Running Book Review: Running Well by Sam Murphy and Sarah Connors

Running Book Review Running Well by Sam Murphy and Sarah Connors

Among the many books in my running library you can find Running Well by Sam Murphy and Sarah Connors.

What I really liked about this book and made it one of my go to books for running injuries is the “Injury time” chapter.

It’s amazingly detailed, with pictures of joints and muscles involved in the injury, and what to do and who to go to when you suspect an injury, which I believe it’s extremely informative for the recreational runner.

Running Well also has “injury maps” which take you through an “injury journey” using arrows to guide you from the location of the pain to a possible diagnosis and a quick fix suggested by the authors. It goes like this:

  • where you feel the pain
  • what type of pain you feel
  • when you feel the pain
  • possible cause
  • possible diagnosis
  • quick fix

The maps are simple, straight forward, easy to follow and it makes for a book you go to over and over again.

For each injury you have exercises which help rehab or to manage the injury. This book has a rather complete approach to injuries.

Another topic I haven’t found so detailed in other books is on “Prevention and treatment of common running ailments and annoyances” where we find out how to manage athlete’s foot, blisters and corns, black toenail, the stitch, muscle cramps, hyponatremia (caused by drinking too much water) and more. Yet another plus for Running Well.

Other topics in the Running Well book include:

  • Running form
  • Training plans and exercises for strength, stability, mobility and flexibility and, to my surprise, because it’s the first book on running I find this topic in, nerve “flossing” exercises
  • Running shoes and running shoe anatomy
  • Returning to running from injury
  • Nutrition

Congratulations Sam Murphy and Sarah Connors for a very well written book on running.

Highly recommended for all runners if you want to:

  • keep your body healthy and keep running in the years to come
  • reduce the risk of injuries and understand what’s happening when you get injured
  • understand the important of running shoes and how to choose them
  • design training sessions and programmes to best fit you

Oh, by the way you can find this book on our Amazon affiliate store.

5 Running Books Every Runner Should Read

5-running-books-runners-should-read

Whether you are a recreational runner going for your regular 5k runs, in preparation for a marathon or ultra or obstacle course racing you should consider knowing a little bit more about the runner’s body, your runner’s body.

Understanding the basics of how your body works at a muscular, skeletal and cardiovascular levels will enable you not only to get more out of your training, but to understand why running injuries happen and what do to if they happen.

Of course a professional, such as a physiotherapist, can look at injuries better and in more detail, prescribing a suitable treatment. And you should check with a professional when you are injured. Nonetheless you should also have an idea of what’s going on.

Some running injuries happen because of repeated movements, if you understand what movements cause your injuries then you can eliminate or change them and, as a results, get rid of the injury and avoid it in the future.

Furthermore one way to reduce the impact on your joints and tension in your muscles is to uncover a form of running that does just that.

Below you have a list of, what I believe, are the top 5 books you should read if you are a runner, regardless of the distance you run. There are many great running books I’ve read but these are 5 of them that left an impression on me. Keep in mind that this list and the descriptions are subjective, you may find you will discover something else in these books, but it will give you an idea of which book to choose.

I also organised them in an order that, I believe, will transition you to the mechanics of running in a way that will make sense even if you know nothing about anatomy.

Once you start running consistently wear and tear takes place. If you can reduce that then you can run faster, for longer and with less risk of injuries. In short you will run smarter and more aware of your runner’s body, which is what we begin with:

1. The Runner’s Body by Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas

This book takes you through everything that happens in the runner’s body. From how muscles work and fire, to the skeletal system and common running injuries, to the cardiovascular system, metabolic system – where they talk about nutrition and hydration, how the nervous system works and the runner’s immune system.

I find this book very detailed and educational. But you needn’t worry if you  don’t know much about mechanics and anatomy. They explain everything in easy to understand terms. Just read through it and you will catch the information that is most valuable to you at that particular time.

Click on the image below to check out The Runner’s Body by Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas on Amazon:

2. Running With The Whole Body by Jack Heggie

This book introduces us to the Feldenkrais Method applied to running. It’s a very, very interesting and important book in my opinion. It’s a short book but each chapter has a series of detailed exercises meant to “reset” your nervous system.

In short through these exercises you re-wire or re-educate your body’s movement to be more efficient not only when running but also when walking and moving in general.

The big picture I took from the book is the connection between the upper and lower body through the hip. Understanding how the hips works with the shoulders to get you to run lighter but also faster and reduce aches and pain will be an eye opener for you as it is for every one of my clients.

