How to Fix Runner’s Knee

It’s all in your hip.

One of the most common ailments among runners is runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). This condition is characterized by pain located under, slightly above or slightly below the kneecap. Sometimes you may hear a popping sensation; sometimes you may not. The condition typically worsens when running uphill or downhill and in severe cases, the knee may swell.

Runner’s knee often occurs as a result of an increase in mileage. Some runners may experience occasional pain while others are plagued by it almost every time they add more miles. The condition may also be a result of poor running form or core strength.

Treating and Preventing Runner’s Knee

The best way to treat a case of runner’s knee is to track back to the initial root cause of the pain so you can focus your energy on correcting it. There is typically tension found in the hips, quads, lower back and/or abdominal muscles so focusing on stabilizing and strengthening these areas is a great place to start.

According to research, stabilizing the kinetic chain by way of strength work can do wonders when it comes to reducing pain associated with runner’s knee. According to one study, 19 participants who suffered from runner’s knee (PFPS) underwent an eight-week hip- and core-strengthening program, which resulted in a significant improvement in terms of pain as well as knee function. Another study from researchers at the University of Kentucky found that gait retraining is helpful in reducing symptoms of PFPS. In this study, runners with PFPS underwent eight gait retraining sessions, which focused on internal hip rotation, pelvic drops and other exercises that were done in hopes to reduce pain while improving hip mechanics. After the training, the athletes reported a significant decrease in pain. Improvements were also noted in running mechanics. This goes to show that strengthening and stabilizing through gait retraining can go a long way when it comes to reducing not only pain but the cause of runner’s knee.

If you have not ever experienced runner’s knee, strengthening and stabilizing your body through gait retraining may also help prevent the condition. By fortifying your hips and core, you are reducing your chances of injury.

Hip-Strengthening Exercises

Here are some of the most common exercises prescribed to help runners strengthen their hip and core regions, which are proven to be helpful in both treating and avoiding runner’s knee.

Bridge: Lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, lift your butt off the ground slowly. Keep your back straight while engaging your lower back and glutes, holding for 10 seconds. Slowly lower your body back down to the ground. Repeat this exercise seven to 10 times.

Clamshells: Lying on your right side while bending your knees at a 45-degree angle, keep your feet together while slowly lifting your left knee to “open up the clamshell” per se. Pause and lower your knees to then “shut the clamshell.” Repeat this movement 10 to 15 times on both your right and left side.

Bird Dog: While on all fours, lift your left knee and right hand off of the ground, bringing them toward each other under your body. Then stretch your left leg back behind your body and your right hand out in front. This completes one exercise. Repeat this 15 times and then do the same with the opposite sides.

What Causes Leg Fatigue when Running?

When your legs wear out before the rest of you does.

A good run is exhilarating, sending feel-good endorphins throughout your body while your lungs fill with air and your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood through your veins. But not every run goes so well. Sometimes your runner’s high is offset by fatigued legs that feel painful, tired and/or weak. If you have experienced leg fatigue while hitting the pavement, it could be caused by pushing yourself too hard, wearing inappropriate footwear or other causes, such as underlying health conditions.

How to Improve Leg Fatigue While Running

If your legs are having a hard time keeping up with your cardio, a number of reasons may be the culprit. Here are some along with a few options for improving your condition.

Change Up Your Game

Run less often with higher quality. You may be wearing yourself down. Run by what your body is telling you and go with it along the way. Make your runs higher quality, at a higher speed or doing a speed workout or tempo run. This allows your body some time to recover before getting back out for the next run, which in turn enables you to run harder, stronger and faster than if you ran more frequently.

Check Your Posture

Leg fatigue may also present itself as a result of incorrect posture or technique while running. Running in a straight line and at a constant speed is more efficient in comparison to running at various speeds or in along an erratic path. Try lowering your center of gravity as well while running as this may increase your power and balance, which can make it easier to run without becoming fatigued.

