We in NYC are closing in on completing our very first six weeks and counting, of social distancing. It has been tough. Many of us have had to drastically uproot our lives and routine to help keep our communities as safe as possible. For many of us, our daily escape of a yoga class in a studio or a lifting session at the gym is on pause. As a result, we are turning en masse to running, many for the very first time. As with any time you add a new exercise, one must proceed with caution as your body begins to adjust to the new exercise, throw in a global pandemic, and things get a lot more complicated. To guide you through this transition, we have compiled practical tips to start your running journey.
Socially Distant (and Responsible) Running
You want to protect yourself while running, but if you are feeling laissez faire about your own health, (maybe you’re young and healthy), you must remember that as a runner, you are a much larger threat to other people than they are to you. Anytime you are working out, you are exhaling more breath in volume, than someone walking at a moderate pace. That increase in breath volume, and thus respiratory droplets makes you far more likely to pass anything on if you are carrying a covid infection. You must do what is in your power to avoid getting others sick. No exercise is worth harming others.
In NYC, you are required to wear a face mask if you cannot avoid being within 6 feet of another person. For most running areas in NYC, it is nearly impossible to maintain 6 feet, so opt for a moisture wicking gaiter, to prevent any chapping of your lips. Keep in mind that running with a face mask can be more difficult, so go easy on yourself. You are running to get your ya-ya’s out, not to break a world record, so take plenty of walk breaks if you need them.
For those of you who do not live in a densely populated area, continue to try and maintain 6 feet. Take back roads, rather than main drags and run on off hours to avoid large crowds. Run against the flow of vehicular traffic so you can easily determine if it is safe to dart into the road safely (maintaining 6 feet) to overtake a fellow runner or walker. When it is not possible to avoid coming within 6 feet of someone else on your path, be prepared to stop altogether, or dart up onto someone’s lawn or driveway.
How to Start
If you aren’t a seasoned runner a run/walk program can be a really nice place to start. Starting by alternating walking 2 minutes and running for 30 seconds for 20 minutes is a good way to dip your running toes into the water. Also there are scads of really lovely couch to 5k programs out there to build you up from a novice jogger to a confident runner.
Volume of Training
With all this time on our hands, it can be really easy to up your weekly mileage. Your agenda is practically clear, why not bust out a 16 miler everyday? In general, bumping up your mileage by more than 10% a week is a fast-track way to invite injury. So if you are typically running 20 miles a week, bumping up to 22 miles a week is fine, but more than that can invite injury.
Stretch and Strengthen
Most runners will happily trade 10 minutes of stretching for an extra mile on the road. Don’t do it. Stretching after a run, when your muscles are still nice and warm can help prevent injury and keep you up and running. Stretching through your quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, and calves are all great places to start.
To run well, our bodies require lots of strength to stabilize our joints and provide us the power to gain speed. Core strength is essential as well as learning to perform core strength exercises properly. Did you know that your pelvic floor is part of the core too? Amy Stein, founder of Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, writes about it here. Even on lock down, virtually meeting with your physical therapist will help you to review stretches and stability exercises specific to your body.
Beyond Basics is still open and taking patients, as well as providing virtual appointments. If you require treatment at this time, please call 212-354-2622
On November 3rd 2019, Molly Caughlan completed the New York City Marathon for the very first time! We at Beyond Basics are so proud and overjoyed for her! She ran to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. Read her last update before the big race, here!
I sit here writing this blog with just 6 days left to go before the big race. I’ve been tapering down milage, taking time to rest, stretch, and strengthen. The forecast, fingers crossed, is looking very ideal with highs in the mid 50s and looking like sunshine all day. I’m nervous, excited, and feeling confident that I’m going to cross that finish line.
Since my last blog, I’ve hit just a few bumps in the road with my training. In September right before a critical long run (my first 18 mile run), I had an acute onset of posterior tibialis tendonitis that made it difficult to even walk on. I was devastated and had to hold on running any distance all together. I was feeling incredibly anxious because of how close I was getting to the big day and at the thought of skipping such an important training notch. While I was healing, I did a Hot Vinyasa class that I hadn’t done in a while that help me hit a reset button and set up a strategy to manage these symptoms. I took a whole week off from running and had two sessions with Tina as well as doing some self treatment with modalities (ice/heat). I also had an acupuncture treatment with something called dry needling to my calves with a treatment for chi energy deficiency. With ALL of these treatments combined, the first run I did I was FLYING! I had so much energy and was going at such a fast pace that I shaved a few minutes off of my traditional 5 mile run. Things have been looking up since that week in September and looking back now, resting was the most important treatment I could have done.
As part of my training, I ran the New York Road Runner’s Brooklyn Half Marathon October 19 and had such an amazing time. The end of the race was in Prospect Park, which is essentially my back yard and where I’ve been doing a lot of my training. This helped me to finish strong and break my own personal record for a half marathon with a time of 2:07.