The reason this book is on the 2nd place is because running is a whole body movement, and, unless you understand that – understand it not only mentally but also physically, in your body – you cannot develop an efficient running form, in my humble opinion. So check out Running With The Whole Body by Jack Heggie clicking on the picture below.

3. Natural Running by Danny Abshire

Natural Running by Danny Abshire introduces us to the three gates: walking gate, running gate and sprinting gate. But also how to examine your own running form, educating the reader on on foot imbalances and the evolution of the running shoe as well as how to choose your running shoes.

What sets the Natural Running book apart from the others is the explanation on foot biomechanics and the three gates. I also liked the way Danny Abshire approaches the more common overuse running injuries.

Then he goes on to detail the physics of running and whole body kinematics.

You will also find a chapter on exercises to help you develop the natural running technique and an 8-week transition plan.

This is also a good book if you want to learn how to transition to barefoot running or minimalist running (with “barefoot shoes”)

All in all a great book to introduce you to the world of running mechanics. Check out Natural Running by Danny Abshire by clicking the picture below.

4. POSE Method of Running by Nicholas Romanov

POSE Method takes you through a step by step technical approach to more efficient running mechanics.

It describes exactly how to place your feet on the ground, what your legs should do afterwards, how to hold your trunk and much more. There are plenty of exercises to help you develop this particular running technique.

Although it emphasizes the mechanics of running it also dedicates a few pages to the  “thinking, seeing and feeling” process, basically the internal aspect of running.

It also takes the reader through the most common running injuries, why they happen, from a POSE Method perspective, and how to adjust your running technique to reduce the risk of it happening again or in the first place.

This technique will also enable you to run barefoot or run minimalist.

There are several elements of the POSE Method we incorporate in our own running mechanics here at the Merisoiu Technique Institute. Check out the POSE Method of Running by Nicholas Romanov below:

5. Chi Running by Danny Dreyer

Chi Running has its roots in the art of T’ai Chi, “based on the centuries-old principle from T’ai Chi that ‘less is more’ “.

The focus here is on breathing and relaxation in general, as it is in T’ai Chi, going “limp”, opening the stride behind you and letting your body flow.

It emphasises the idea of listening to your body and on patience and consistent practice.

It also talks more about the upper body movement. So take book #2 and put it next to Chi Running and you will develop a very efficient upper body movement which will help you on your toughest runs, including hill running.

Chi Running method  will “give you a physical understanding of how to put it all together in a unified movement”. Check out Chi Running by Danny Dreyer clicking the link below:

 

Hope you will take the time to read a few, if not all of these books. I assure you it’s time well spent. These books don’t only teach you about running but about movement, and movement is what you do every single day.

By the way the amazon links are affiliate links. 

Running Technique – Body Position For Optimum Performance

Running Technique-Body-Position-For Optimum-Performance

When it comes to runners who clock miles and miles every week on a regular basis attention and care needs to be directed to how they run  so they don’t get put off training for stress fractures, ankle sprains, knee injuries, shin splints, Achilles problems, back pain, or anything else we runners face. Of course nothing is guaranteed, but the more you look at how you run the less injuries and time of training you will have to ensure.

I have the habit of giving you a lot, a lot of information, and very detailed. I do this because I hope you will take 20% of what you read. Sometimes even that 20% is better than nothing.

That being said let’s talk about how you position your body to enable you to glide over the terrain, rather than stomping. And we begin with…:

A. ALIGN

This is a good exercise to practice before you go for a run. It’s connects you to your own body. With practice you will gradually bring it into your run.

A good alignment means you are “stacking” the body in the correct position, and, if you manage to maintain that your run will feel amazing. Trust me, it will. When it clicks, it clicks.

The pressure on your joints will be at angles that don’t cause so much damage. Of course, it’s impossible to keep your body stiff in one position, but try as often as you remember to align and re-align. Also, remember, good alignment means a relaxed body, if you tense up you can do more harm. So relax and go through the exercise below.

