Running Research: Core Stability Training, Injury Prevention, and Running



When one thinks of core training, one often thinks of just the abdominal area, trunk area and perhaps the gluteal region. The core actually consists of the lumbo-pelvic hip complex which consists of the diaphragm, the abdominal and oblique muscles, the paraspinal and gluteal muscles, the pelvic floor and hip girdle muscles. Some therapists are now including the shoulder area such as the latissimus dorsi muscles also. There are stabilizing muscles, global mobilizer  muscles, and transfer muscles.  Often with injury, several muscles are delayed in responding to movement where they should stabilize.

While there are many ways to evaluate core strength, studies show that it should be activity specific and studied in all planes of motion (sagittal or moving front/back, frontal or moving sideways and transverse or moving in rotation). Programs should be implemented locally first (specific muscles), globally (muscles working together), then dynamically (action specific).

How to help your training: Runners are often given exercise routines for the core and other areas of the body connected to the core. It is important to know if the muscles are working correctly or delayed in their response. (This can be measured best by using EMG). Palpation of the muscles or touching them while contracting the muscles will provide some insight. If you are a very aware runner, you may be able to tell if certain muscles are working, with cueing from a professional, if you are not able to get instruction in person.

Also, programs should be laid out in a fashion that allows for the stabilizer muscles to work, then larger muscle groups next and then should provide sport specific activities. Doing a general strengthening program may not help the correct muscles get stronger and turn on at the appropriate time, if it is not laid out appropriately.  Getting specific instruction from a qualified source can help with this.

My experience: Being a runner and physical therapist allows me more insight into whether the correct muscles are working in a runner by touching the muscles or talking them through an exercise. Poor alignment (not changed by correcting the body position, but by the actual joints and muscle), and pain can inhibit a muscle and many runners don’t know when this is happening.


Core Stability Training for Injury Prevention Kellie C. Huxel Bliven, Barton E. Anderson Sports Health. 2013 November; 5(6): 514–522. doi: 10.1177/1941738113481200

Photos courtesy of :

(**This section is only a brief analysis of one or a few journal article(s) and the relation to running. When I am able to review more that are related to a specific subject, I will attempt to update and add information. Keep in mind every runner is unique).

By TRPrunner Posted in Blog

Running and Pregnancy Series: General Information

iStock_000013822510LargeAre you thinking of running during pregnancy or already doing it? Running during pregnancy is a safe activity to perform if you have already been doing it and have been cleared by your doctor to continue. You will be giving your baby plenty of benefits if your goal is to stay healthy and fit. Here is some information on how to run safely during pregnancy:

1. Discuss it with your doctor and get the OK (before getting pregnant if possible) to participate. Ask questions and get up to date information. Many doctors are giving the OK these days to have you continue running if you are already running. (Here is a list of contra-indications to exercising during pregnancy). Your doctor should be up to date on the heart rate information. (Staying under 140 beats per minute is out of date). Your doctor should also discuss any concerns about your medical and family history (ie. history of miscarriage, blood clotting, etc and possible problems that are unique to you). He/She will be monitoring baby (and you) and will give you information on when to stop running (red-flags).

2. Be flexible and keep an attitude that you are running to keep you and your baby healthy and fit. This can be a fun time and a unique thing to share with your baby. Learn to slow down the pace and enjoy pregnant running as a time to focus on yourself and baby. Leave the Garmin at home, and go by how you feel. Focusing on times and distances are not the best approach. It can be a change of pace for the competitive athlete. But taking this approach is healthy and gives the runner a wonderful reason to slow down and change focuses before baby gets here.

3. Plan to change your nutrition and water intake with running. You will need more calories to provide the energy for you and baby. Upping various nutrients are important too during the pre-natal period and post-natal period, especially if you are nursing. You will very likely need to increase calcium and possibly protein and iron intake. Talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a registered dietitian if you need more information in this area.

4. Expect to maintain or decrease your overall distance and intensity as compared to when you initially became pregnant. Many studies show that baby tolerates the moderate levels of exercise recommended by the AGOC (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) but more studies on high intensity exercise and running are still needed. This previous study on running during pregnancy recently cited on the Runners World website (from the March Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology) demonstrated that baby performed well with moderate to high intensity exercise. (Note: The pregnant women were only tested at 40-59% HR per this link and most were regular runners who added one additional session of (30 min.) of high intensity (60- 84 % of max HR) exercise on a treadmill (not tested for the study).

