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
Set Up: Start on all fours with the shoulders stacked on top of wrists, lats engaged, collar bones broad, and chin slightly tucked to create length through the back of the neck.
Execution: Inhale to prep, exhale to extend one leg at a time back into a full plank position. Abs and glutes engage while nothing in the upper body shifts. Create a sense of length from the crown of the head through the heels. Hold anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute maintaining proper form.
Focus: Three key focal points when performing a plank: 1. Be sure to not sink into the shoulders. Push away from the mat, broaden collar bones, engage lats and serratus (your side body), and keep the back of the neck lengthened. The upper back should be flat, not rounded. 2. Support the lower back. Abdominal engagement is critical in this exercise and includes knitting ribs together, drawing navel to spine, and creating a hollowed out feeling in the lower abdomen in order to achieve optimum support for the lower back. 3. Create a sense of length. Constant energy reaching through the crown of the head to the heels will give you a sense of lift making the plank feel lighter. P.S. Don’t grip the glutes, but engage them slightly for more support.
Importance: Planks are a killer full body exercise. Everything has to be on, including the brain, in order to execute this exercise correctly. Planks allow you to target shoulder stability, core strength in its entirety, and mental/physical endurance.
Modifications: To modify, keep knees under the hips, tuck the toes and hover knees off the mat. Focus on the same cues for full plank. To add a challenge, well… the options are endless! Try adding alternating leg lifts, mountain climbers, or walk down to forearms and back up to hands without shifting hips side to side.
March Is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Treating endometriosis and improving the lives of people with endometriosis has long been a passion of Dr. Amy Stein, founder of Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, so much so, that she teamed up with Dr. Iris Orbuch and wrote a book about it! This month we are reviewing some of the major talking points in their book, Beating Endo .For more on endometriosis, check out our past blogs as well as Beating Endo.
This week we are continuing our series on endometriosis. We are highlighting how endo can affect your gastrointestinal system (your tummy) and what you can do about it. As you may recall from our previous blog posts, endo occurs when endometrial like cells occur outside the uterus. These cells can implant themselves within the abdomino-pelvic cavities and its organs causing inflammation and reducing the movement of the organs therein. The symptoms caused by endo in the gut are myriad. These symptoms can often be unpredictable and incredibly frustrating to those experiencing them. These symptoms may also occur regularly or at various points during one’s cycle and can be just as frustrating.
GI symptoms commonly associated with endo include:
Painful bowel movements
With all this going on in the gut, there are still some things you can do. The pelvic floor is the “governor” of bowel function. When it contracts, it holds bowel movements in, and when it relaxes, it allows bowel movements out. With endometriosis, and the inflammation and pain it can cause, the pelvic floor muscles often get very tight, which worsens the problems outlined above. Pelvic floor PT can help reteach those muscles to relax and let go, thereby improving your GI symptoms!
How to help your tummy at home:
The I Love You Massage
How to do it:
Flatten your palm, make a fist, or use your fingers, first to trace the letter I in a descending movement from just under your left rib cage to your pelvic bone. Do this ten to fifteen times. Then place your palm, fist, or fingers under the right rib cage and draw the L— right to left horizontally, then straight down to the pubic bone. Again, do this ten to fifteen times. Finally, the U: Start on the right, at the top edge of the pelvic bone, and massage up toward the rib cage, then left across the body, then down to the top of the pelvic bone. Do this ten to fifteen times as well. What you have done is massage the descending colon, the transverse colon, and the ascending colon, thus stimulating the involuntary contractions that actually move the stool. Use moderate pressure; if it hurts, lighten the pressure. If it still hurts, stop—although even a light massage may cause some soreness at first.
How to Start a New Exercise Program When You’re Feeling Intimidated
Maybe you were an avid gym-goer, cross fitter, or yogi and then you got injured. Or maybe fitness has never been a part of your life, but now your doctor or PT has told you that a fitness regimen is necessary in order to help you feel like yourself again. Whatever the case may be, you just don’t know where to start, or you feel intimidated to return to what you were doing in the past because that is how you got injured in the first place. My advice is to start slowly. Educate yourself on how and why you got injured and what the next steps are on your road to recovery. Set goals on what you need to accomplish and build a plan to achieve them. Last but not least, train smartly. If you follow this check list, then you should definitely feel more confident moving forward!
