How to correct your running form to prevent injury

A few weeks ago I started feeling a sharp pain on the outside of my right knee. It usually showed up about a mile into my runs and felt like someone had stuck a knife into the side of my knee. My knee would either lock up at this point, or, if I was able to push on and keep running, the pain would travel all the way up the outside of my thigh to my hip. I knew immediately this was an IT Band problem.

With a little more than a month left in my training for a half marathon on Sept. 30, and three weeks into marathon training for a race on Nov. 19, this was not going to fly. I needed a solution. Fast. After taking quite a few rest days, I felt ready to hit the road again for an easy, quick 2-mile run. Not so fast, my IT Band said and around 1.6 miles my knee locked up and I literally could not run anymore. I was devastated and took to Twitter, as I usually do, to ask my runner friends what was wrong.

After hearing from a bunch of people I was informed it was more important to find out what caused the problem before trying to fix it. One of my Twitter followers, Ryan Knapp, a triathlete and endurance running coach from Kansas City, suggested the problem may be my form. Ryan asked me to take a 30 second video of me running away from my camera and back to my camera. I then sent it to him through his website and he evaluated it.

He told me he could immediately tell I used to be a dancer because of my posture and he said he’s be able to help me. Here’s the video I sent to him:

(Don’t mind my Dad talking in the background…)

After reviewing my video, Ryan filmed his own video to explain to me what he saw in my running form and what I could do to fix it. He said overall, my form wasn’t terrible- I have good body position (meaning I’m not leaning to one side or the other) and I have very still shoulders. However, he told me I had three things I needed to work on- lifting from my core, swinging my arms correctly and lean more.

  • Lifting from my core- According to Ryan, the reason I was having the IT Band problems is because I was swinging my legs like a pendulum when I ran, causing my foot to land in front of me and subsequently causing me to heel-strike, a huge no, no in the running world. To fix this, Ryan said I need to focus on lifting from my core so my feet will land below me and be able to power up immediately after hitting the ground.
  • Arms- From what Ryan saw, I run with my arms kind of high up in respect to my ribcage and they go across my midline (the invisible line that runs down the center of your body). Ryan said this wastes a lot of energy and space. To fix this, he told me to “gunsling”- make sure my elbows go behind me and in front of me, somewhere down by my waist.
  • I run very erect- My running posture is very straight and according to Ryan, there should be a little bit of lean in a runner’s form. To do this, I want to lean from my ankles.

Here’s the video Ryan did for me:

Ryan said there were two simple exercises I can do to work on my form and get used to mid-foot and fore-foot striking.

  • Skip drills- This is where you literally skip down the street. According to Ryan, skipping helps the body (and feet) recognize what it’s like to push off from the fore-foot because it’s impossible to skip from the heel.
  • Jump Rope Drills- Simply pretend (or if you have a jump rope) like you’re jumping rope. This has the same effect as the skip drill but you’ll notice if you do this and then immediately stop, that’s the same effect as a heel strike, which is very bad. Jump rope drills will also help your body learn to mid-foot strike and fore-foot strike.

Yesterday morning I did these drills and put the tips into practice and I noticed a significant difference in my running. (Knock on wood*) I had hardly any IT pain and I ran an easy 5 miles in 45 minutes, pretty good time for me. I had to concentrate a lot more on my form throughout the run because the second I stopped paying attention I found myself going back to my old form. I talked to Ryan about this and he said, like with anything, it’ll take some getting used to. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

If you’re interested in getting your form analyzed, feel free to contact Ryan either through Twitter or on his website.

Anywhere yoga {Infographic}

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past few months, you may realize my go-to fitness site is the Greatist. As a journalist I can really appreciate the amount of time, research, interviewing and fact-checking that goes into each and every article they write. As a multimedia journalist working in the ever-evolving and technologically advancing field of journalism, I can appreciate their efforts to make outstanding graphics that are easy to read, follow and share.

A few days ago they posted a great graphic about various yoga poses you can do literally anywhere, including the bathroom on an airplane. In training for my upcoming half-marathon and marathon I’ve incorporated a lot of yoga into my training plan for cross-training and stretching. This graphic is so helpful especially when you may be tired after sitting for a long time, say while working at your desk or taking a long flight. I tested out some of these positions in the bathroom at my office today and they are totally doable. I will admit I didn’t try any of the ones that involved touching the floor but I wouldn’t hesitate to try it at home. Let me know what you think!

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Week 12: Half-marathon/marathon training update

Sadly there’s not much to report from this past week. My training plan called for an easy 2-mile run to start off the week last week and because of my work schedule I didn’t get to do it until Wednesday. Two miles is nothing to me at this point but about 1.6 miles into the run my right knee locked up and it felt like someone stuck a knife into the side of my knee. The pain was so sharp I had to slow to a walk immediately. Weird thing was, it instantly felt fine. So I decided to start back up again when the pain came back with a vengeance and I decided to slow to a walk completely.

I was so disappointed and angry. I thought to myself, “I have not come this far to get injured a month before my half-marathon.” So I decided to do the right thing and rest all week. No running at all. I worked out though pretty much every day and did a ton of yoga.

After much research and consult with other runners on Twitter, I realized I have developed an IT band irritation and the cause is most likely my form. According to Ryan Knapp, an endurance running coach and triathlete, the IT band flare up was probably the result of poor form. I first noticed the pain while running a 5k a few weeks ago but it went away shortly after. I was able to run 12-miles no problem a few weeks ago and 9 miles two weeks ago but 2 miles killed me.

