Are You Ready To Run? Part XIII

Crossing the finish line in our series.

The last stop on our journey to transform your body, your routines, and your running performance is here. If you’ve been hard at work to meet the following standards, by now you should have a solid hold on what your actual strengths and weaknesses are.

In cased you missed it, here are the first 11 standards we’ve discussed to date:

The Standards

#1-Neutral Feet

#2-Flat Shoes

#3-A Supple Thoracic Spine

#4-An Efficient Squatting Technique

#5 Hip Flexion

#6 Hip Extension

#7 Ankle Range of Motion

#8 Warming Up and Cooling Down

#9 Compression

#10 No Hot Spots

#11 Hydration

#12 Jumping and Landing

Specifically, can you jump and land with good mechanics? In essence, the running motion is a series of single-leg mini squats each time your foot hits the ground. The ability to maintain good posture and alignment in this instance has direct correlation to the health of your ankles, knees, hips, and low back.

Similar to our Squatting Standard, landing from a jump should demonstrate your ability to create a stable mid-line, produce torque at the hips, and control your foot and knee position as your feet hit the ground. If your feet turn out and your knees collapse in when you land from a jump, it’s a good bet your body does the same thing when you run. And there’s no amount of tape, arch support, or pain medication that will keep you from shredding your patellar tendons and grinding your knee cartilage to dust if you run like a duck (toes out) or a pigeon (toes in). Mastering good jumping and landing mechanics takes a huge injury risk off the table and helps you develop better strength through your posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) as well as your feet and ankles.

Passing the Jumping and Landing Standard is a two part test. First, can you jump and land with both legs, maintaining good foot, knee, and spine position?

Test #1: Jumping Onto A Box

Starting Position:

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Sit back in a quarter squat position, loading your hip and hamstrings, keeping your mid-line engaged and back neutral.

Jumping

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Forcefully extended your knees and hips, pushing off the ground while your arms swing forward and upwards.

Landing

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Good landing position looks exactly like good squat position: your shins are vertical, your back is straight, and your knees are out with your feet pointing straight ahead. From another angle:

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Fault #1 (Knees collapsing inward)

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If you land like this, please stop it, while your ACL’s are still intact.

Fault #2 (Feet turned out)

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If you land like this, not only are you collapsing your arches, but once again you are creating an abnormal amount of torque in your knees that will grind those joints down at an exponential rate.

Test #2: Single Leg Jumps

Our second jumping and landing test will tell you if you’ve got good power in your lower legs and enough strength down there to control how your foot contacts the ground. Additionally, single leg jumping is the perfect antidote for weak feet and ankles, as well as a quality way to warm-up before you run.

Jump from your hips and minimize your knee bend

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Keep neutral position from head to toe

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Land on your forefoot and let your heel kiss the ground before hopping up again. Each landing should be performed with the foot straight and knee in a neutral position

Fault #1

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Arch collapses (foot turns out), valgus knee (inside of foot).

If you are struggling to meet these standards, I suggest two things. First, re-visit your squat form and begin a daily routine of squatting to ingrain good alignment for your lower body and trunk. When you can pass the Tabata squatting protocol we outlined, you should be ready to start training your jumping and landing mechanics.

Second, if you passed this standard, as mentioned above, both of these variations are great exercises to practice on a weekly basis. Maintaining good jumping and landing mechanics is a sure-fire method to help you run your best. And plugging in 30 squats and 30 single-leg jumps for each leg is an awesome way to prime the pump of your lower body muscles before you head out for your next run.


COMMENT RULES: If you are a real person, leave your real name. We are not a clearing house for solicitors so don’t do it here. Criticism and questioning is fine, that’s how we all learn and grow. Personal attacks, name calling, and the like ARE NOT COOL-if we catch you doing it you’re gone. Other than that, have at it folks! We love hearing from followers and newcomers alike and will try to reply to as many comments and questions as we can!

Are You Ready to Run? Part VII

If you’re a runner with knee pain and/or back pain, you need to master this mobility drill.