Check Your Feet

If your running shoes do not have adequate tread or are slick, it can negatively impact your ability to efficiently strike the ground. This can lead to a loss of momentum which may heighten the risk for fatigue.

Fuel Yourself Wisely

Improper nutrition can wreak havoc on your performance. Look at your diet to ensure you are getting enough calories and in the right amounts. A diet in low calories or one that is nutrient-deficient can contribute to leg fatigue.

Genetics

Your endurance level is partly due to genetics. Some people are able to run longer distances than others because their lactate levels stay fairly stable during workouts. Lactate levels in your body relate to your body’s mitochondria, which can positively impact your respiration and endurance levels when mitochondria levels increase. If you do not have a genetic composition that is conducive to high-performance, fatigue may set in earlier, leading your legs to feel wiped out.

Other Complications

If your persistent leg fatigue is not associated with what you wear, how you train or what you eat, you could be dealing with something more serious. Circulation issues, spinal issues or muscular issues may be contributing to what ails you. For example, vein issues can cause a heavy feeling in your legs while a pain in your hip, thigh or buttock may point to a spinal issue. If you seem to have chronic leg fatigue while running, you may want to take it up with your doctor.

What You Should Know About Training on a Treadmill

Is there much difference between running on a treadmill vs. outdoors?

It is raining cats and dogs outside with flashes of lighting shooting down. You really don’t want to get drenched yet don’t want to miss your run either. So you opt for completing your training session indoors on a treadmill. A treadmill is a great training tool for runners when weather conditions are not favorable or running outdoors is simply not an option. Running on a treadmill has its benefits.

Reasons You May Choose to Run on a Treadmill

In some cases, treadmill running is a better option. When it is too dark outside or the weather is too icy or slick and potentially facilitating to a fall or injury, treadmill running is a better bet.

If the conditions outdoors are not conducive for you to run safely at a faster pace, you can hop on the treadmill to achieve the same level of exertion without risk.

Speaking of risk, the treadmill belt is more forgiving than hard pavement, offering less impact and making it easier on the body. As a result, the treadmill can be a great option for those coming back into running from injury.

The treadmill is also great for running hills and doing incline training if you do not have access to steep hills. You can create your own resistance using the grade on a treadmill.

Another reason you may opt for treadmill running rather than outdoors is if you have children. Leaving your kids unattended to go for a run may not be the best strategy for your family. Running on a treadmill enables you to get your workout in while keeping your kids safe and supervised.

Comparing Indoor and Outdoor Running

Although running on a treadmill has benefits, there are some differences you should be aware of.

The mechanics of your running stride differ on a treadmill than when you run outside because the machine powers the treadmill belt. When you are on the treadmill, you push off with your quads, unlike outdoor running where you rely more on your hamstrings for momentum. As a result, your hamstrings will not be worked as much on a treadmill.

The terrain also differs on a treadmill versus outdoors. If you are accustomed to running on a treadmill, you must be extra mindful of varying terrain when hitting the pavement or trails outdoors to avoid injury.

Running outdoors offers wind resistance, even in the most ideal outdoor conditions, which is something you do not get inside. Your pace is resultantly much easier on a treadmill. Keep your effort level the same on a treadmill as outside by upping your incline by 1.5 percent to account for the loss of wind resistance.

If you have done the majority of your training indoors, be cautious when moving your runs back outdoors. Transition your outdoor runs gradually to avoid injury and start with an easy, shorter run. Build from there.

6 Tips to Run a Faster Race

These smart strategies can help you to break your PR in no time.

Everybody knows that in order to run faster, you must work harder – but these changes don’t happen overnight. If you want to run a faster race, you can shave a few seconds (or maybe more) off of your finish time with a few strategies. If you want to finish your next race faster, try some of these tips.