As the days wind down, I’m looking forward to having some of my family members come visit just so they can support me on Sunday. I’ll have support from my local friends on the sidelines and, with the help of modern technology, will have the spiritual support from friends across the country. I’m eager to see all of the other anonymous supporters with their signs and I’m excited to have all of this energy boost me across the finish line.
Last but not least, I must say that I am still working on my $5000 fundraising goal and I’m 71% of the way there. I’m sponsored by an organization called Team Tisch MS that performs groundbreaking research to discover the cause of Multiple Sclerosis, understand disease mechanisms, optimize therapies, and repair the damage caused by MS, as well as offering patient access to the best and most advanced treatment possible. Support Team Tisch MS by donating to my fundraiser!
Exercise in ever tightening spandex while making frequent public toilet stops, or binge on Netflix and cronuts? Pregnancy is a great equalizer. Not even Kate Middleton can escape the hormones that can cause pregnant women to suffer from mood swings, fatigue, nausea, and achiness. Those symptoms—and modern culture—frequently encourage pregnant women to decrease movement and everyday activities. However, there is resounding support in academic literature that recreational physical activity during pregnancy is beneficial to both mother and baby.
While the pregnant woman is best suited to monitor what is beneficial for her body and baby during pregnancy, adequate information to make that decision is not always readily available. Yet around 600 studies published between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s corroborate that exercise during pregnancy is not harmful by measure of fetal birth weight, mode of delivery, preterm delivery, Apgar scores, and acute fetal well-being (1-3). What’s more, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (4) removed the limitations for intense exercises back in 1985 (5) and a literature review showed that bed rest was not beneficial for pregnancy complications. Still, 95% of ob-gyns continue to prescribe activity restrictions to certain pregnant mothers (6).
Clearer guidelines are needed for how pregnant women can decrease injury while maintaining performance and the well-being of mother and baby. While running is only one mode of boosting fetal and maternal health, many women, especially here in New York, embrace it as a key part of their overall wellness. As a recreational runner myself, I was disappointed during my first pregnancy with the foggy information regarding how to run safely during pregnancy. I found myself as a self-case study, correlating the physiological and biomechanical pregnancy changes with a shift in running mechanics. At the third trimester, I had a suspicion that I should replace running with the elliptical and restorative yoga.
The scientific literature specific to running during pregnancy is extremely limited, and in its absence, I’ve used findings for “moderate to strenuous” physical activity, in addition to clinical knowledge of pregnancy related changes in the body and running patterns to develop the recommendations below. Recently, a group of researchers published a series of five papers and combined recent literature about higher level physical activity during pregnancy for application in appropriate populations (7-8).
Pregnancy and exercise:
Pregnancy may seem like a counter-intuitive time to start an exercise program. However, research shows that 150 minutes/week of moderate exercise (9) for inactive and relatively sedentary women, and moderate to strenuous exercise for active women, has strong health benefits for both fetus and mother. Moderate exercise is recognized as 5-6 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), 40-59% HRR (Heart Rate Reserve = Heart rate max – Heart rate resting). Moderate to strenuous is described as 7-8 RPE, 60-84% HRR (1). So while growing a baby is not a good time to start a running program, it is a good time to increase an appropriate level of physical activity or continue an established running program. Some of the benefits of appropriately prescribed exercise are correlated to (10-16):
· Healthier gestational weight gain, which protects against complications like cesarean delivery, hypertension, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes
· Improved general healthy behaviors
· Improved psychological wellbeing – reduction in depression and anxiety, improved self-esteem, particularly for women who were previously inactive
· Improved ability of the placenta to deliver oxygen
· Increased amniotic fluid
· Healthier fetal birth weights that correlate to changes in leptin levels that continue to correlate with a healthier body fat and muscle ratio at the age of 5
· Increased gestational age
· Decreased rate of pregnancy complications, although one study showed higher use of physician assisted delivery (10)
· Faster delivery and decreased chance of Cesarean delivery in a setting that supports natural birth (11)
· Higher Apgar scores
· Lower fetal heart rate and increased fetal heart-rate variability
· Improved neonatal orientation
· Higher general intelligence and oral language skills at the age of 5
· Improved ability of baby to self-soothe after birth, (i.e. longer stretches of night sleep)
Strenuous activity is correlated to a higher rate of miscarriage during the implantation phase of pregnancy—about 20-23 days after the last menstrual cycle. Elevated body core temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit), which can be caused by strenuous activities like marathon running or exercising in hot and humid weather, can increase the risk of fetal neural tube abnormalities during its development, 35-42 days after last menstrual period. Exercising for 60 minutes in a comfortable environment will not raise core temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The pregnant woman’s heart rate should not exceed 90% of her maximal heart rate. Because of physiological changes, the pregnant runner will underestimate her heart rate based on the typical rate of perceived exertion or talk test. For this reason, the pregnant runner should modify the run intensity knowing that her heart is working harder than she perceives or wear a heart rate monitor using the HRmax = 220-age, unless she has access to laboratory equipment that can calculate HRmax without full exhaustion.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, (ACOG) has set absolute and relative contraindications to aerobic exercise during pregnancy (4).