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart
  2. Toes pointing forward
  3. Distribute your weight evenly on the left and right foot
  4. Distribute your weight evenly on the front (ball of food) and back (heel) of each foot left – keep the left/right weight distribution while doing so
  5. Soften your knees; don’t bend them too much, just lock them and then relax, you are not doing a squat
  6. Lightly tuck in your tailbone (this will also allow the knees to soften) so that, if your pelvis was a bucket of water, you wouldn’t spill water in any direction; your abdominal muscles should tense slightly and your lumbar spine should flatten slightly. These are signs you are probably in a good position. It should feel comfortable
  7. Your hip should be in line with the back of your knee cap, and in line with your ankles, roughtly
  8. Relax your shoulders and align them with your hips which is aligned with your ankles
  9. Chin parallel to the ground
  10. Head slightly pushed back until you feel the back of your neck lengthening, releasing tension and the natural curve flattening slightly
  11. Ears aligned with the shoulders

You can maintain this alignment at any angle. If you lean your body from your ankles everything is still aligned. If you lie on the floor your body is still in the same alignment. But if you stick your bum out, pull your head back or turn your toes out that’s when, in time, things start to go wrong and injuries begin to show up.

 

 

B. ELONGATE

This is a simple imagination exercise, or visualization if you wish.

Holding the body in alignment as above, imagine a piece of string tied to the crown of your head and to the ceiling, a branch or the sky above you.

Imagine how this piece of string elongates your body towards the sky. Keeping its shape and alignment though

You can begin to elongate the ankles, the shins, up into the knees, through the thighs, to the hips.

Then elongate your trunk and ribs. You shouldn’t lean back, push your chest out, pull your shoulder blades together or do anything else. Just imagine. There’s no point lengthening the front of your body while tension and shortening the back by pulling your shoulders back.

Then relax your shoulders, keep the alignment, elongate your neck and head – take care not to tilt your head back here.

Then imagine the piece of string and your vertebrae like beads on a string. Allow each vertebra to pop up, away from the one below it, and then lightly stack up on top of each other. Go from the tailbone/coccyx all the way to the neck/cervical spine and up through the crown of your head towards the sky.

You can practice this as a stand alone meditation. It will help improve your posture as well as slowly making its way into your running posture and to a better performance.

 

C. LEAN

After you practice a good alignment while standing and in movement and elongate the body, the next step is to practice a slight lean. The lean should be from the ankles, as described in the POSE Method of Running, and, on a flat ground it’s a matter of millimeters.

Remember, the key is: lean should be from the ankles, not bending from the hips. You can work this out in front of a mirror.

One of the greatest mistakes I see is bending from the hips. This is very very common, so take care, especially when you run uphill. You can easily end up with low back pain and not even make it up that hill.

Some argue the lean is not the way to go. I argue it is for at least 3 reasons:

  1. For your feet to land under the hip, in alignment with the rest of the body, the hip should be slightly ahead…..which is achieved through that slight lean.
  2. Pushing off and active landing are actually very very strenous. When you land under the body, and you do this by leaning from the ankles, you can pick up the feet and control the landing.
  3. Free energy! That’s gravity. It’s so much easier to “fall” forward than to push your body forward over and over again. Let gravity take over! It saves a lot of energy and you end up running faster, as you pick up you feet faster, as a result of landing under the body and not ahead, as a result of that slight lean.

I found this exercise in Chi Running by Danny Dreyer, which is really easy to practice.

  1. Stand in front of a table, about hip height, about 2 feet away (you will adjust after)
  2. Align your body, like a column
  3. Elongate your body
  4. Lightly tens your abdominal muscles
  5. Now lean from the ankles until you can rest your hip, or pelvis, on the side of the table
  6. Keep the column straight though, even at an angle
  7. Hold the position

You will notice how much your abdominal muscles contribute to this position, as it should when you run. This lean is a lot more than what you normally need, but if you exaggerate the lean when you practice you will do it just right when you’re out there running.

Here is a video talking about the lean as well.

That’s it for today. I wanted to write a short article but it ended up a pretty long one. Just take one exercise at a time. Print this page if you wish and practice each exercise for 1 week. You will transform your running.

Need help? I have a few ways to help you with this. One is a 4 weeks course where you go through ALL the running elements. This course can also be done in 2 weeks. Or, if you aren’t close by, I do have a series of coaching videos you can learn from, a running academy. Another option is online coaching. So there are solutions. Thus give a shout if you need help with this. If not, I’m looking forward to hearing how you implemented these exercises and how they worked out for you.

Running Technique – What Not To Do With Your Head When Running

running-technique-what-not-do-with-head

Your head weighs about 4 kg, give or take, with all the accessories (i.e. eyes, ears etc). So bobbing the head around is not a great idea for most people (Paula Radcliffe is a different story, it works for some people).