Examine the Course

Take time before the course to determine all you can about it. Find out how many hills there are, what kind of terrain you will be on for approximately how long, and so on. This will give you a better idea of how to pace yourself adequately and will also help prepare you mentally for tougher spots. If the race course is nearby, take advantage of its close proximity by running the path or parts of the course while training.

How is Your Form?

Check your form periodically. Every mile or so, assess your running form of your whole body. You can easily waste energy with bad form, so keeping your form in check is a telltale way to keep your speed up. Your stride should be short (with your feet close to the ground). Look ahead, keep your shoulders relaxed and your hands only gently clenched to maintain proper form. Your arms should not be swinging side to side while you run but back and forth. Your hips should be aligned below your shoulders.

Run Those Tangents

The concept of running the tangents is to run the shortest possible distance by running straight lines from one curve to another. Although race courses are well-measured, many racers run a farther distance by following every curve in the path closely.

Don’t Lose Time at the Start

Line up properly at the start so you do not waste time and energy getting around slower walkers or runners.

Another way runners lose time starting out is by going out too quickly once a race has begun. If you push yourself forward too quickly, you will burn your energy stores faster, leading your muscles to fatigue more quickly. This will leave you feel worn down and depleted near the end of your race.

Run for Time

Do not stress about mileage. Relax your pace so your body can push through the entirety of the race. And although this may sound counterintuitive, when training, take your watch off and listen for your body’s feedback. Become more aware of how your own body responds to things like fatigue, breathing, tension, and form. You will be a better runner overall and this can help you to kill your time on race day.

Avoid Bathroom Stops

Try to get to the race start early so you have time to use the facilities before the race begins. Stopping at port-a-potties can slow you down significantly.

Whether you are doing a 5k or a marathon, these tips have the potential to serve you well and help you to finish your next race in better time.

6 Tips for Running in Heat

Read these tips to keep safe and prevent burnout during hot weather runs.

Things are starting to heat up outside, which means now is a great time to start preparing for running in the heat. Heat and humidity can make running a greater challenge and wreak havoc on your pace. In warmer weather, your body has a harder time cooling, causing your body to work extra hard. Your heart rate elevates and breathing becomes more rapid than it is during your normal pace. But fear not. There are a few tricks for running in the heat that will keep you going safely.

Hydrate

Hydration is key when it comes to running at any time of year, but it is especially important when in the heat. If your workout is less than 45 minutes in duration, water is all you need. But if you run longer than 45 minutes, you should aim to drink 3 to 8 fluid ounces of sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes to replenish electrolytes and energy stores. According to new research in a recent study at the University of Arkansas, thirst alone is not the best indicator of your need for hydration.

Be Patient and Change Things Up

Your body may take about two weeks to adapt to running in the heat. Slow your pace, reduce your intensity and be patient with your body rather than trying to push through it. This will enable your body to acclimate so you can continue to run without running into burnout. Your body will slowly become better at cooling off so you can run at your normal pace again.

Take Breaks if Necessary

This is especially important for new runners, but all individuals can benefit from this. Allow power breaks every 4 to 8 minutes when getting started with running in the heat. This allows your body to cool down some, helping you to manage your core body temperature. You want to avoid your body temperature rising too much, at the risk of overheating. Overheating can slow you down a lot.

Run During Cooler Times of the Day

The temperature is usually cooler in the morning and evening. If you run in the morning, you may run into higher humidity but will still be able to avoid the high temperatures of the day. The air quality is generally better in the morning as well. Avoid running between 12 and 3 pm.

Pay Attention to the Weather

If a heat alert or poor air quality have been listed for the day, consider running indoors. Running outdoors in dangerous heat will do you much more harm than good and can force your body into overdrive, taking more time to recover from the workout than usual. Nobody will judge you for hitting the treadmill for a day or two.

Dress Accordingly

Dress in technical apparel that is light colored, loose-fitting and wicking, which allows moisture to pass through to be evaporated. This will help to keep you cooler. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that filter UVA and UVB rays and perhaps a hat or visor as well. Don’t forget to put on sunscreen.