· Hemodynamically significant heart disease
· Restrictive lung disease
· Incompetent cervix or cerclage
· Multiple gestation at risk of premature labor
· Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
· Placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation
· Premature labor during the current pregnancy
· Ruptured membranes
· Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension
· Severe anemia (different than mild anemia)
· Unevaluated maternal cardiac arrhythmia
· Chronic bronchitis
· Poorly controlled type 1 diabetes
· Extreme morbid obesity
· Extreme underweight (BMI <12)
· History of extremely sedentary lifestyle
· Intrauterine growth restriction in current pregnancy
· Poorly controlled hypertension
· Orthopedic limitations
· Poorly controlled seizure disorder
· Poorly controlled hyperthyroidism
· Heavy smoker
Low back and pelvic girdle pain/instability, knee/hip pain, pelvic heaviness, sharp pains in the pelvic floor, urinary leakage, and regular ankle sprains are all signs that it may be time to modify running as exercise. In the clinic, I am often asked about pelvic floor symptoms, particularly urinary leakage during pregnancy, and specifically with running.
I like to think of these warning signs as a force transfer problem—something in the system is not working well. For stress incontinence and pelvic heaviness, it’s the inability of the pelvic floor to generate enough force to keep things up against the up-chain forces of running (2.5x while accepting weight after the flight phase) and down-chain forces of steadily increasing body weight + baby’s weight (around 20% of pre-pregnancy weight). But post-partum is not as simple as the forces that are generated from running or the ability to do a Kegel. Elite athletes and non-exercisers have about the same rate of post-partum incontinence. However, postpartum symptoms are more likely if exercise also caused urinary leakage during pregnancy (16).
The pregnant body is a little more complicated:
It needs to taken into account, that the 10-fold increase of relaxin and progesterone that might be responsible for more instability as forces from the ground traveling up into the falling arches of the feet, adduction of the knee, internal rotation of the hip, through the pelvic floor and gapping of the sacroiliac joint. As the fetus and breasts grow, the body’s center of gravity shifts forward, the ribs flare, and the pelvis tilts forward. While the gluteus maximus and calf muscles are getting stronger to propel the pregnant body forward, the front of the body gains significantly more mass. When this happens, the front of the diaphragm and the front of the pelvic floor are positioned so more forces are going through the front of the pelvic floor than the back. This requires more support of the bladder through the pelvic floor. As the pelvis widens, foot step width increases in walking (17), but decreases in running during the single stance phase, requiring more pelvic control. In other words, the pregnant runner’s leg strength, particularly the hip stabilizing muscles, gluteus medius and minimus, need to be exponentially stronger than in the non-pregnant runner to account for additional weight, forward weight shift, and ligamentous laxity. I primarily talk about the deficit of the gluteus group because of what I see clinically, but depending on when the woman is experiencing pain or pelvic floor instability symptoms, other muscles may also need attention.
The usual period of pain experienced by pregnant runner’s initial strike to single stance, corresponds with the biomechanical gapping of the sacroiliac joint. Alleviating such issues will require force absorption and muscle activation through the quadriceps, medial hamstrings, calf muscles, tibialis anterior, TFL, adductor magnus, iliopsoas, and gluteus medius/minimus. Symptoms of lower extremity and lumbopelvic pain, pelvic heaviness, or sharp pains in the pelvic floor have similar biomechanical and physiological causes as urinary leakage. They should be treated in a similar manner whether controlling the upward and downward loads by:
· decreasing speed of running – correlated to double flight phase, which increases upward pressures
· decreasing vertical displacement
· landing with a midfoot strike to increase shock absorption (18)
· increasing arm swing/thoracic movement – dispersing upward forces and facilitating the respiratory and pelvic floor piston
· decreasing daily physical exertion that causes increased abdominal pressure
· increasing external support with (sacroiliac joint) SIJ belts or foot orthotics – decreasing the body’s instability
· maintaining hip flexor mobility – controlling forward pelvic tilt, movement throughout the day out of sitting posture, hip flexor stretches, shifting weight back through heels, diaphragmatic vs. back breathing
An orthopedic physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor dysfunction and in prenatal and postpartum care will be able to give more specific recommendations, since each woman’s symptoms are a little different.
Expected running changes in pregnancy:
For previous recreational to elite runners, about 70% will continue to run at some point in the pregnancy with only 1/3 continuing into the third trimester. They usually cut the running volume and intensity by 50% compared to non-pregnancy training. For those who stopped running during pregnancy, over half elected to do so because of self-monitoring symptoms of wellness, about one quarter stopped due to physician’s advice, and the remainder stopped for fear of a miscarriage. Whether choosing to continue or stop running during pregnancy, most women had returned to running by 2 months postpartum, and without negative impact on breastfeeding (19).