4. Get some good supportive running gear. A pair of supportive running shoes is probably the best option. Although there is no research on minimal running shoes and pregnancy, this is probably not the time to be switching to less supportive shoes. Your ligaments will be more lax and many runners feet will increase a half size or more post-pregnancy. Also, you will likely need to look for some maternity belly support wear as your belly grows in the second and third trimester.

4. Take care of yourself too and don’t forget to monitor yourself physically. Expect there to be days when your body does not respond well to running and rest or alternative exercise is a necessity. Get aches and pains checked out by a doctor or a physical therapist specializing in women’s health. Make the overall goal to be healthy and in shape, not to run to a certain date and you will be more likely to reach this goal.

5. Find a qualified running coach (in the health professional field) that can answer your questions about running during pregnancy. Make sure they are available to answer questions on the days you plan to run. This will leave you feeling more confident in your decision to run or to change up the training plan. A qualified running coach should be able to answer general running questions related to pregnancy and training, and know when to refer you to your doctor or a health professional. This will leave you feeling confident in your choice to run that day or help adjust your workout appropriately.

(Of course, if you experience any of these symptoms, stop running and contact your doctor immediately).

Happy New Year

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Welcome to the New Year! I just wanted to post some new available services from Total Running Performance and Fitness:

***Run-Baby-Run™ Program: a pregnancy and post-partum strengthening program to help runners and other athletes return to running after pregnancy. Comes with a personal return to running plan. This is a 5 phase individualized program for any runner or athlete who has specific core needs related to running. It includes:
Phase 1: Healing (and Holding):
This phase is all about letting your body heal and the transition to motherhood. You can perform most of these exercises from a few days after birth.
Phase 2: Return to Movement: Get your core repaired and prepared for returning to walking and running.
Phase 3: Walk/Run Phase: Your core is connected and protected and you are up and moving. Specialized running muscles are the focus.
Phase 4: Return to Running: You are challenging your core again with moderate level movements.
Phase 5: Building and Racing: Returning to competitive training and running.

And also for a limited time:

-***Starting JAN 1st, 2015, try a FREE month of e-coaching with me! Free weekly plan with weekly check-in for 4 weeks after initial session. (Gait analysis and Run-Baby-Run™ Program not included).


-Coaching for all runners by a Physical Therapist/ Coach/personal trainer.
-Video analysis for the runner (FREE basic analysis with any coaching!)
-personal INJURY PREVENTION plan
-running plans

-coaching in person, video, or by email (

– email me and schedule a FREE 30 minute coaching session to discuss your running goals.

By TRPrunner Posted in Blog

Injury Prevention


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Avoiding injuries for the runner, is no doubt high on the list of things to do for the new year. Runners have signed up for races, sought out coaches, scoured new running plans and injuries can erase the best laid out plans in a minute. Tips to avoid them should be taken into consideration. And while avoiding injury is not guaranteed, here are some things to consider to keep you on the road and track:

Seek out a biomechanical running analysis from a qualified individual. This will allow you to know what is normal for your body and what can be changed (strengthened or stretched) and what is a permanent part of your structure. A tight medial hamstring on one side can be stretched and range of motion improved. An anteversion of the hip (twisting of the femur bone inward) cannot. Both will contribute to how you run but only one can be improved upon via stretching. Learn what is unique to your body and what to do about it.

Participate in some slower strengthening activities to find out where your weaknesses are. Running is a fast movement sport. The legs, arms and trunk move together to catapult the body forward. Weaknesses might not be obvious. Lying on the ground engaging the abdominals in some slow pilates moves would allow you to notice a difference between right and left movements and which side is weaker. Slow an activity down, whether it is weight lifting or mat work. Take notice on how your body is performing.

Work on your one legged balance. Running is a balanced fall forward onto each leg at a time. While our body can compensate using opposite arms and legs for balance, the best approach to make sure that one doesn’t fall too far out of alignment is to have good balance. Test how long you can stand on one leg and add in dynamic balance poses. Take a yoga class which includes poses such as tree pose. Improve your strength and balance on one leg and you will improve on moving forces forward (the direction of running) rather than spending energy twisting into other planes of motion.

