So You Think You Can Run? Part 1

A quick hello and an introduction to the plank.

Hello and welcome to my blog series So You Think You Can Run! I hope you are all staying safe and healthy during these interesting times as we continue to flatten the curve against COVID-19.  The more we follow the recommendations set out by health officials the sooner we all get back to our regular lives.

Before I get into our topic today I would like to thank all the front line workers out there that are risking their health and well being to provide the goods and services that are essential to our society.  Everything ranging from grocery store clerks to freight delivery drivers to nurses and doctors, we need to show these people our support by thanking them whenever possible.  Make them feel appreciated for the risks they are taking so that we are all able to get through this together.

I’d also like to address my absence from doing anything clinic related up to this point.  When the pandemic began to accelerate in severity and all non-essential health care clinics were shut down, I offered my time and help to the grocery store down the street.  I would get up at the crack of dawn to start at the store before it opened to sanitize all commonly touched places including grocery baskets and carts.  From 7am until 8am was seniors hour, so I was able to help anyone out who needed it with loading groceries or finding specific items.   I enjoyed that part the most.  However, now that the panic buying is over and things have settled down a bit I now have the time to return my attention to taking care of my patients.  I am going to miss the grocery store.  I started to get to know a lot of people from the community and there sure are some characters down in the West End!

Exercises to do Before Your Run

So on to our topic.  Since the weather has been absolutely fantastic (we are so lucky to be living in Vancouver) and we are all doing our part by isolating and staying in our own neighbourhoods, I am beginning to see a lot more people getting out to run.  This blog topic will be written in 4 parts and will focus on 4 exercises any runner should do before they get out for their run. These exercises will help to prevent some of the most common running injuries.  This is important due to the closure of massage and physiotherapy clinics, so getting the help you may need will be quite difficult.  Prevention is the best medicine!

Before you start running you’ll want to make sure your core muscle group is activated.  If your core isn’t activated or warmed up before a run it could lead to low back pain or even knee pain.  So the first exercise I will go over is the plank.

How to Plank!

To begin start by lying on your stomach and place your forearms flat on the ground in front of you about shoulder width apart, with your elbows right below your shoulders (think 90 degree angles).  Your toes should be planted as well.

Plank in the resting position.

To initiate the plank bring your hips up so that they are the same level as your shoulders (if you have a mirror in the house this is extremely helpful to correct your form).  To avoid your shoulders from dipping, push down towards the ground with your arms to keep your upper back and chest muscles activated.  Keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine, don’t look up or down.  And lastly to keep your low back from arching too much, contract your glut muscles.  This last tip is usually forgotten but I find it to be one of the most important.  If you have done planks in the past and you felt like they hurt your low back, this might be part of the problem.

The plank position. I have drawn a line showing proper alignment. Note how the shoulders are the same height as the gluts. There is no dipping between the shoulder blades, and no over arching of the low back.

Now for the FIDs (frequency, intensity and duration), which is clinic talk for how long do I hold it and for how many reps?  This particular exercise I’ve seen done to extremes far too often.  I have seen people holding the plank position for up to 2-3 minutes, and near the end of it their form looks just awful.  Dipping shoulders, arching low backs, shaking all over like a jelly fish… I don’t like it.  Holding the plank for that long is not practical.  When in your day to day life are you doing to need to contract 100% of your core for 2 minutes straight?  Unless you’re a MMA fighter or some other extreme pro athlete, you won’t.  What I do and what I advise my patients to do is to approach the plank like any other gym exercise; activity followed by brief rest.

For example, once you get into the plank position, hold it for 20 seconds.  Once 20 seconds has passed, rest on your stomach for 10 seconds, then repeat.  Continue this process until you start to feel shaky or your form starts to break.  Since this is a warm up to your run you won’t want to push yourself too hard because you want to activate your core, not fatigue it completely.  And if 20 seconds feels too long then do a 10 second hold followed by a 10 second rest.  It’s important to focus on form, which will in turn help us to prevent injuries from occurring.  If you feel any major pains or discomfort while doing this exercise please discontinue.

Well I think that’s enough for my first blog post, I don’t want to over do it with too much writing.  Next time we connect I will talk about the side plank, and the following one will focus on glut activation.  Part 4 of this series will focus on putting it all together in a routine.  I’ll also be including some of the activities/hobbies I’ve been up to as of late to give you all some ideas or inspiration if you are starting to go stir crazy at home.

Thank you so much for reading.  If you have any questions or concerns in regards to what we discussed above please feel free to email me at clayton@yourwellnessatwork.ca.

Best in health,

Clayton Giles, RMT
Your Wellness at Work

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