The point is that what you do with your head sends ripples down the body, all the way to the feet. This means the rest of the body has to adapt to what your head it doing. It’s a chain reaction.

Think about it this way, when you balance on a balance beam, if your head stays over your feet you are balanced. When you head goes left your whole body follows, you lost balance. If you manage to get your head back over your feet you might have a chance of re-gaining your balance.

But it’s more than that, it’s not about that kind of balance, that’s only an example, when you run your body has a different state of balance. When you run you “jump” from one foot to the other, you are on one foot at a time. Your muscles, joints, ligaments all have to activate and do their job to keep everything in one piece and going forwards. There are many elements of movement you have unaware of. And your head it an important part of this chain.

Bottom line, the idea is that your head should be nicely balanced at the top of your spine, with your neck relatively straight, don’t tilt your head backwards or forwards, left or right. Just straight.

Yeah but you need to look ahead!! You might think you need to lift your head to look forward or tilt it forwards (chin to chest) to look down. Actually the eyes are independent of the head, they can look up, forward and down without the help of the head. To a certain angle of course, after that head needs to move as well.

Most runners tilt their head backwards, so they can look ahead I suppose (I used to be one of them until recently), putting strain on the back of the neck and cervical vertebrae. Since this is a chain reaction, the tension and strain goes down through the body, ripple effect. While running there is a lot of vibration going through the body, neck and spine as it is, you don’t want your 4 kg pounding on top of your spine, do you?

That being said your head with never stay put, it has to have some movement of course. It’s a balancing act in fact. If you try to stop it you will only tense and strain your neck even more than if you don’t.

Try this when you walk to begin with:

  • keep chin parallel to the ground
  • back of neck straight
  • look forwards – eyes are independent of your head!

Actually, when you get the hang of it, having a straight neck releases that tension at the back of the neck, tension you are probably not aware of….until you straighten your neck. I know I do run faster and easier when I straighten my neck, it’s an instant shift, but you can’t tell you are tensed until you relax.

SUMMARY

DON’T

  1. Tilt head back
  2. Tilt head forward (chin in chest)
  3. Tilt head to the side
  4. Bob your head

DO

  1. Keep chin parallel to the ground
  2. Keep back of neck straight (there will be a natural curve in the spine of course)
  3. Use eyes independent of the head when possible (probably not on tough trail terrain, make sure you see where you step)
  4. Allow for the natural head movement

If you want to run lighter, faster and stronger get your head in the right place. And if you have any questions just leave a comment below.

In the meantime, keep developing your running skills.

Running Is NOT Only About The Legs

Running-Is-NOT-Only-About-The-Legs

Running is not just a leg movement, it’s a whole body movement and a skill to develop and improve continuously.

Take for example the simple movement of arms and legs. Here are a couple of exercises for you to test the connection between your upper and lower body.

Exercise 1

Walk as you normally would over a 50-100m distance if you can.

Now walk exaggerating the movement of your arms and shoulders only, again 50-100m. Everything else moves normally. What are your legs and hips doing? How do you feel? Are you in control of your movement?

Now walk exaggerating the movement of your legs and hips only. What are your arms and shoulders doing? How do you feel? Are you in total control of your body?

Now walk exaggerating the movement of your arms shoulders as well as your legs and hips. Walk faster, then slower, then faster and notice how your feet are moving and are positioned with each step, notice the level of control you may or may not have and your overall coordination.

Now hold your arms tied to your body and your hands to your thighs. As you walk move your shoulder and whole arm forward. But remember the arms and hands are tied to the legs, so the whole side of the body moves forward, each side at a time

How do you feel? Do you feel your body is moving efficiently? I’m not looking for a specific answer, although you can guess that should happen. I’m interested in your becoming aware of what’s happening to and with your body.

 

Exercise 2

Here’s another example: walk with your arms behind your back.

You will probably notice that your shoulders still want, and struggle to move your arms but the arms aren’t going anywhere. It’s a struggle, you have to put in more energy than usual. If you continue walking like this at your normal walking speed you’d feel tired, more than you’d normally feel.

Notice how much effort the legs have to make to move you forward, how your core muscles do extra work trying, in vain, to move your arms.

Now release your hands and arms and walk normal. How easy is that. It’s just right, natural.

 

Do the 2 exercises above while running as well, you will see a massive difference between when using your arms and shoulders and when you don’t. Replace “walk” with “run” in the instructions.

