With fall now upon us, and the weather becoming ideal for outdoor activities, many people are able to get outside and enjoy more of their activities such as walking or running. People enjoy walking or running for a number of reasons. For many, it’s a simple form of exercise. For some, it’s about ‘the freedom of the road’ and ‘being one with nature’, while others find it an effective way to decrease stress.
Walking or running helps condition the body and improve blood circulation. Regular walking is associated with a healthier heart and a greater sense of well-being. For those who like to run, the right running technique combined with appropriate footwear helps minimize injuries.
When you work with a physical therapist, you can expect to learn the right movement techniques to minimize strain on your muscles and joints. Physical therapists can also help runners increase muscle strength and improve joint range of motion. This helps decrease stress on the runner’s body and improves overall performance.
If you plan on stepping outside to walk or run, expect your physical therapist to teach you the right ‘mechanics of motion’. With the proper walking and running technique, you can avoid injury and improve muscular endurance. Here are a few things to consider:
1. The right degree of flexion in your knees and elbows is important to reduce strain on your joints.
2. Posture is important. In fact, your entire technique is dependent upon your posture for efficiency and safety.
3. Having the appropriate range of motion helps minimize injuries and improve running technique.
4. Maintaining symmetrical stride length is an important aspect of efficiency and injury prevention.
5. Proper rhythm, or cadence, will help you to minimize injury by eliminating unnecessary overuse of your muscles.
6. Coordination between your upper and lower body is an important aspect of running technique.
Each of these components plays a vital role in running technique. As you progress with each component, expect an improvement in your strength, efficiency, distance and possibly speed. As physical therapists we are trained in identifying muscle imbalances and improper joint alignment. We will always conduct a detailed evaluation, which includes an analysis of gait, foot alignment, upper body strength, hip alignment and spine alignment.
With an adjustment of running technique and correction of muscle imbalances, our physical therapists will get you on your feet so that you can walk (and possibly run) if your body allows it. The best thing for you to do right now is to contact us and ask for an evaluation of your movement patterns before you start a walking or running program. We can help you plan ahead. We can also create a rehabilitation program if you are currently experiencing any discomfort while walking or running. Your body deserves the right kind of care, and we can help you. Let our physical therapists help you prepare for your journey.
Dr. Daniel Skulavik, PT, DPT, OCS, is with Advanced Physical Therapy located in the Food Lion Shopping Center, Clinton.