The last piece of our quest to restore the normal function of your hips and help you become a better runner is here. Welcome in the sixth standard:

The Standards

#1-Neutral Feet

#2-Flat Shoes

#3-A Supple Thoracic Spine

#4-An Efficient Squatting Technique

#5 Hip Flexion

#6 Hip Extension

Having normal hip extension, in combination with normal hip flexion and efficient squatting form, means you’ve got full capacity of your hips. As a bonus, when you have a normal amount of hip extension you also decrease the load on your knees.

If you’ve had years of knee pain or back pain as a runner, meeting this standard is critical to resolving your pain. The muscles that run down the front of your hip and thigh, the iliacus, the psoas (in the chart below they’re the muscles that start on the spine and pelvic bowl), and the quadriceps (the four muscles crossing the front of the thigh), create a huge load at the knee and passively drag the spine forward if they lack the range to allow the hip to fully straighten.

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Lack of normal hip extension creates torturous consequences for your feet, as well. The next time your have the opportunity to watch a road race, watch how man of the runners’ legs and feet rotate out as their legs swing forward. As their heels strike the ground it looks like their toes are trying to avoid contact with the ground. If the foot hits the ground on the outside of the heel, it will immediately rotate inward to find stability. The path of least resistance is to slam the ball of your foot on the ground. Do that repeatedly for 3-plus miles day after day, month after month, year after year, and you’re on your way to developing painful bunions.

Instead of buying a pair of shoes that allow you to continue to run with crappy mechanics, we’re going to restore your normal hip extension and unlock the final piece of hip mechanics that allows you to run efficiently.

The approach to restoring your hip extension is as brutally effective as it is simple. Welcome to…

THE COUCH STRETCH

1. While in hands and knees position, put your feet up against a wall or couch.

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2. Put your right knee up against the wall. If you’re on a hard surface you can put a pillow under your knee.

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3. Slide your left leg out in front of your body. Make sure your foot is either directly under your knee or right in front. At this point, some of you may feel like you’ve reached your limit in terms of right hip extension. For now, that’s fine, stay in this position for the next two minutes, making sure to keep your abs and your right glute engaged, and driving your right hip towards the floor. For everyone else, spend 1 minute in this position and move on to step four.

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4. Lift your upper body, keeping your abs and right glute engaged. Try to get your upper body as tall as possible and hold for another minute in this position

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There are three common mistakes we see when folks perform the Couch Stretch.

First, the knee comes away from the wall:

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This is a tight hip’s attempt to blow off some steam as you try to bring it into full extension. This is common with folks who’ve had recurrent issues with jumper’s knee or patellar tendinitis (aside: this is actually a ligament as it attaches one bone, the patella, to another, the tibial tuberosity, but I digress).

The second fault we commonly see with the couch stretch happens when the low back gets out of position:

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If you find yourself in this position, lean forward with your upper body, re-engage your abs, and try to get upright with your trunk again without arching your low back.

The last fault we commonly see is the bottom leg sneaking out to the side, away from its normal position directly under the hip:

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If this is you, you may need to do some additional mobility work. We are posting a few different ideas on how to solve your problems with the Couch Stretch on our YouTube Channel next week. Check them out here.

If you can achieve this position with your left and right hips, you pass this standard. If one or both sides are tight, you’ve just uncovered a new homework assignment: spend 2 minutes per-day, per-leg, until you can achieve this standard.


COMMENT RULES: If you are a real person, leave your real name. We are not a clearing house for solicitors so don’t do it here. Criticism and questioning is fine, that’s how we all learn and grow. Personal attacks, name calling, and the like ARE NOT COOL-if we catch you doing it you’re gone. Other than that, have at it folks! We love hearing from followers and newcomers alike and will try to reply to as many comments and questions as we can!

Are You Ready To Run? Part VI

Question: How do you know your hips are normal and healthy? Today, we’ve got a test for you to find out. Continue reading “Are You Ready To Run? Part VI”

Are You Ready to Run? Part IV

It’s time to move upstream today, as we continue our Ready to Run series. If you missed parts I through III, you can catch up here, here, and here.

Continue reading “Are You Ready to Run? Part IV”

Are You Ready to Run? Part II

Today starts our 12-point systems check of your physical and lifestyle practices as we ensure you, dear reader, are actually Ready to Run.

Continue reading “Are You Ready to Run? Part II”