 

Your body moves the way it moves because it was designed to move like this, this is the most efficient way to move, with the whole body as Jack Heggie says in his book Running With The Whole Body.

Yet many runners hold their arms tight to the sides. You don’t have to strain your arms and shoulders but they do have to move in co-ordination with your legs and hips.

When you move in co-ordination there is a spiralling motion in your spine. Certain muscles contract  storing energy, while opposite muscles stretch and energy is released. You run faster, easier, and, most importantly, you reduce the risk of injuries because your body will begin to move like a well oiled machine, rather than pushing, pulling, struggling and straining.

However that doesn’t mean you have to move your upper body excessively. It’s enough to release tension in your shoulders and allow the arms to move like pendulums back and forth from your shoulders, as if you are hitting someone behind you.

Keep your body moving the correct way, keep your joints as healthy and strong as you can and run for as long as you want.

Explore and develop an effortless and injury-free running style in our fast-track 4 weeks course 1-2-1. You will have videos and material after the course to help you continue to develop your running style. Want to know more? Just contact us here.

Pick Up Your Feet And Run Faster

Have you ever thought about what your feet and legs are doing when you run or even walk? Do you lift your feet off the ground, bending your legs at the knee or do you just drag them just above the ground, shuffling, one after the other?

If you have noticed your running form then you have already changed the way you run. If you haven’t now it’s the time to do so.

Watch the video below for a more detailed explanation, but in summary the reasons you should pick up your feet instead of dragging or shuffling:

Reason #1: You will run faster

Your legs are like pendulums. And like any pendulum, a long pendulum will move slower, a shorter one will move faster.

 

Reason #2: You will run more relaxed, lighter on your feet

If you pick your feet without lifting and leading with the knees you will not use the quads as much, thus you run more relaxed and with less effort. The work is done by your hamstrings and only at the start of the lift, after that your hamstrings should relax.

 

Reason #3: Reduce the risk of injuries

First of all if you drag your feet chances are you will trip or slip at some point. Pick up your feet and you reduce those chances, a lot.

Second if you drag your feet chances are you are landing in ahead of your body (instead of underneath), actively landing (driving your feet forward), heel striking and landing with a stiff leg or ankle. All this, in time, may lead to shin splints, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis and then knee pain and back pain. It’s a chain reaction in fact.

So stop shuffling your legs, dragging them behind you and pick them up and bend your knee.

Remember running is a skill of movement, and art. As with anything you want to create, it will be difficult and uncomfortable at the beginning but once you get the hang of it you won’t run anymore, you will glide.

Check out the video below with this particular technical element and also this article Running Technique – Elements Of Effortless Running – Lower Body:

Running Programmes With Jorgen Welsink

As runners, if we don’t have a coach, we need to know how to train ourselves to reach the goals we have set without burning out and injuring the body.

Jorgen Welsink studied Hollistic Health Coaching / Nutrition at The Institute For Integrative Nutrition and Orthomolecular (Top)Sport Coach & Personal Health Coach at LekkerPuurLeven.

As a running coach Jorgen explains how running training programmes for marathons should be planned. Get a pen and paper because there are a lot of important points to remember and slowly introduce into your training.

We also talk about different types of running technique to reduce the risk of injuries. We talk about heel strike running and natural running technique.

Jorgen also gives us gives us his advice on how to choose your running shoes for marathon training and when. Yes, there is an ideal time of the day to buy your running shoes.

In terms of recovery during training and after your marathon Jorgen shares with us his advice on nutrition, sleep and training for recovery.

In terms of nutrition we talked about how running gels work, carbohydrate loading and how to build a fat burning instead of a sugar burning body.

Links mentioned in the video:

www.iherb.com

Celtic salt

Smoothie with pea protein

 

Make your own running gels

Pineapple-orange chia energy gel
Orange-Pineapple Chia Gel Nutrition DataIngredients:

1 oz chia seeds
1 medium seedless orange
8 oz pineapple
¾ cup brown rice syrup
½ oz dry fruit pectin
1 serving electrolyte mix (above)
Mix the chia seeds with ⅜ cup of water. Stir until the chia gels thoroughly, then set aside.

Peel the orange, removing as much of the pith as possible. Combine the orange and the pineapple, including the juice, in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Combine ½ cup of the fruit mash with the hydrated chia. It’s normal to have extra fruit mash (I had ¾ cup left over). You can freeze it until you need to make another batch of gel.