It is imperative when you are transitioning from injury rehab to the fitness world, or starting a new exercise program for the first time, that you build a foundation. It is so crucial you stay true to your journey and not compare yourself to others. Trust that progress takes time. Resist the urge to jump right into something new if you’re unsure about form, alignment, and technique.
The first step would be to invest in private sessions. Educate yourself on what you’re getting into and find an expert in what you want to master. Having a coach who devotes the entire hour to your body and your needs will help you garner a deeper understanding of how your breath, body, and mind connect. Learning the proper form with a watchful eye on alignment, will ensure you have a strong foundation to move forward or join group classes.
Once you’ve gained confidence with your new (or old) exercise program, set some fitness goals. You’ve laid a strong foundation and now it’s time to build a skyscraper! Do you want to improve strength, flexibility, endurance? Once you have clear goals set, create a timeline. Establishing a realistic timeline will hold you accountable to sticking with your exercise program and crushing your goals!
The point I’ll end with is to train smartly. No matter what discipline you train in, if you are not focused on form, alignment, and breath control, you are only setting yourself up for future injuries. If you are in a group class, don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is unclear, doesn’t feel quite right, or if you know you need a modification. If you are doing an at home workout on your own, try to do it in front of a mirror to check out your form. If there’s no mirror accessible, simply take it slow and use the knowledge you’ve acquired from a trainer, coach, or PT. Take notes. Practice. Your exercises won’t be perfect the first time you attempt them. Be patient and mindful. It’s all about the journey 🙂
Set Up: Stand with one foot on the carriage and one foot on the platform with weight distributed evenly between both legs. Slightly turn out your legs to help engage outer rotators and glutes. Lighter spring setting will focus on adductors (insides of legs) while a heavier spring setting focuses on abductors (outsides of legs).
Execution: The breath for this exercise changes based on adductor or abductor focus. For adductors- inhale to push carriage away from the platform and exhale to pull carriage back in. For abductors- exhale to push carriage away and inhale to control the carriage back in. Move the carriage out only as far as you can go while maintaining good form, as soon as neutral pelvis shifts to a tilt or a tuck, you’ve gone too far.
Focus: Be sure to keep the integrity of your form throughout the entire exercise. Keep a tall, stacked spine with ribcage over hips, neutral pelvis, and lifted arches. Think of a string lifting you up from the crown of your head. It’s common for the arches of your feet to drop, causing pronation. Keep that pinky toe connected to the machine. This will also keep the knees in correct alignment.
Importance: Great postural exercise. It’s meant to focus on either adductor or abductor strengthening depending on desired resistance. As a whole, it draws attention to weight placement and how that affects your alignment while standing.
Modifications: If you are apprehensive about balance, grab a pole or a long dowel and place that on the floor right in front of you while standing on the machine. If this exercise bothers your knees, keep a slight bend in them the whole time.
Set Up: Lie on your back with knees bent, with left foot flat on the mat, and stability ball under the right foot. Arms resting by your sides. Neutral pelvis.
Execution: Inhale to prep. Exhale to lift pelvis off the mat into bridge position while pressing left foot firmly into the mat and right foot firmly into the stability ball. Hold bridge for one breath, then lower with control maintaining a neutral pelvis. Repeat 5-10 times on this side and then switch to the other leg.
Focus: Keep pelvis completely level throughout the entire exercise. Be sure to not overuse or arch the lower back. Ribs should be flush with abdomen and the knees should be reaching over the toes.
Importance: Key muscles targeted in this exercise are the glutes and hamstrings! Pelvic and core stability are also challenged due to the stability ball. If you feel only your hamstrings engaging as you bridge, move heels closer to sits bones. This should help the glutes turn on.
Modifications: If you find adding the stability ball too challenging, don’t continue using it with faulty form. Try marching slowly in a bridge position- hold the right leg up for 5 counts, then slowly transfer to left leg lifting for five counts. Keep alternating legs being sure the pelvis stays level and glutes and hamstrings are engaged. If you find you pelvis dropping on one side as you do this, then do fewer repetitions to start.