Speed will decline as instability increases, so that the body has less time with both feet off the ground. Ankle sprains may happen intermittently because of changes in foot position, possible increased swelling, and laxity in the ankle ligaments. Resting heart rate increases 15-20%. Breathing might be more labored during running because of increased sensitivity to carbon dioxide (particularly in early pregnancy) and decreased lung capacity/rib excursion (in late pregnancy). Pregnancy-related mild anemia, which decreases available blood oxygen, affects more than 40% of pregnant women and may show up as accelerated fatigue and increased respiratory rate during running. Be sure that fatigue is not related to severe anemia or hypothyroidism, particularly in persistent symptoms. The pregnant body will improve its ability to thermoregulate with increased sweating to dissipate more heat.
Clothes won’t fit like they once did, especially the spandex. Find some appropriately fitting, breathable, loose exercise clothing that does not excessively compress around the stomach. Urinary urgency and frequency are common limitations in running as the pregnancy progresses, which requires some planning and increased water intake.
Running during pregnancy presents an opportunity to do something overwhelmingly beneficial for both mother and baby, with the added incentive of tuning into the body’s remarkable capacities. While physical activity, running or otherwise, will look different during pregnancy, the goals are similar for a healthy lifestyle. Be kind to yourself—body, mind, and spirit. You and your baby will be thankful. Happy trails. Please leave any comments or questions here!
Joanna is currently taking new patients at our downtown office.
Phone: (212)- 267- 0240
1. Szymanski LM, Satin AJ. Exercise during pregnancy: fetal responses to current public health guidelines. Obstetrics and gynecology. 2012 Mar;119(3):603.
2. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. Physical Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, 2008. Wasington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008.
3. Barakat R, Stirling JR, Lucia A. Does exercise training during pregnancy affect gestational age? A randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2008 Aug 1;42(8):674-8.
4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Committee Opinion No. 650. Obstet Gynecol. 2015;126(6):e135-142.
5. Artal R, O’toole M. Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. British journal of sports medicine. 2003 Feb 1;37(1):6-12.
6. Bigelow C, Stone J. Bed rest in pregnancy. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine: A Journal of Translational and Personalized Medicine. 2011 Mar 1;78(2):291-302.
7. Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, Brown W, Davies GA, Dooley M, Evenson KR, Haakstad LA, Henriksson-Larsen K, Kayser B, Kinnunen TI. Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 1—exercise in women planning pregnancy and those who are pregnant. Br J Sports Med. 2016 May 1;50(10):571-89.
8. Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, Brown W, Dooley M, Evenson KR, Haakstad LA, Larsen K, Kayser B, Kinnunen TI, Mottola MF. Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 2—the effect of exercise on the fetus, labour and birth. Br J Sports Med. 2016 Sep 22:bjsports-2016.
9. US Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC: 2008.
10. Kuhrt K, Harmon M, Hezelgrave NL, Seed PT, Shennan AH. Is recreational running associated with earlier delivery and lower birth weight in women who continue to run during pregnancy? An international retrospective cohort study of running habits of 1293 female runners during pregnancy. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine. 2018 Mar 1;4(1):e000296.
11. Erdelyi GJ. Gynecology survey of female atheletes. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1962;2:174-179.
12. Prather H, Spitznagle T, Hunt D. Benefits of exercise during pregnancy. PM&R. 2012 Nov 1;4(11):845-50.[Ine
14. Clapp JH, Capeless E. The VO2max of recreational atheletes before and after pregnancy. Med Sci Sports Exerci. 1991;23:1128-33
15. Gjestland K, Bø K, Owe KM, Eberhard-Gran M. Do pregnant women follow exercise guidelines? Prevalence data among 3482 women, and prediction of low-back pain, pelvic girdle pain and depression. Br J Sports Med. 2012 Aug 1:bjsports-2012.
16. Bø K, Sundgot‐Borgen J. Are former female elite athletes more likely to experience urinary incontinence later in life than non‐athletes?. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. 2010 Feb 1;20(1):100-4.
17. Gilleard WL. Trunk motion and gait characteristics of pregnant women when walking: report of a longitudinal study with a control group. BMC pregnancy and childbirth. 2013 Dec;13(1):71.
18. Nicola TL, Jewison DJ. The anatomy and biomechanics of running. Clinics in sports medicine. 2012 Apr 1;31(2):187-201.
19. Tenforde AS, Toth KE, Langen E, Fredericson M, Sainani KL. Running habits of competitive runners during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Sports health. 2015 Mar;7(2):172-6.
Hi everyone! It’s Fiona from BBPT. I am writing the day after the 2017 NYC Marathon sore, tired, but happy. It was a great training season, in which I pushed myself harder than I had before and had a great physical therapist, Jessica Babich PT, DPT looking after me the whole way.