Stir in the brown rice syrup, then slowly add the pectin. Finally, stir in the electrolyte mix.

Put the mixture in a small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Let the mixture boil for 1 minute, then remove it from the heat and pour it directly into a sterilized ½ pint mason jar for storage.

 

 

Running Technique – Elements Of Effortless Running – Lower Body

elements of effortless running-blog

Any books you read on running technique which has the potential to reduce the risk of injuries have a few common elements. Each technique or style of running (i.e. Chi Running, Pose Method, Natural Running) has its own particular elements that sets it aside from the others, however they all state that to run with less effort and fewer injuries a runner should:

 

1. Land with the foot underneath the body 

That means DO NOT land ahead of your body because you overstride, break your momentum and increase impact. When you overstride you also have to power up by re-engaging the back muscle chains to start a new stride. More effort, more muscle tension, more impact, higher risk of running injuries.

If you can see your feet when you run (by looking down with your eyes and head, not by bending your whole body) it’s a sign you are probably overstriding, landing heavily in front of your body.

Bouncing up and down too much can be another sign. Usually, if you land under your General Centre of Mass you won’t bounce, you will move smoothly, almost like gliding.

This will also help reduce the rotational forces in the joints which lead to overuse injuries in the ankles, knees, hips, spine.

 

2. Lean the body from the ankles

This is an up-right, slightly forward leaning from the ankles, correctly aligned posture. Let gravity do the work instead of using your muscle strength.

 

3. Strike the ground with a midfoot strike

Another common element is the midfoot strike. If you land under your general centre of mass and use gravity to move forward there is no way you will do a heel strike. You will automatically go into a midfoot-forefoot strike.

That being said make sure you don’t run on your toes. You land on the balls of your feet and then allow the heels to touch the ground slightly. That’s it.

If, when you run, you listen closely you can tell whether you land with the ball of the foot. You will hear a “tap” and then you will feel the heel touching the ground. If you hear a “punding” that’s heavy landing and probably heel striking.

If you think about it pretty much all sports require a midfoot or forefoot body weight distribution: dancing, skiing, martial arts free sparring, even tennis. Look at the footwork in this tennis match, just the first 10 seconds.

 

4. Pick up the feet

Your feet are like pendulums. A long pendulum will move slower, a shorter one will move faster. So stop shuffling your legs, dragging them behind you, instead pick them up and bend your knee. 

5. Aim for optimum cadence 

Running cadence is measured by the number of strides per minute that each leg takes. The optimum running cadence is considered to be 85 to 90 strides per minute. 

If you do all of the above then you can maintain the optimum cadence.

However you have to build up gradually to this cadence if it’s not your normal. Then you keep that cadence all the time and use the lean and picking up your feet to move faster. In Chi Running you also increase the strides to increase speed. But you move faster because you lean more and relax your legs more not because you are using muscle power. You should not put effort to increase your strides, it will happen as you lean more. But first master the lean.

Running After Knee Injury – Testimonial Client Experience

Mariepaule had a really bad knee injury. She did the therapies recommended and got the OK. Then she came to work with Alexandra.

Through consistent running technique and natural movement practice, coaching and practicing by herself, Mariepaule recovered nicely and managed a 2 day walk, 2nd day combined with running.

 

This is what we look at on the Running Technique Workshop. Of course, changing the way you move and use your body takes time, but on the workshop you will leave with a few concepts that, if used, can make a huge difference.

While same results cannot be guaranteed, with practice, natural running technique will help you run faster, further, with less effort and fewer injuries.

Book your spot for the next workshop in East London, Canada Water.

Managing Psoas Imbalance in Athletes with Sports Massage

The human body is the best working machine there is; however, many are guilty of not operating it properly. One of the most common results of improper use and maintenance of the body is psoas imbalance, which is evident through an imbalanced body posture.

But it is not just that the body looks lopsided; another issue with psoas imbalance is that it comes with physical discomforts.

 

What is the psoas muscle?

psoas_muscle

This is the most essential muscle group in the body. It allows you to bend and flex your trunk so you can haul your body off the bed every day. This muscle group can be found in your core and the muscles are connected from the 12th thoracic vertebra to the L5 lumbar vertebra, through the pelvic region and femurs. Basically, they are the only muscles that run from the spine down to the legs.

Psoas muscles also help protect the internal organs and contribute to your psychological health.