Add a weight routine to your routine. Strengthening will not only help you balance better, but studies show runners that engage in a strength training program demonstrate improved times. The stronger you are, the better the body will handle to constant stress and forces from running.

Add cross training to your fitness routine to allow your muscles to rest. Instead of going for a long run each week, perform a running or swimming pool workout once a month to allow muscles to rest from the jarring effects of pounding. This will allow your body to recover more quickly from the workout and give the running muscles a much needed rest from impact. Biking, elliptical and stair stepping machines are some other good options.

Integrating some of these ideas into your training will allow you to understand how your body works and be more in tune with it when it starts to signal it needs a break. This will allow you to catch an injury in the beginning stages or possibly prevent one that could keep you sidelined for weeks or months.

By TRPrunner Posted in Blog

Tips On Running Your First Race

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You’ve picked up the running bug and now you want to run a race. There are several things to keep in mind when preparing to run a race. This will make that first race much more enjoyable.

Start small with a 5K race if you have never run a race before. Check the years previous results if you want to see where you’ll fit into the finish. Check to see if they allow run/walkers and if there is a time limit to the race if you expect to be toward the back of the race. Many races that are raising money for causes are usually slower races filled with walkers too.

Start close to home. Because there are many factors that go into a race, you probably don’t want to enter one too far from home. This will allow you to wake up at a reasonable time, get to the race, get familiar with the race set-up and not feel rushed.

Check out the race course. See if the race course is online and has an elevation chart to go with it. You can then look it over and prepare yourself mentally for any hills or plan for some rest on the downhills and flat parts. Also check out where the port-a-potty’s are as well as water tables and the medical area. That way, you will be prepared when you arrive to the race. You can use the bathrooms early and should you need water or medical attention, you’ll know where to go.

Check the weather and prepare for anything. Most races are run in the early morning and are cooler weather. You can bring extra gear with you and wear it as needed and dispose of it at the start or on the course if you don’t mind parting with it. Or plan to give it to a friend that is cheering you on.

Check out where to park, especially if it is a bigger race or longer race. This is the best way to avoid walking a significant distance to the start if you get caught having to park far away. Some races will have shuttle stops that take you to the start and it will be important to plan ahead. Also, road closures for the race may affect how you get to the parking location, so be aware of that. One nice thing about parking closer is the car is available to keep warm on chilly mornings, if need be.

Find out if any medals or ribbons are given to the participants and where this will occur. For longer races, the medals are given out at the end of the race after you cross the line and walk through the runners area. If you are a speedy runner and expect possible age group award, find out if a ceremony will take place and how long after the race. Age group awards can be mailed out the participants as well.

Doing the above should get you well prepared enough to squelch worries and help you focus on having fun and enjoying the actual running part of the race as much as possible. Enjoy your first race and cherish the memory of crossing the finish line for the first time.

By TRPrunner Posted in Blog

Improving Your Running Time

Starting out running, most people are happy just to be out and running. A new runner should simply work on improving distance until a satisfactory distance has been reached. A new racer should focus on finishing the distance and finishing happy and strong for the race. But at some point, time begins to play on a runner’s mind-how to get faster and improve their pace per mile. Here are some ideas to add to the workout rotation if you are a newer runner.

1. Add in some timed runs. There are a plethora of timed runs to add, but initially one might work on improving one shorter run a month for improved times. Generally shorter runs work well (such as a shorter 3 mile run the day after a rest day to test on fresh legs). The long run should be left alone as this should be about adding distance, not time, initially. Another approach that would work here is to use time and to run a further distance than before on the same route.

2. Add track workouts: Track workouts are all about pacing and improving speed. Mile repeats are an easy workout to start with (4 laps around the track). Start out with 2-3 x 1 mile at 5K pace with a half time rest and add on 1 each month will help strengthen the legs for faster running.

