  1. The Equipment That You Are Using

By equipment, we are referring to your running shoes. 

Regardless of who you are as a runner and at what level of running you are at, all your running shoes will have a life span. (The amount of mileage you put into your running shoes)

Your running shoe mileage depends on the surfaces you run on, the event you are training for, as well as your body size. (The heavier you are, the less mileage your shoes will get out of them)

It’s important to make sure that your shoes are in good condition so that you can get all the supportive properties that the shoes are supposed to be providing. 

We suggest going to a specialist running store where they can have a look at the wear patterns on your shoes, what kind of running you are doing and your gait to suggest what shoes are best for you. 

Here are some telltale signs you need new running shoes.

  1. The Potential Of Instability & Weakness Around Any Of Your Joints

In particular, your feet (Knee pain is usually caused by a problem lower down or higher up in the chain of the leg). 

In your feet, the weak muscles could be in the intrinsic muscles of the foot, which means that your arches are collapsing every time you take a step or try and push off. This weakness leads to instability in the ankles, the ankle might be rolling in. All of this causes a misalignment which results in your knees diving inwards or outwards. 

For the situation above we recommend putting preventative steps to stop that instability from happening, this can be done with strength training. 

How To Prevent Knee Injuries While Running

Strength training and working on your balance are key. 

Your hamstrings and quads work together in symbiosis when you run.

It is important to have a good relationship between your hamstrings and your quads. If your quads are too strong for your weak hamstrings, you will find that you’ll start to get knee issues in the back or front of the knee. 

With a lot of runners, it is the hamstrings and glutes that are just far too weak for the strength of the quads.

Knee Valgus

In particular with females, but very common in men as well is that if your glutes are too weak then you tend to have an internally rotated pelvis (pelvis rotates inwards) and this causes knee valgus/ bending inwards at the knees. The bending at the knee with the repetition of running will cause strain and pain while you are running. 

So, strengthening the glutes will rotate your pelvis outwards and give you strong pelvic control, which will take the strain off the knees. 

Hamstring Strength

Every time you land and your foot strikes when running, if your hamstrings are not strong enough, what’s going to happen is that there might be some hyperextension at the knee because the hamstring is not strong enough to pull your leg back in time, after your foot strike. This will place a lot of pressure on the posterior knee.

You need to have good strength, in the quads and specifically where people suffer from Patellofemoral pain. 

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

This type of pain is on the knee cap, it’s a condition in which the cartilage under the kneecap is damaged due to injury or overuse. 

Your knee cap and lower bone are held in place by your quadricep, the 3 muscles of the quadricep hold the patella (knee cap) in place.   

You need to make sure that you have a good balance in strength on the outside of the quad and the inside of the quad. 

In most runners, the inside of their quads is weaker and this causes the patella to slide across the bones, which causes the pain.  

Help With Patellofemoral Pain

Loosening up your quads with some static stretching, some mobility, and some physio if need be will help. 

If you do have tight quads, while doing any strength exercises, any squat movements or any movements where you load weight on the front should be avoided to take pressure off the knees.

Strength Training With Coach Parry

We are absolute sticklers for technique. 

We don’t like pushing your knees over your toes, it puts a lot of pressure on your knees because essentially your entire weight is now leaning over your knees.

But, think about when you do normal things in your daily life… like walking downstairs…

Your knees obviously do go over your toes. So to be functional and to have the strength to have your knees going over your toes you need to train safely and build up strength in the safest way possible. 

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…