 

What causes the imbalance?

When the psoas is constantly contracted due to stress, or when you often sit for a long time, work out intensely regularly, sleep in a curled position, or even perform a number of crunches and sit-ups, an imbalance happens.

The surrounding muscles compensate for the compromised condition of the psoas and the pull of tight psoas muscles can make one leg shorter than the other, create a significant sway back posture, posterior tilt to the pelvis for some, and pains.

 

Why do athletes suffer from it?

If you are an athlete — say, you are a runner, a cyclist or a martial artist — there are movements that cause great strain on your iliopsoas muscles, the primary connectors between your torso and legs. When you run and do not shift your weight properly, or you spend hours bent forward to stay balanced on your bike, or you favour a leg for kicking when you do martial arts, your psoas muscles can spasm, tighten and weaken resulting in an imbalance.

 

Physical discomforts due to psoas imbalance

When the psoas muscles are weak and tight, sharp pains can accompany these discomforts and you can feel them in the following areas:

  • Groin
  • Hip or pelvic area (if a psoas imbalance is not treated properly and right away, the pain in this area may lead to the loss of hip joint cartilage and labrum tears of the hip joint)
  • Belly
  • Lower back — right at the waist and the knees (especially when the leg is lifted)

 

Other discomforts you may experience due to psoas imbalance are:

  • Constipation
  • Dysmenorrhea/menstrual cramps
  • Shallow breathing (which means that the body many not be taking in enough oxygen)
  • Easy exhaustion (difficulty in breathing and pressure on the internal organs can make a lot of movements physically draining)

Sports Massage is one treatment option for psoas imbalance that may be considered.

 

Managing psoas imbalance in athletes

According to a study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, psoas imbalance or syndrome can be easily missed during diagnosis because its symptoms are similar to other conditions.

Thus, the first step toward managing and treating psoas syndrome is getting the correct diagnosis.

The treatment and management of the psoas muscle can be divided into three phases: the acute, recovery and maintenance phases.

 

Acute phase

Your main goals here are to reduce the symptoms you are experiencing (including spasms, swelling and pain) and to restore a sense of normalcy to your daily living. In order to achieve both goals, you may need to combine medication with lots of rest, gentle stretching and the application of an ice pack.

At this stage, it is crucial to avoid activities that can further stress the affected muscles. Stretching should be done gently and must be avoided after the application of cold compress.

 

Psoas muscle rehabilitation

The primary goal of rehabilitation is to restore the normal range of motion, strength, endurance and other activities specific to your sport. This can be achieved through stretching and exercise.

At this stage, you can also begin a resistance training program using weights or resistance bands. For endurance, you have to work your way slowly using exercises like cycling and stair climbing on a machine using a low volume of resistance.

psoas-muscle-stretch

 

Maintenance

During the maintenance phase, your main goal would be to strengthen the muscles affected by psoas syndrome in order to boost performance. At this point, you can perform the exercise you did during the rehabilitation phase and combine these with exercises that target the hamstrings and iliopsoas. Resistance should be increased every third or fourth workout.

You can facilitate faster recovery by cross-training in other sports including skating, cycling and dancing.

 

Preventing psoas musle weakness while boosting performance

Apart from preventing psoas syndrome, strengthening the muscle group can lead to enhanced athletic performance.

Exercises like leg lifts, hanging leg lifts, low lunges, v-sits, bridges and reverse planks may be performed before your main workout or after it.

 

Incorporating sports massage

If you are suffering from a psoas imbalance, you cannot opt for traditional massage therapy. Most therapists cannot target the affected muscles because of their location, and are unaware of the proper techniques required in working on the psoas.

Therapists that specialise in sports massage in London can help relieve tension in the psoas muscle while aiding in the increase of flexibility and restoration of movement by utilising specialised techniques.

The psoas muscle is crucial not only for sports but also for the movements required for most daily activities. Therefore, it is essential that this muscle group is strengthened and stretched. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with psoas syndrome, consult a physical therapist or qualified massage therapist to help fix the problem.


About the AuthorMassage-Therapist-London-Ben-Pianese.

Ben has been a practical pain management trainer and a celebrated massage therapist. He believes human well-being is deeply connected to the health of mind and body both, including deep tissues.

He holds numerous certifications for best of breeds massage techniques helping him on a mission for healthy London and then rest of the world. He has been an active contributor in massage technique research and on Massaggi blog.