Decrease Pain During Your Run

I've treated a lot of runners in my career.

There are many ways to get them back to pain free running (fixing impairments, reducing force leaks, optimizing biomechanics, reframing perceptions, capacity management, and cadence training).

But one easy way to reduce pain and improve your movement during running is to repeatedly remind your body of a better way to move.

How do you do this?

Perform intermittent corrective exercises during a run.

Breaking Up a Run

I learned this from my former boss, Peter Schultz.

We were sharing a hip patient that was doing very well.  He had a lot less pain, he was moving better, his strength had improved, and his running mechanics were becoming much more efficient.

However, every time he went for a long run he started to have hip pain 45 minutes into the run.

We tried different interval running patterns, different movement exercises, different aerobic capacity training, and even different cues.  Nothing was working.

During our time working with him we always noticed a big difference in his movement patterns after getting his hips activated.

So Pete told the patient to take his resistance loop band with him on the run and perform a quick basic hip activation circuit every 30 minutes of his run.

The patient came back in the following week and had performed two successful 90 minute runs without any pain.

Why Does This Work

There are many possible reasons why this intermittent corrective exercise run method worked:

  • Allows fatigued muscles to recover
  • Forced Interval Training
  • Run-Walk-Run Type of Programming
  • Energy system recovery
  • Perception modification
  • Provides a physical and mental "reset"
  • Activates more efficient muscles

There will never be a black and white answer for this.  It will always be different for each individual.

However, I think one important consideration is that it reminds the body of a more optimal movement pattern.  It wakes up certain muscles and fosters better positions.  It stimulates a new, more efficient gait cycle.

The body has a memory.  Both long term with histological changes, and short term with neurological changes.  Simple corrective exercises can help to create a short-term movement pattern memory.  

Another reason why it works is because many runners constantly train to (and past) fatigue.  In a fatigued state many compensations occur.  These compensations can easily turn into injuries.  This is why many PTs can make a living by specializing in treating runners (or Crossfit Athletes).

By taking a short rest period and performing movements that help reduce compensations, athletes can prevent themselves from falling into maladaptive movement states.

What to Do

If you're having pain or soreness during an activity the first thing you should do is see a physical therapist.

After this, you can identify possible interventions that will help improve your body's short term resiliency and perform them at intervals during your activity.

I recently did this myself upon returning to running from a serious back injury.  At short intervals I performed some basic core exercises and a quick Chris Johnson marching exercise, then returned to the run.  Not only did it prevent pain and soreness, but I felt that my running form improved as well.

Bottom Line

Add some healthy variability into your activities.

It might help shift your system into a more efficient pattern and reduce the risk of maladaptive compensations.