Let’s not bury the lead any further. As of today, we managed to raise over $3,500 to support research for multiple sclerosis (MS) through NYC Team Tisch MS and as a group Team Tisch raised over $100,000 dollars to further the goal of making TISCH MS history.
ALSO…. physical therapy definitely payed off. I shaved over 17 minutes my last NYC marathon in 2013, going from a time of 4 hours 0 minutes and 4 seconds, to 3 hours 43 minutes and 2 seconds. Not only was it a personal record for the course, but it was 8 minutes faster than my previous all time best at Sugarloaf in 2011.
This was my first time getting physical therapy during training for a race, rather than having to turn to it when some type of disaster struck, be it a rolled ankle, irritable knee, etc. This is the first time I’ve had someone care not only about my core, but whether or not it engaged when it was supposed to.
I would advise anyone who is considering engaging in an athletic endeavor, especially a new one, or when competing in a sport for time, to strongly consider getting an experienced physical therapist with expert skills in manual therapy and a keen eye for function. They can evaluate problem spots from head to toe (literally, in my case, Jessica worked on both my neck and ankles). They can help you tailor your training to get the most out of your exercises to allow you to perform at higher levels. Jessica kept me healthy and motivated, and her work allowed me to train safely and effectively at an intensity I hadn’t yet explored independently.
Thank you all for your support. If you still care to donate you still can here.
If you think you would benefit from PT at Beyond Basics, click here or call today.
Fiona McMahon PT, DPT & Jessica Babich PT, DPT Fiona: Hello everyone, for those of you who didn’t get a chance to catch my blog a few weeks back, Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is joining forces with the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York to raise money to support multiple sclerosis research, through Team Tisch MS NYC, in this year’s New York City Marathon. Our goal is $2,500 and WE ARE SO CLOSE, if you care to donate, please click here. I will be running the marathon in November, and Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is working to support my fundraising endeavors as well as showing the running community the invaluable benefits of having a sharp, perceptive, thorough and expert physical therapist on your side during training; and that goes for ANY sports training!
I just had my first evaluation with Jessica Babich, PT, DPT, who is both a pelvic floor physical therapy expert as well as a functional movement specialist with an extensive background in orthopedics and sports-related injuries. Jessica was super thorough, she took an extremely detailed history, she looked at my posture, joint mobility and mechanics, strength, core function, and even how my shoes were constructed to see if they were good enough to run in! The shoe part was super wild! In this blog you will see where I stand from a physical therapy perspective, and where I hope to go. Both Jessica and I are authors in this blog so keep an eye on who is talking so you can get the full scoop from both the physical therapist and the patient perspective
Jessica: When I look at runners, I first assess the individual as a whole and identify which area in their body seems to be driving inefficiency. I look at the 3 pillars of functional efficiency, (Mechanical, Neuromuscular, and Motor Control) when examining my patients. Within the mechanical capacity, I examine which structures such as joints, muscles, viscera, neurovasculature, etc., that could inhibit optimal functional performance. Specifically with a runner, I am interested in his or her alignment as well as range of motion through their rib cage, spine, pelvis, and lower extremities. Looking at a patient’s posture in both walking and running, allows me to determine the momentum driving the patient forward. This can be helpful in finding out what and where a dysfunction may be that could affect a runner’s performance. With a runner, I am interested in how he or she initiates his or her run. Are they able to drive force through their lower extremities into their trunk without spinal compensation. Does the runner have adequate strength and endurance to maintain appropriate form and movement strategy throughout their run? I also examine what happens to the patient’s form during walking when you slow him or her down. Breaking down the whole movement pattern and looking at individual parts helps to further expose any problem areas. I examine dynamic stability and controlled mobility to ensure my patients are moving efficiently. From there, I examine the basics, is there a lack of movement (is something stuck or tight) that can affect a runner’s ability to powerfully push off the ground when they run and absorb force when they land. Lastly, I am evaluating Motor Control. If the mechanical capacity and neuromuscular function is present, how does this individual choose to move, or what is his or her strategy to get from point A to point B. This is where a lot of the training comes into play.
Fiona: I told Jessica about my previous injuries, almost all have occurred secondary to decades of running (It truly is my favorite activity), currently I am feeling some left sciatic pain, which has become fairly bothersome.
Right hip labral tear
Right knee pain (patellofemoral pain syndrome), which comes and goes but is currently under control
Occasional left knee pain (patellofemoral pain syndrome), much less bothersome than the right side
Mild to moderate left calf pain, which also comes and goes
Right ankle sprain, from a failed handstand (don’t ask), no longer bothersome, but not properly rehabbed
Largely unremarkable, neural tension secondary to Arnold Chiari Type I malformation. Chiari occurs when part of the brain (the cerebellum) herniates through the skull opening into the spinal cord. It sounds pretty awful, but for me, it’s not too bad and I only experience occasional dizziness as a symptom.