As we creep closer and closer towards marathon weekend, our very own Tina Cardenia PT, DPT, CFMT and Victoria LaManna (Vicky) PT, DPT, CLT, PRPC were kind enough to share their stories about preparing for the 2018 New York City Marathon. Vicky will be running her first marathon on November 4th, 2018 in order to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis Research. Tina was gracious enough to volunteer her expertise in orthopedic physical therapy to help Vicky have the best run possible for a great cause. If you are interested in donating to support MS research, please donate here and read more about their stories below. If you are interested in hearing more about our orthopedic and sports program here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, give us a call at 212-354-2622.
From the Runner’s Perspective
Victoria LaManna (Vicky) PT, DPT, CLT, PRPC
This year I am participating in my first ever marathon in the NYC Marathon for Team TischMS. Truly, this is my first ever 5k, Half Marathon, or Full Marathon. I am traditionally an anaerobic, (short bursts energy) exerciser. I have played soccer, dabbled in Muay Thai kickboxing, yoga, and weight lifting for exercise. The mind-body challenge of running a marathon (and doing it all for a great cause!) appealed to me. But where to start?
Luckily, I am in a profession that specializes in exercise, injury screening, and prevention, as well as injury rehabilitation. One of my co-workers has also run a few marathons and pointed me in the right direction for a training schedule. To further help ensure success in my training process, I also started physical therapy and made sure I got on my co-worker Tina’s super busy schedule.
She first tested my core strength, checked hip mobility and strength, as well as spine and rib cage mobility. All areas that are important for efficient running. Tina found that I had poor core-first responses to outside forces, meaning that every time my foot hit the ground while running, my core was not firing to connect my lower extremities to my trunk. This could definitely be why I was experiencing right low back pain with running, and it could actually lead to further injury and result in not being able to RUN at all! Tina also found limitations in my breathing, rib cage, and thoracic mobility. Other than back pain, my first main complaint a few weeks into training was that I could not breathe. While you could chalk that up to poor conditioning, it was something that was felt immediately in runs – as if I just did not have the capacity to take a breath in. This is where we started our treatment – rib cage and thoracic spine mobility.
From there, Tina continued treating based on observation of my running pattern. She continued to work on hip, spine mobility and core control based on what she saw was insufficient in my running. My breathing improved greatly, as well as my mobility. I began to run completely pain-free with ease.
About 2 months away from Marathon Day, I injured my right foot trying to complete a 16-mile training run. I was unable to walk without pain and was limping around the office. Tina quickly observed that I had a bone in my foot and ankle that were compressed and out of alignment. Her work to align my foot and ankle, working all the way up again through my hip and trunk helped me to get back to pain-free running.
I am all set to run the NYC Marathon Sunday, November 4th! I am incredibly thankful to Tina for helping me to get through my training pain-free, manage an injury along the way, and quickly get me back on track for race day. And I am thankful for Team TISCH for allowing me the opportunity to join their team and support a great cause that affects many men and women.
Are you training for a marathon? Looking to improve your running form? OR even improve your golf swing? I would highly recommend seeing a physical therapist for an injury prevention screen for any and all sports, recreation or exercise. Setting yourself up for optimal movement and mechanics will enhance your activity, as well as reduce the risk of injury. It worked for me!!
From the Therapist’s Perspective:
Tina Cardenia PT, DPT, CFMT
Victoria LaManna is such an inspiration. She volunteered to run the NYC marathon this year with little to no running experience and I was lucky enough to help prepare her! I have been working with Victoria for the past 6 months and I am amazed by how far she has come and how much she has already accomplished. Each week during our PT sessions there were a couple of things that I would look at to monitor her progress. I would observe her running, assess her core with tests called the Lumbar Protective Mechanism* and the Elbow Flexion Test*, her standing posture, her single leg stance, double leg squat, single leg squat, her glut and hamstring strength and how it connects to her trunk, and trunk rotation range of motion.