Ways to Make Running Feel Less Terrible


Struggling to get moving? Try these tips!

We all have experienced it – that sluggish feeling that keeps you less-than-motivated to gear up for your next run. Sometimes a couple days off is all you need, but there are some other things you can try to add a little pep to your step.

Take Walk Breaks

One study found that regular walking intervals during a long run can help you maintain the same pace that you would have if you ran the entire way while being gentler on your body. Walk breaks are more than just physical, though. Walking breaks can help you overcome mental barriers as well, helping you to look at hurdles of long distance running that once seemed overwhelming as more manageable, smaller pieces when you incorporate walk breaks.

Play Another Sport

You may benefit from a break from the pavement. You can still get a good workout in while playing a sport. Softball, soccer, field hockey, ultimate Frisbee, basketball, and rugby are great ways to get a run in without calling it running. Look for a local league or just play for fun with friends to give your mind a break from those long runs.

Get Caffeinated

Although some health gurus might say otherwise, one study published in the British Journal of Sports Science revealed that people who drank a cup of java before a timed run on a treadmill finished quicker than those who were in a placebo group. If you are not into coffee, try an herbal caffeinated tea.

Slow your Pace

Sometimes slowing down is the ticket to making a run feel better. If you regularly battle getting going on your runs, schedule an easy day specifically for slowing your pace. You should be running at a pace that is slow enough that you can speak in short sentences. If you have a hard time slowing down, consider running with a friend to ensure you stay slow enough to be able to speak.

Fuel with Carbohydrates

Grab a carb-rich snack before hitting the pavement. A few carbohydrates can bring your blood sugar stores up and improve your mood.

Create the Perfect Playlist

Cue up Spotify and create a pump-up playlist that will get you moving. Studies have proven that music can increase your motivation and improve your performance when running. You can even create playlists that are unique to the kind of run you are on with different tempos for long runs, races, and so on. According to Scientific American, music helps to distract people from fatigue and pain while increasing endurance and elevating mood. Music may also be able to promote metabolic efficiency.

Look to Your Feet

Are you dreading your workouts because your joints are aching or your miles feel somewhat flat? You may need a new pair of running shoes. If you haven’t replaced them in the past 300 to 500 miles, it may be time!

With these simple steps, you can hopefully overcome any mental hurdles keeping you from training for your next race.

4 Reasons Rest Days are Important

Regardless of your level of running, here’s why rest days are vital.

Many runners have long lists of goals they want to accomplish. When looking at your list compared to your schedule, it is easy to breeze over rest days. Why would you slow down when you have so much to cross off your list?

The answer lies in the importance of rest days. Taking a break is as important as making time for longer runs. Rest days play an important role in strengthening your body as well as sharpening your focus. Rest days are also helpful because they give you time to recuperate so you actually want to continue with training.

Rest should never be skipped over. Each time you run, your body actually experiences a breakdown of a tiny amount of tissue. Rest days allow you time to recover after, making it possible for you to hit the pavement again for your next run. Your body needs time to adapt so you can get stronger (and faster if that is your goal). If you fail to take rest days, you may find you develop staleness to the idea of training, making it harder to stay on schedule. On rest day, your body also uses nutrients and experiences hormone and other biological changes to rebuild itself.

Regardless of whether you are a regular trainer or a recreational runner, there is good reason to take a day off each week (or more)!  Here are four of those reasons.

You Avoid Injury

Rest is vital when it comes to trying to avoid an injury. Rest days allow your body time to fully repair. The impact of running can stress tissues, which can increase cell turnover and forces the bone to become stronger. But your bones need time to repair. If you do not allow yourself time to rest, you may wind up with a stress fracture.