Current Exercise Routine:
I’m pretty regimented and break most of my workouts into 2 daily sessions. I run in the morning, currently I am working on speed training and run something between 3 and 8 miles daily, 5-6 times weekly. I am following one of my favorite marathon gurus, Hal Higdon’s plan, which you can see for yourself here. I have used Hal’s plans for 2 of the 4 previous marathons I’ve run, and I really like how he organizes his plans. I would advise anyone thinking of trying a marathon, to use a training plan. It allows you to ease yourself gently into upping the mileage, rather than panicking at 5 weeks before the race that you haven’t taken your long runs over 20 miles. Following my run I do a mixture of stretches, use my stick ( it’s like a foam roller) and a trigger point ball to roll out my muscles. 4 nights a week I do PM weightlifting sessions, which last about 40 minutes. I split my lift into upper body and lower. I do a mixture of stabilizing and traditional exercise. When I’m done I’ll stretch again and this time roll out on a foam roller. In order to support all that exercise I drink a ton of water and try and fill my diet with lots of whole grain carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats (I’m looking at you avocados!)
Fiona has a posterior/posterior alignment. ( This terminology comes from the Institute of Physical Art (IPA), and is a wonderful training program for PTs) Meaning, her ribcage is set posterior in relationship to her pelvis and her ribcage is tipped posteriorly.
Range of Motion (ROM):
Poor lumbar spine ROM, with an inability to reverse the curve in my lumbar spine
Why this is important: my spine should have motion in order to absorb the shock from repeated foot falls, also an immobile spine may inhibit the core stabilizers from firing properly
HISL testing ( another IPA test): Positive at the right (hip) at 90 degrees, with poor glide of the femur down on the left side. Positive at left (hip) at 100 degrees.
How do we translate this into non-physical therapy speak? First of all the HISL stands for Hip, Innominate, Sacrum, and Lumbar. It measures the relationship between the bones of the upper thigh, pelvis, and low back. What my results tell us is that my hips are stuck and cause my innominate (bone in the pelvis) to move too early. This is not so great because it causes the bones further up to have to move extra to compensate. We have to clean this up.
Strength and Function :
Instead of testing muscles one-by- one, which is commonly done in traditional physical therapy practices, we decided to take a look at functional movements. Who gives a hoot if I have strong quadriceps while sitting on an exam table, if they can’t function properly during actual running, right?
LPM (Lumbar Protective Mechanism)( another IPA test) : absent in all quadrants
Dang! Lumbar protective mechanisms refers to the ability to stabilize your spine and protect your core in response to bumps and jostles. I didn’t stabilize at all. This is important because running is essentially a series of bumps and jostles, running on an unstable spine and core can increase your chances of injury as well as reduce your power during push-off in running leading to slower times (HORRENDOUS!).
Sagittal Plane Lunge: I have deficits with initiation and weight acceptance on both sides. I compress my arms in prayer position to create stability and when taken away I have a loss of trunk control. My right ankle more unstable than the left.
Runner’s Start Jump: difficulty coordinating movement on both sides, but significantly worse with initiation from right side at the ankle.
Remember my ankle sprain? Well, apparently that’s still holding me back and decreasing my ability to push off the ground. You could imagine how this could become a problem over the course of 26.2 miles. Moral of the story, see a PT after you hurt your ankle!
Also we see deficits in core control again. I think addressing this with Jessica will really improve my time.
Shoes and wear:
Apparently my shoes were good! Jessica told me that sometimes right and left sneakers can be made in different factories and have different densities, which can really mess you up while running. Also if the back part of you sneaker extends too far it can make your brain think your foot is larger than it is, leading to injury. The wear of the shoe is also important to see if one foot pronates or supinates more than the other. If this was the case, Jessica could work on the alignment of the bones in my feet, ankle and foot strength, as well as teaching me how to tie my shoes in a way that better support my feet.
Assessment and Take Away: Jessica’s Assessment: Fiona, like a majority of our athletes presents with deficits in the 3 major pillars leading to functional inefficiency. The goal of physical therapy, isn’t always to reduce pain, it is to get you to function better, which in turn will decrease wear and tear that contribute to common pain patterns.
Fiona: I can’t say I am surprised by much of what we found. I am slightly disappointed with my core activation finding, because I had been focusing on that particular issue for months and months in the gym. Jessica told me she thought part of my issue was that my lower (lumbar) spine was so rigid, it might be hard for me to get into a place where my deep core muscles can work to facilitate stability. It goes to show, even as a physical therapist, you need someone else to literally watch your back. As a physical therapist, my evaluation showed me that now is the time for help. Although I am strong and spend hours working out, my core stability is something I need more help with, and I simply cannot work my way out of my weakness alone in a gym. I’ve tried long enough. I need gentle manual therapy and proprioceptive neuromuscular feedback to wake my lazy deep stabilizers out of their hibernation and orthopedic work to allow the joints of my spine and pelvis to move more efficiently and effectively. Although this body has its deficits, I’m really proud of what it has done so far, and I’m really excited to see where Jessica will help me go!