I saw that Vicky’s main limitations when I was observing her run were her limited trunk rotation towards the right, poor landing control on both of her legs especially her right one, and running with her feet turned out. One of the main things I looked for when observing Vicky run is the force transfer through her body from her feet to her trunk, and how the force translates through the rest of her body. It looked as though the force transfer wasn’t as efficient as I would have liked and this repetitive stress through her back and legs could potentially lead to injury.
Vicky’s limitation with trunk rotation correlated to one of her complaints of having difficulty breathing during her runs. It seemed as though she was only able to get a good breath through only one side of her body. Upon examination, I found that she was limited into rib cage expansion especially on the right side. After some rib mobilization and breathing inhalation retraining and working thoracic spine rotation Victoria was able to rotate more symmetrically and reported an increased ease of breath with running.
Vicky’s lack of control with landing while running meant that she had a lack of eccentric (the motion of an active muscle while it is lengthening) control through her pelvis, causing compression through her back every time she lands. This could explain the low back pain Vicky has been experiencing. To address this, I worked on increasing the mobility and range of motion through her hips, pelvis, and back. I then worked on retraining her body with specific neuromuscular techniques called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) and specific exercises to help Vicky create a core first strategy with her running. This means, with every step and every movement Vicky is able to initiate with her core muscles first, which prevented her from overusing her bigger muscles which tend to fatigue quickly and can lead to injury and pain.
Vicky was running with her feet turned out causing poor force absorption from her feet up to her body. This style of running can also result in muscle overuse injuries and pain over time. This could have also been contributing to her complaints of shin splints while running. To work on this, I evaluated Vicky’s foot and ankle mobility, her knee tracking with squats, and single leg squats. With knee tracking, I noticed that she went into valgus with both of her knees, but it was worse on her right. Valgus means that her knees were “knocking in” which was an issue of having weak hip strength as well as lack of mobility and flexibility through some of her leg muscles and joints. I did a lot of manual work to restore good range of motion and mobility and a lot of muscle retraining and drills to train Vicky to use those muscles appropriately and to be able to carry it over into her running.
After all this training and all the hard work that Vicky has been putting into running, Vicky’s running form now looks great! She has much more mobility through her trunk, is able to control her landing much more efficiently and is able to connect her feet for a better push off during running! Even as Vicky increased her mileage, she kept reporting to me how much easier her runs have been feeling, how much easier it was to breathe and how much more ease of motion she had through each run, and I couldn’t be more proud of her hard work!
*The Lumbar Protective Mechanism and the Elbow Flexion Test are special tests that come from the Institute of Physical Art. If you would like to learn more about their approach to PT, click here.
In this blog, our guest writer is talking about pelvic girdle pain (PGP), which can often get confused with pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD), although they are related, they are different conditions. For pelvic floor dysfunction, we often caution against just strengthening the pelvic floor. Often times the pelvic floor muscles are over tightened and tense and strengthening often can worsen the situation. Pelvic girdle pain refers to issues around the pelvic bones and sacrum. Both can occur during pregnancy but often require different treatment approaches. If you have pain, come see us at BBPT.
Exclusively written for BeyondBasicsPTBlog.com
Back in college, I used to be an avid tennis player and even had the chance of representing my school in intercollegiate tournaments. I would wake up at 5 am for three-hour training sessions all the while trying to balance my studies. But after college, the corporate life sucked me in, and I was lucky if I got to play for an hour every other week.
Then after childbirth, my life consisted of trying to raise a beautiful baby boy. I haven’t picked up my racket in months. It’s not because I don’t have time for things other than raising my child – I’ve been blessed with a husband who assumes his fair share of the responsibility. What’s holding me back is my physical state. The pelvic girdle pain (PGP) I experienced during pregnancy never really went away postpartum. In truth though, it is not uncommon. The American Physical Therapy Association notes that many women continue to have the symptoms of PGP after birth.
It’s a scary thought not to be able to do something you used to love so much. Compared to other stories I’ve heard, my case can be considered mild, but I had to seek help if I wanted to play again. Beyond Basics Physical Therapy led me to Pilates and I learned to channel my breathing in a way that it gently engages my pelvic floor [ remember this may be appropriate for PGP but not necessarily PFD]. It has been a great way to reintroduce strength to my core, considering that pregnancy has changed my body in more ways than one. When I get nostalgic and look at pictures from my glory days, I barely recognize myself. Where are the muscular legs, rock hard abs, and enviable arms? Not in this 34-year-old body of mine, that’s for sure. But I’m committed to gaining control over my body and getting back to the court.