3. Add in some Fartlek runs: Replace one of your easy days with a run where you pick various points to run to and speed up the run for periods of 30 sec to 1 minute. Alternate with easy running in between the points. This will help get your heart rate up for a

4. Add in hills: Hills are a great leg strengthener and will quickly help to add faster turn over and an improved VO2 max for the beginning runner. Find a hill about 50-100 feet that gradually ascends but is not too difficult and after a good warm-up of a mile or two, run 4-5 hills (run the hill and walk or jog down with a little rest at the bottom if needed).

5. Find a faster paced friend: Join a friend or find a running club with some runners that are a little faster than you and join them for a run at least every two weeks or so. They will help you push the pace when you may want to hang back and relax.

Pick one of these to add in to your training schedule for the week and add in another the next week for two per week. Alternate which ones you try each week for more variety. Soon you will be running faster than you realize and you’ll see some new faster times on the watch.

By TRPrunner Posted in Blog

Running Coach Certifications


Ever wonder how those running coaches earn their credentials? Currently there are no official national credentials to place behind an a name for coaching when one wears the coaching hat. However, there are a few different ways to earn your coaching wings. Here is some brief information on running coaching organizations that provide certifications if you are thinking of getting one or just looking for a coach.

1. Road Runners of America: This certification involves taking a weekend course (16 hours total) and a 100 question online test.  Coaches must also have a valid first aid and CPR certifications.

2. USA Track and Field Certifications: USAFT has three levels of certification. For level I, a person must take a 2 1/2 day course (21.5 hours) and complete an online exam.  Level II consists of passing Level I and then taking a week long course on a specific event and then passing an exam. Level III consists of taking a 6.5 day course at the Olympic Training Center and implementing a project in the 6 months after taking the course.  You must also have been coaching for 5 years or more.

3. North American Academy for Sport Fitness Professionals Marathon Coach Certification: This certification encompasses taking a 100 question 3 hour exam, a case study in which a training program is provided for the case study, first aid and CPR certification and a practical for a client. The client is then coached for at least 18 weeks under the guidance of the person taking the coaching certification as well as a Master trainer.

4. Degrees in Coaching: This is provided usually by a 4 year university. A minor is usually the pathway and involves completing a number of units of coursework (6-8 classes) and an internship in which one or several athletes are coached by the individual under the guidance of another coach for 3 months. Once completed, the coach has earned a minor in coaching and certification by some organization such as ASEP (American Sport Education Program) Certification.

5.  Experience: This is a general way to gain the title of coach. Usually, experience is acquired by becoming an athlete at the high school, collegiate, professional or amateur level or a combination of the above. Hands on experience is gained by being coached by another coach or alternatively coaching oneself and doing research.

By TRPrunner Posted in Blog

How To Race Like A Pro: 5 Tips

You’ve gotten bit by the running bug, learned the running lingo, strapped on a pair of running shoes, trained and ran in a few races. What is the next step? As you train for that next big race, are you prepared as you think? Here are five tips that will leave you confident you can tackle the miles ahead of you successfully.

1. Prepare for the course: Know the course you are running. If possible, run the course or a run similar to the course before race day (minus some mileage if it is marathon length). The elevation and length of a course can be determined at some popular websites like: Map My Run or Walk Jog Run. Find out if the course has rolling hills, long flats and what the total elevation change is. You can then plan a course that is similar to the one you are running and prepare for the changes you will encounter before the big day. The course can also be mapped out on a treadmill, and while this won’t prepare you exactly for the race physically, you can practice parts of the race in the upcoming training weeks, to prepare yourself mentally in your strategy.

2. Pace yourself. You will be excited come race day. Your blood will be pumping and the adrenaline will be flowing. Make sure you do not start out too fast. Know what your pace times are and stick to them. Find your pace runner if you are running with a certain time group and stick with them. Make sure you know if mile markers will be present in the race and wear a watch. You will be able to rely on this for pacing as a backup if needed. Word to the wise: you will probably feel really good starting out (tapering for a race leaves you feeling fanstastic), but save it for the later miles. You will need it.

3. Know how to run the race. Flat portions should be run steady. Hills can be attacked. As you reach the crest of a hill, increase your cadence slightly and speed up a bit. Use the momentum of the crest of the hill to carry you over and down the other side, like a sling effect. Run the down hills with a slight lean back so body is close to level as you descend. Allow your legs to relax slightly to lessen impact on your quads, as your feet land.

