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How to Get Back to Running on the Right Foot

Fresh Year, Fresh Start – get back to running on the right foot!

As the spring season nears, it is time to dust off those running shoes and break out of hibernation – unless you are one of the weather warriors that has been out running all winter long! Running has always been one of my go-to activities simply because it is just so easy – throw on a pair of shoes and out the door I go. The endorphins are plentiful rain or shine.

What brings runners through the physio clinic doors tends to be one of “too much,” “too soon,” or “too fast.”

  • “Too much” – examples: total distance, number of hill repeats, number of runs days versus rest/cross training days

  • “Too soon” – examples: short base building time, returning from injury or off season

  • “Too fast” – examples: ramping up to 5 kilometres in a short time period, jumping into a training plan at a fast pace

Running injuries tend to creep up on us when one of the training variables (distance, pace, total mileage, number of hills/intervals, different terrain, new running partner or club) has changed. That and we forget a very important piece – the warm-up. Just like I mentioned above – “out the door I go” – it can be tempting to use the first few blocks or 5 minutes as “the warm-up,” but your body needs some preparation time before jumping straight into your running stride!

A proper warm-up should:

  • Increase your body temperature – you should feel warm and perhaps a little sweaty!

  • Move all of the joints that will predominantly be used in the activity

  • Activate muscle groups across the joints in ways that mimic the activity

  • Engage your core muscles to support postures used in the activity

  • Allow your rib cage to expand fully with deep breathing

Here are some movements to integrate into your warm-up to prepare for your run:

1. Standing Roll Down, Roll up – helps to open up the back line of the body and integrates core activation to support trunk posture. 3-5X slow and controlled.

2. Squat to Calf Raise – stand with feet hip-distance apart, or your comfortable squat stance. Allow arms to come forward as you lower into your squat, then press to stand and lift your heels up as your arms come down to your sides. Return to flat foot standing and repeat 10-15X.

3. Lunge Rotation – stand in a stride stance with a bend in the standing knee, pressure through the ball of the back foot for balance. Place hands together and open left arm to rotate to the left; close the arm to the front; then perform a right arm opening for right rotation. 5X with left leg forward, then 5X with right leg forward.

4. Walking Marches – focus on tall posture and core active to support lifting each leg in a march as you walk forward. Pair the opposite arm swing to the lifted knee; the same as your running form. 10X per leg. Option to progress to a march skip, with a small heel lower-lift or small bounce on the standing leg with each march step; 10X per leg.

5. Butt Kicks – can perform as a walk or with quick feet alternating sides. Maintain a tall upright posture and core active as you progress in forward steps, lengthening the quad muscle on the front of the thigh.

6. Hamstring Sweeps – place one heel on the ground in front of you, then bend from the hips and perform a “sweeping” motion with your arms like you are scooping leaves to put in a garbage bag in the fall. Take a few steps in between “sweeps,” alternating sides for 5-8X/side.

7. Puddle Jumpers – stand with feet side-by-side and hip-distance apart. Bend your knees to prepare to jump forward – taking off from one leg and landing on the other. Focus on the press of the back foot to launch you forward, like you are jumping over a puddle. Perform 8-10X/side.

Repeat any of the movements above as needed to make sure your body is nice and warm by the end of your warm-up. Now you are ready to run like the wind and keep your feet dry!

Mikaela Barnes has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Master of Physical Therapy, both at Western University. Mikaela is passionate about understanding human movement, promoting body awareness, and establishing efficient motor patterns. Book with Mikaela today.


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