But in the five months that I’ve been doing painstaking therapy, my sacroiliac joint feels a lot better, and I no longer feel stiff. During my recovery, Serena Williams was a great inspiration to me. For one, she’s a fantastic player, and Coral identified her as the highest paid female tennis player. More importantly, though, she’s a mom who never used her pregnancy as an excuse not to get a hold of her life. She probably even went through the same pain many other women, and I did. When I was bed-bound during my pregnancy, my idol was playing in the Australian Open while she was 8 weeks pregnant and even won the final.
Not all women’s bodies are the same or even experience pain similar to mine, but Williams continues to be my inspiration on and off the court. I have been playing tennis with my trainer—sometimes with my husband—and we sometimes play for as long as my stamina allows it. Torquing my hips doesn’t worry me anymore, in fear of a sudden crack of my bones anymore. On excellent days, I think that my backhand is even returning. Although I suspect that it will be a long time before I regain the level, I was playing at during college
Note from Fiona McMahon, PT, DPT at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy
We are so grateful to have AvaFreya share her experience of returning to tear up the court post baby! Everyone’s story evolves so differently with pregnancy and childbirth, which is what makes it both terrifying, exciting, and momentous, all the same time. The truth is some women bounce back on their own, (lucky duckies), others find it to be much more complicated. We recommend coming to visit a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist during pregnancy and after you give birth to guide you to a program that is right for you. We often run into women, who with the very best of intentions, started down a path that actually made them worse! Often times we see this with women doing excessive Kegels when their pelvic floor is already too active secondary to weakness somewhere else in the body. Frankly, it’s a total bummer and delays getting back to the things you love. If you have recently had a baby or are currently preggers, you owe it to yourself to see a pelvic floor physical therapist who can advise you on exercises to do on your own or treat you more intensively if you need it. Your time and your health are way too precious.
For more reading on pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, please check out these blogs:
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.
If you have perused our website, you might have noticed that here at Beyond Basics, we have many physical therapists who have a CFMT certification, or are in the process of completing one. Now the question lies, what is a CFMT? How is this approach unique? How can this approach be of benefit to me?
The acronym CFMT stands for Certified Functional Manual Therapist. This certification is through the Institute of Physical Art (IPA), which is an organization founded by two physical therapists, Gregg and Vicky Johnson.
With the CFMT approach, we evaluate and treat every individual’s mechanical capacity (how your tissues and joints move), neuromuscular function (how your system stabilizes itself, and the coordination of muscle activation), and motor control (how an individual moves and performs daily tasks). Furthermore, we assess and retrain how these three individual components interact to ensure each person can return to the tasks/activities they need and love to do.
What this means is, when a new patient walks through our door, we don’t just focus on one small area, such as only the knee in which you report pain. Instead, we will look at the big picture by assessing your strength, amount of limb and segmental motion available to you, posture and alignment, and movement, which can be as simple as getting out of a chair, or a higher level activity such as running, weight lifting or other sport-related activity. This will allow us to get a thorough impression of what impairments you might have, and will help us determine what the cause of your symptoms and functional limitations is (what is the driver?). From here we can figure out the most effective approach to your treatment, and will apply progressive interventions that help to ensure continued benefits from each session. We have found that this approach commonly gets you back to your activity or sport faster!
Now you may be asking yourself, “Well this sounds interesting, but why does it matter?” Looking at the whole person and treating your system overall, allows us to make lasting changes, not only to a specific body part that is causing problems for you, but also with your habits of how you hold yourself and move. By becoming more aware of your body and moving with more efficiency, you will find day-to-day activities, and even sporting activities, are easier for you to perform. Furthermore, and most importantly, if you are able to move and live in a more efficient way, you are decreasing the risk of future injury.
So whether you are experiencing incontinence, pelvic pain, low back pain, or a shoulder injury, having a knowledgeable therapist work with you, can make a significant impact on your function and quality of life.