Your Muscles Have Time to Recover

You create microscopic tears in your muscle fibers any time you exercise, including when you run. Those fibers are rebuilt by your body in preparation for the next running session. This is great but there is a catch. The rebuilding response only occurs when time is taken off. Depending on the intensity and duration of your training session, your body needs a minimum of 36 hours to rebuild. Without rest time, your muscles will have no time to recover and will only continue to break down.

Tendons are Protected

Tendons are connective tissues that work to hold your muscle and bone together. They constantly work as you move but they do not receive blood as easily. This means that if they sustain injury, it can take longer for them to repair – another reason rest is vital. The constant beating that tendons incur during running can lead to chronic problems as a result of overuse, such as tendonitis,

Stress Relief

Running is a form of stress relief, but each time you run, cortisol (the stress hormone) increases in your body. The body does not know if you are running for fun or running from danger, so it amps up the amount of cortisol flowing through you. Increased cortisol can cause irritability, mood issues, sleep problems and other health issues if your cortisol levels become too high. If you over train without rest, you can offset your cortisol levels, causing unnecessary stress on your mind and body. Rest and recover to keep yourself in balance.

4 Tips for Running in the Rain

Embrace the elements with these tips.

Races are rarely ever canceled for rain. Some runners love a good run in a torrential downpour while others prefer to avoid running when rain is in the forecast. If you are in the latter group, it is important to learn how to embrace the elements and be prepared for inclement weather on a run.

Below are some of our best tips for running in the rain so you are not completely miserable. Chances are, with adequate preparedness, you may wind up enjoying running in rain!

Layer Wisely

If you plan to run in shorts, you may want to throw some compression shorts underneath to prevent chafing. When your body is wet, the risks of chafing are heightened.

Clothes that fit closely may also help to keep you from getting overly wet. Loose-fitting clothes are more likely to make you feel soaked and heavy. A fitted shirt and spandex shorts are a great option for rain (which can also help to prevent chafing).

If the temperature is forecasted to be below 50 degrees, grab a wind shell made of nylon or other waterproof material. This top layer will benefit you if it rains when the temperatures are cool since rain can make you feel even colder. The shell will not keep you completely dry but it helps to hold in some body heat, keeping your core temperature up, thus decreasing any risk of hypothermia. The Brooks LSD Running Jacket is a great option.

Wear a visor or baseball cap to keep rain out of your eyes.

How Do Your Shoes Look?

Take a quick look at the bottom of your regular running shoes. If they look smooth on the bottom, you may want to grab a different pair. Smooth-soled shoes are apt to cause you to slip when running. Look for shoes that have grooves on the soles that are deeper than one millimeter. These grooves enable water to run through them, offering a better grip on the wet road.

To keep your feet warmer and drier, look for a pair of shoes that feature waterproof fabric.

If your shoes have mesh and you don’t have the time or a budget to buy new shoes, you can wear thinner socks, which may keep you from absorbing much water, which could make you feel soggy and weighed down.

Be Willing to Modify Your Run

Rain can slow you down. If it rains on your sprint intervals day or a day you want to beat your personal record, you may want to rearrange your schedule. Speed workouts and time goals are not well-suited for rainy days because the weather can reduce your speed. Rain can add as much as two minutes per mile to your total time. Rainy days can also increase your risk for injury for certain types of training. Pushing off and landing on a wet surface adds more demand to your connective tissues and muscles. Endurance training is better suited for rainy days, when you can embrace the resistance provided by all of that wetness.

Modify Your Stride

When running on a wet road, you can modify your stride to decrease your risk of wiping out. Instead, take quicker and shorter strides, which will reduce the amount of time your feet spend hitting the wet surface.

Remember, if it is storming (and especially if there is lightning in the sky), stay inside.

 

4 Do’s and Don’ts of Cross-Training

Try these exercises to help you reach your goal on race day.

Cross-training is an excellent way to supplement your running, building strength and flexibility in muscles you do not normally use. There is a plethora of information out there on cross training but in an effort to simplify it, here are four rules of cross-training that will help you reach your desired goals as a runner.