Improve the movement of: right foot, trunk, and cervical spine
Improve core stability and strength to allow for more power and reduction of injury risk
We will achieve these goals through manual work, neuromuscular re-education in order to teach the muscles to activate better and a strong home program to maintain changes made in physical therapy.
Jessica: My goal is to treat the mechanical deficits inhibiting her neuromuscular system and then functionally reintegrate the parts into the whole system to enhance performance efficiency.
Long Term Goals:
1: (12 Weeks) | Patient to demonstrate core first strategy with transitional movements to improve stability, energy efficiency and decrease risk for injury
2: (12 Weeks) | Patient to demonstrate optimal ribcage over pelvic posturing for automatic core engagement and decrease mechanical load on system.
3: (12 Weeks) | Patient to improve R foot positioning for stability and push off in gait
Home Exercise Program:
So far I have one addition to my workout routine. It is a split stance at the wall designed to wake up my stabilizers before I go running. I stand at the wall with one leg fully extended on my toes and the other bent at the knee and the hip, with my toes pointed up. I hold for 30 seconds per side and then I get going. It has been a couple days since this exercise was assigned, and I’ve done it on about 50% of my runs. Remembering to do your home program is one of the biggest challenges of physical therapy. My strategy to combat this is to leave a sticky note on my door reminding me before I leave the house. I will report back on future blogs to let you know how my strategy worked out.
Hi all! If you have been following our blog, you should be aware that Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and I are teaming up to raise money the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York with Team Tisch MS. I’m hoping to raise $3,000 dollars to support multiple sclerosis research. We have currently raised approximately $1,500!. Please support us and click HERE to donate. What puts the fun in this fundraiser ( sorry, not sorry about the pun) is that we get to get donations through running the New York Marathon, which I will be running in November.
I have run 4 marathons before including New York, and even though my timed goals were not lofty ( I really only cared about dragging my body from A to B 26.2 miles later), I relied on PT every single time, to keep my body whole and prevent me from sustaining race ending injuries. This year is no different and this week I will be having my first appointment with Jessica Babich, at Beyond Basics.
Why go to Physical Therapy if you are not injured?
No matter how you cut it, physical therapy is an investment. Based on your insurance, co-pays can vary to very little to more expensive, and no matter how much you are paying, the time it takes to go to physical therapy and diligently do your exercises is a finite resource. So why add more tasks to an already arduous training schedule? For me, the answer is easy, I want my body to not only run a faster marathon this fall, but I want to do so in a health way to protect my joints, ligaments and muscles, so I can not only continue to run, hike, ski, and play outside, but also so I can continue working without pain.
But aren’t you a PT, can’t you just PT yourself?
One of the most powerful and surprising lessons I’ve learned through being a physical therapist is, it is really hard to be objective about your own body. Physical therapists are trained to see large scale impairments like weak hip strength, which I know for a fact is something I need to work on, but also small scale impairments in movement, like slightly more pronation on the right foot than the left, those are things another practitioner needs to observe from the outside to diagnose and treat. Having an objective movement analyst ( aka a physical therapist), can help you see weaknesses, and alignment issues that even the most expert observer may miss on themselves. Long story short, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Why someplace like Beyond Basics Physical Therapy
I work at Beyond Basics, so full disclosure, it is the most convenient place I could go. That being said, it is also the best place I could go. Physical therapy clinics come in “flavors” and for someone hoping to truly optimize their performance, Beyond Basics Physical therapy and clinics with the same “flavor” are where to go. What makes Beyond Basics physical therapy so special is the hour one-on-one treatment they offer. This allows us to address all three pillars of movement, efficiently, effectively, and completely. The three pillars are mechanical, ( tightness, or lack thereof, of muscles, joints, fascia and ligaments as well as bony alignment), strength (how strong is a particular muscle and is it strong enough to do it’s job), and finally neuromuscular control, ( do your muscles do the right thing at the right time, this is really important to stabilize the joints of the leg and back, and is often overlooked in some busier physical therapy practice). Other physical therapy practices have a slightly different flavor. They may have a one physical therapist treating 4 patients and hour. Even if time is divided up perfectly equitably between patients, this allows the therapist of only 15 minutes on hands-on treatment to correct mechanical and neuromuscular issues, therefore leaving 75% of the time doing exercises with other patients. That flavor of physical therapy can work for some people, especially those who like to socialize with other patients during treatment, but for me, marathon training is too hard to only get 15 minutes of hands on time and spend 45 minutes doing exercises in a crowded gym. I feel that I am perfectly capable of doing my assigned exercises regularly as part of my home program. I would much prefer to work with a therapist who can tailor my treatment to suit my needs, not one who has to juggle the time constraints of treating multiple patients at once.