4. As you get into the groove of running, pick a runner, distance or location to reach if you feel you are having difficulty keeping your pace. This will allow you to refocus mentally and set some smaller reachable goals, rather than focusing on the large task at hand. Pick a body group to focus on form for each portion of the race. (Head/eyes, arms, trunk, legs, foot landing). This will allow you to keep your form longer and maintain more efficiency. You will also stay more in tune to how your body is feeling overall.

5. Practice pre-race and race logistics (pre-race meal eating, race day clothes, water stop drinking, and race-fueling) in the weeks before the race. You will feel more confident knowing what your body can handle when race-day shows up. Local training groups provide a great opportunity to practice race day as they often set up mini-race conditions with water stops. And as you get to race day and near the finish line, use the crowd to motivate you the last couple miles. They can pull you in to what will hopefully be your best race yet.

By TRPrunner Posted in Blog

FAVORITE THINGS (Running while pregnant): maternity belly support

Babies r us maternity support picExercise during pregnancy is recommended and is healthy for both the mom and the baby. And if you are a runner and looking for ways to continue this activity, good support is vital to keep your joints and ligaments protected. Provided it is OK’d by your doctor and you have been engaging in this exercise before becoming pregnant, it is possible to do as long as you feel comfortable and are having no problems. The key factor is how to stay comfortable as your belly expands and ligaments loosen.

I purchased the Babies ‘R’ Us seamless maternity support for work and also used it for running. Overall, it is fairly comfortable and provided the support my belly needed. The material is fairly thin and breathable and wraps around the entire belly in the front. It has a thicker band at the bottom and sides to help cradle and support the belly. The back did need to be readjusted (usually pulled down) after sitting in it, but it provided enough comfortable support to take the stress off of my back during moving during the day and running in my second trimester. I also had a Medela maternity support band from my previous twin pregnancy. I used this early on and when I couldn’t tolerate full coverage of my belly.

The type of support that is comfortable for running for you is going to be related to how and where you carry your baby and may take some trial and error. I carried the majority of my baby weight very out in front in my belly and my belly was mostly round shaped. There are other options out there that include:

Amon maternity supportThe Amon maternity support band (this looks like the Babies R’ Us support version),

Gabrialla Maternity supportThe Gabriella support band (support only under the belly if you don’t tolerate full belly coverage),

MTB2And the Mother-To-Be Maternity Support (this has a lower support panel and an upper support with a hole in the middle for some belly coverage). Good luck finding the one that works for you and happy running!

For more information on running and pregnancy, go to this page. For more information on returning to running after pregnancy, go here.


5 Things to Look for in a Gait Analysis or Gait Assessment

Whether it is walking or running, we each have a distinct way of moving. Many runners have been captivated in ways to gain more information about their running in hopes of improving their form, decreasing risk of injury and hopefully improving speed. Gait analysis can be used for this and to help prevent and recover from injury as well. Here are 5 things to look for in a great gait analysis:

1. The person performing the analysis is a qualified professional (and a runner him/herself). I am biased toward using physical therapists for this issue. A physical therapist has specific training in the whole body movement and dysfunction (not just the foot area), and focuses on it daily. They have been trained to pick these up with their eyes (visually) and with their hands (by palpating the bones, tissues and fascia during movement and at still). They can likely give you more information on your own unique postural running form and what injuries you might be at risk for picking up than you are interested in. (Or knowing many runners, maybe not…)The professional should have more training beyond just being a coach, as knowlege in this area extends beyond the education of basic running form.

2. Ideally the gait analysis is done in person. Obviously, the best amount of information can be obtained from a hands on assessment. However, don’t discount video-analysis alone, if the person looks at your flexibility, movement patterns and is well versed in running analysis and the runner. A great professional can pick up on notable points and a decent assessment can be completed from afar. However, if you have a current injury or are excessively injury-prone, get it done in person.

3. The professional looks at your running analysis, posture, movement, and flexibility and if in person, the joint play (or the way your joints move together without you moving them). If the person is just looking at your running form, they are going to be missing out on the vital information. For example, if you have hip drop on one side more than another, a person may conclude that it could be from weakness in the opposite gluteal region. Or if a movement and posture assessment was completed, they may pick up on excessive antetorsion (or turning in of the leg) on that side. This would change the recommendations for strengthening or tips to improve the running form. Looking at all the necessary areas is important to giving you the most correct information to make you a better runner.