Choose the right workout. It is important that you take the time to identify what your end goal is and what you want to get out of your cross-training.

If you are looking for core stabilization and strength, opt for some Pilates work. Look for online videos or hit up a class at the local gym.

If you need something restorative, opt for yoga. Yoga not only restores your body but it also improves your breathing, mobility and core strength all at once!

Looking for a longer workout with a little more impact? Hit up the gym and do some reps with barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells. These exercises are all essential to adequate strength training for runners.

Add regular strength training to your routine. Whole body strength training should be implemented 1-3 times each week. This will take your running to the next level.

Deadlifts are a great option when strength training as they train muscles that you do not regularly use when running, working your hamstrings, glutes and core. They also help to improve your posture, which betters your running form!

Another great strength training exercise is the overhead press. This exercise improves shoulder strength and mobility, which can contribute to a better arm swing when running.

Don’t replace running with cross training. Cross training helps you to mimic a run workout without adding as much of a pound to our joints. Some runners inadvertently replace runs with cross training because of this.  Remember that cross-training workouts will not help you to reach all of your goals by race day. Running should still be the focus!

If you want to change things up, you can hop on a rower or bike or even jump in the pool to get a similar workout impact as you would on the pavement. Interval workouts transition easily for runners.

Include HIIT if when you are in the off-season. After race day, you can train however you want. During the off-season, you can train like any athlete. Although it is advised that runners avoid HIIT when leading up to race day, you can dive in head first after the big day.

Circuit-style fitness and bootcamp classes are excellent options for a workout that is already laid out for you. Otherwise, you can create your own workout that will get your ticker pumping.

Transitioning from Road to Trail

Apprehensive about switching from the pavement to the dirt? Press on with confidence with these tips!

There are benefits to running on both the road and the trail. If you have yet to try trail running or are somewhat nervous about setting foot on the trail, these tips will help prepare you so you can benefit from trail running too!

How is Trail Running Different from Road Running?

If you run on pavement, chances are you have a couple routes you frequent when getting a workout in. You also may have grown bored of looking at the same things or feeling the same at the end of a run. Most pavement is on flatter terrain, which keeps your fitness level at a certain point without challenging you much.

Trail running is tougher, as there are more uphill and downhill treks. You may have to be a little more agile too, navigating around tree stumps, streams, rocks or perhaps even some wildlife. Trails can change from day to day with new challenges and obstacles which can enhance your workout. At the end of a workout, you may feel different depending on your path for the day. You could feel strong, prepared, defeated or weak.

Weather conditions and views change during trail runs. Challenges keep you awake. Trail running can keep your training fresh while expanding your options and giving you some beautiful ever-changing scenery along the way.

Enough with the convincing of why you should try trail running – here’s how.

Release your expectations. It is a good thing to be eager to begin a new workout but be careful to not bite off more than you can chew. To avoid burnout or injury, start out with an open mind and no expectations.

Begin with a mileage you are familiar with. Maybe even drop down a mile or two from your normal distance because the trail can be a bit more challenging. Your run volume is going to take more effort and time to take on.

Expect increased muscle soreness as well due to increased technical stepping and elevation changes.

Also, forget your paces. Your moderate effort pace will undoubtedly change when you set foot on the trail due to the aforementioned hills and obstacles. Simply allow your general level of effort to guide you as you propel forward.

Run at a pace that is comfortable. Keep in mind that your pace may change to match the portion of the trail that you are on. Over time, you will gain a better understanding of your pace on trails and how and when to push your speed.

Enjoy the run. Although the switch can be tough, it is so rewarding. The challenge of trail running will equip you to be a stronger runner. And while being challenged, enjoy the beauty of nature away from all of the regular distractions of life. No stop signs or lights, no cars, no polluted air, and minimal people. A trail is a place where you can focus on yourself and your goals, surrounded by beauty and with minimal distraction.