How are you preparing for PT?
Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is based out of New York. Like most states in the USA, New York has direct access, so I don’t need to have a prescription to come in. I will be bringing a few things to my appointment that I think are essential: health history, attire, and attitude.
Health History: Health history is a big one. In physical therapy a complete health history includes your current medications, and medical conditions, past injuries ( this is really important, and things like an ankle sprain a few years ago can clue us in on a lot ), and other factors like stress, amount of sleep you typically get, how much you work out and what you do, and diet.
Attire: Another important and sometimes overlooked item on the list. Your physical therapist will have to examine different areas on your body, as well as have access to treat those areas. Loose fitting shorts and an athletic top are a good bet. Even if you are going to physical therapy, for a condition like pelvic floor dysfunction, your therapist may ask you to do exercises, so it wise to bring workout clothes to your appointment. If you are a runner, bring in your shoes. The wear pattern on used pair of running shoes can provide heaps of valuable information.
Attitude: This is super important. Physical therapy is a partnership between you and your physical therapist. For me I already, foresee finding time to do the exercises that Jessica will prescribe to be a challenge. But the fact is, home exercise is part of the deal, and I won’t get nearly as much benefit from physical therapy alone, versus physical therapy with home exercise. Like I said before marathon training is simply too hard to just go through the motions at physical therapy.
What are your goals and what do you expect to gain from physical therapy?
Like I said before, I want to stay as healthy for as long as possible, but I would be lying if I said my primary goal wasn’t to increase my time. I want to put my money where my mouth is and put all my old times out in the open. So you can know where I am starting from and where I hope to go.
Here are my past times:
Mount Desert Island 2010: total time 3h 56 minutes 18 second: 9 min per mile pace
Mount Desert Island 2011: total time 4h 05 minutes 21 second: 9 min 22 seconds per mile pace
Sugarloaf 2011: total time 3h 52 minutes 25 second: 8 min 51 seconds per mile pace
New York City 2013: total time 4h 0 minutes 47 second: 9 min 11 seconds per mile pace
Here’s my dream goal for this race:
3 hours and 45 minute at 8: 35 pace.
As you can see, it’s 7 whole minutes faster than my fastest race over 7 years ago . To get there, I can’t get injured and I certainly can’t waste any precious energy during the race running inefficiently. I know that Beyond Basics will give me the best chance to meet my goals.
If you are looking to increase your performance in your sport of choice come see us to make sure you are getting the most power out of your serve, swing, or stride. Click here to access our home page and make an appointment today.
Continue to follow us here, on Instagram, and on Facebook to see my progress in physical therapy as well as my progress towards my goal of raising $3,000 dollars for MS research. If you care to donate please click here to donate to this worthy cause
Our ankles function to help us do simple tasks from walking down the hall, climbing stairs to advanced tasks like cutting during a high level soccer game. Ankles need two things to do their job well. They need stability to allow us to transfer our weight onto them and mobility to absorb forces, like little shock absorbers when we move. A deficit in either one of these area’s can affect our ability to efficiently do certain activities and may cause pain in the foot and ankle itself or further up the leg. As physical therapists we evaluate and treat ankle and foot issues to get the athlete or non-athlete back to optimal function.
Get this, the foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and 100 muscles in it. There is a lot to look at and unfortunately, a lot that can go wrong with the foot. As physical therapists and especially here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we like to use a systematic approach when evaluating the foot and ankle. We look at the foot’s range of motion (how far it can move), its strength, it’s ability to move well (motor control), and whether or not something’s not moving well when it comes to the soft tissue or the joint of the foot. If something’s up with any of these categories we open our tool box and treat using functional manual therapy, neuromuscular and postural re-education and self care!
Things we look at
In standing we assess the patient’s baby squat ( or plié, as our former dancers would call it) we are looking to see if there is an issue with the tissue of the foot’s ability to stretch and fold
Heel raise: We look at our patient’s’ ability to go up on their toes, aberrant or weird motions tell us about motor control, strength, and joint mobility.
Arm Swing: We promise this isn’t to make our patients look silly. It allows us to assess pronation and supination, which are super important motions of the foot.
End feel: We will passively move the patient’s foot and ankle through its range of motion to assess how the joint feels. It can tell us a lot about what’s wrong and where it’s coming from.
Palpation: We pride ourselves on our hands at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy. One of our PT’s calls it our “brain hands”. Palpation can reveal a ton about what’s going on in the foot.
These are all pretty basic first steps when assessing our patients. They are the starting point, but by no means the finish line. Once we get the big picture we will refine our examination to see what’s going on when our patients are doing their specific sport or activity. Once we get a good handle on what’s going on we select the most appropriate techniques for our patients. Each patient is different and one basic protocol for everyone isn’t how we roll at BBPT. If you think your ankles or feet could use a little extra TLC, book an appointment today. To get the ball rolling, check out our blog written by our therapist, Denise Small .