4. The video-analysis is completed from the front, sides (yes both sides if able) and back and is of the whole body. It might be inconvenience to have yourself recorded in all planes of movement, but it is necessary. A foot analysis is not enough and video below the knees does not provide enough information to the person doing the analysis. There is a lot going on above the knee and foot that will affect form and running is a whole body activity. Incidently, studies also show that foot analysis has not been linked positively to figuring out the correct shoe for runners.

5. The person completing the gait analysis can give you specific exercises, flexibility movements, running drills and running cues tailored to your specific needs and history. They should be able to show them to you and explain why each specific one will help you. For example, if you have minimal knee lift on both sides and it was noted that you have an anterior tilt in the pelvis (tilts forward), they should be able to explain why you specifically would benefit from specific core work to help with stabilization of the pelvis, hip flexor stretching with a posterior pelvic tilt, possible gentle self mobilizations of the hip during stretching, and a high knee drill added into your workout. Or they may recommend a different course of action because your flexibility is lacking in the calf area. Some running form errors or problems can appear to be one thing but once properly investigated, are actually another. You should not be given general strengthening or drills without knowing why you specifically need them and how they would change your running form.

By TRPrunner Posted in Blog

Running Research: Deep Water Running

Deep water running is often completed when a runner is injured or when a runner wants to take up cross training and freshen up the legs for harder workouts. If you haven’t done it, it involves getting a running vest (commonly known as an aqua jogger). It actually can be a refreshing change of pace to cross training and a way to keep the legs fresh.

How to help your training: The 11 subjects were able to maintain their cardiovascular fitness over about a month for a 5K (3 miles). Use this as a taper or cross training workout to keep legs fresh but maintain your fitness. This is a great option if you are having little nagging pain with shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or heel problems. Pick an area such as arms, knee lift or kick through every 10 minutes when in the pool to keep focused.

My experience: I have found aqua jogging to be a nice change of pace from the pounding of the pavement if I am training for 5K-10K races or need to have fresh legs from a race. It definitely has been beneficial if I am injured. It is best to try it out before a workout to see how your legs adjust. Some people may feel flat the next day. As an FYI, hot water can drain the legs and leave you with that tired feeling. I have found that after doing this for an extended period (a few weeks), i get the “chest burning” after returning to regular running workouts, especially with cold weather.

Effect of 4 wk of deep water run training on running performance.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 May;29(5):694-9.


Department Health Promotion and Human Performance, University of Toledo, OH, USA.


The purpose of this study was to determine whether trained competitive runners could maintain on-land running performance using 4 wk of deep water run training instead of on-land training. Eleven well-trained competitive runners (10 males, 1 female; ages, 32.5 +/- 5.4 yr; height, 179.8 +/- 9.3 cm; weight, 70.4 +/- 6.7 kg (mean +/- SD)) trained exclusively using deep water run training for 4 wk. Subjects trained 5-6 d.wk-1 for a total of 20-24 sessions (mean +/- SD, 22 +/- 1.5 sessions). Instruction and practice sessions were conducted prior to the training period. Before and after the deep water run training, subjects completed a 5-km race on the treadmill using a computer based system, a submaximal run at the same absolute workload to assess running economy, and a combined lactate threshold and maximal oxygen consumption test. No significant differences were found for (mean +/- SEM): 5-km run time (pre, 1142.7 +/- 39.5 s; post, 1149.8 +/- 36.9 s; P = 0.28), submaximal oxygen consumption (pre 44.8 +/- 1.2; post, 45.3 +/- 1.5; P = 0.47), lactate threshold running velocity (pre, 249.1 +/- 0.9 m.min-1; post, 253.6 +/- 6.3 m.min-1; P = 0.44), or maximal oxygen consumption (pre, 63.4 +/- 1.3; post, 62.2 +/- 1.3; P = 0.11). Also no differences were found among Global Mood State pre-training, each week during training, and post-training. Competitive distance runners maintained running performance using 4 wk of deep water run training as a replacement for on-land training.

By TRPrunner Posted in Blog