Ryan is helping me fix my form and according to him I should be back running stronger and better well before my half-marathon on Sept. 30.

If anything, not being able to run during the past week has made me realize what a gift running is and how much I have fallen in love with the sport. At this point I’m just trying to stay positive and put one foot in front of the other. I’ll be sure to do a post too about my form and keep everyone updated on my training!

Monday- power yoga and 3:04 min. plank a day and an ab workout

Tuesday- 2-mile run. Injured.

Wednesday- runner recovery yoga and variation of planks

Thursday- 3-miles on the elliptical and strengthening for legs, arms and abs. 4:00 min plank.

Friday- Power flow yoga and planks/ab workout

Saturday- Rest day, swimming in the ocean

Sunday- Rest day (I was at a graduation all day)

Monday Motivation: I’ve got to run

After having some serious IT band flare ups on a run last Tuesday I decided to make the smart decision to rest my knee to avoid hurting myself even more. Besides getting off of my marathon training plan, the whole not running thing was killing me! Especially when the weekend came and I had to spend it with someone I hadn’t seen in a long time and we didn’t exactly end on great terms. For me, running is my outlet, my stress reliever, my therapy, and after this weekend all I could think about was getting out on the road, clearing my head and finding peace again. Then this morning happened and I had a fantastic, easy 3-mile run, my knee felt pretty great and my mind was cleared of all negative thoughts. I’m still taking it easy on my knee but it felt so amazing to get back out there. I hope everyone’s training is going well and I wish you the best of luck this week!

Twitter talk: Getting injured while training for a race

Getting injured while training for a big race is not easy. It’s hard to figure out if you should keep training, seek advice from a doctor, or just rest. I’m training for a half marathon and marathon now and an IT band issue cropped up. I decided to ask my Twitter followers for advice.

  1. FitHappyGirl
    How do you stay positive after an injury during training? #runchat #fitfluential
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 11:55:42
  2. RunningBecause
    @FitHappyGirl I focus on what went wrong first of all. Then enjoy the downtime. Then plot out a strong comeback.
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 11:57:57
  3. FitHappyGirl
    @RunningBecause good tip! I’m dealing with an IT band issue but have a half on Sept. 30. I’m trying to rest but I hate it haha #runchat
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:05:38
  4. RunningBecause
    @FitHappyGirl I had an ITB injury 2 years ago. Came back stronger and faster, but not after stupidly trying to run through it
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:12:15
  5. FitHappyGirl
    @RunningBecause good to hear. I was nervous if I rested too long I’d loose everything I’ve worked for.
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:17:50
  6. JWLevitt
    @FitHappyGirl I’m looking for answers on this one too. Have a stress issue in one of my arms. Not fun.
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:18:03
  7. ryanjknapp
    @fithappygirl What sort of injury do you have? I get my clients into another activity to keep them fit and happy!
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:25:29
  8. ryanjknapp
    @fithappygirl IT band..let’s look at cause and not treatment. Are you a heel striker at all?
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:38:01
  9. ryanjknapp
    @fithappygirl That is why you have the issue. Pronation only is an issue when you heel strike because of the roll from heel to toe.
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:53:27
  10. FitHappyGirl
    RT @ryanjknapp: Running injuries: If you have an injury don’t look at how to treat it. Instead, find the root cause and fix that! #runchat
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:58:42
  11. nathan7264
    @FitHappyGirl Mental counts a lot. If you have access to pool, consider pool running, did that with prior IT injury, not last year,&foamrllr
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 13:48:20
  12. Andrea_runs
    @FitHappyGirl you have lots of time. Don’t panic yet!!
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:27:06

Bloggers I met at Healthy Living Summit 2012

Although I didn’t do a play-by-play recap of the Healthy Living Summit, I did mention I met so many amazing bloggers last weekend. This was not a normal, stuffy corporate conference by any standards, quite contrary actually since most people were wearing yoga pants and workout gear. But don’t get me wrong, business card were flying and networking was at full capacity. I loved hearing everyone’s stories about why they started blogging and sharing blog ideas with each other. I learned so much from the other bloggers at the conference so as a HUGE thank you, I’m going to share a little blogger-to-blogger love with links to all of the sites of the bloggers I met last weekend. I encourage you to check out their blogs, see what they have to say and read their inspiring stories. They motivated me so I’m sure they’ll have the same affect on you! In no particular order they are…

How I found my heart through running

(via Lululemon)

I wrote this post as a guest blog for ViewSPORT’s blog. I hope you enjoy!

Most runner’s stories start off the same- “If you told me a year ago I’d be training for a marathon I’d think you were crazy…” and “I was never a runner but then…” or “I absolutely hated running until…” While this could seem like a formulaic response meant to inspire non-runners that they too can fall in love with running, it’s not. There’s a reason every runner has a story that begins like this and well, mine is pretty much the same.

I have always been into fitness and working out but I was never the best athlete. In high school I was on the varsity tennis team, but played second doubles when I was even picked to play in a match. I was captain of the lacrosse team my senior year but only because I was one of the oldest girls on the team. More than anything (hear comes the cliché response) I hated running. I made up excuses like, “it hurts my knees” or “I can’t breathe when I run,” just to get out of it. I always envied runners and wished I could share that gift but every time I tried going for a run, I’d get frustrated with my breathing and quit. I was a quitter.

In my senior year of college I had a change of heart and was really into working out. I went to the gym almost every day and attended a cardio kickboxing class four or five times a week. I LOVED kickboxing. It was a high intensity cardio class that started me on my journey to being in the best shape of my life. I was feeling great until the end of February came along and the stress of graduation and other events in my personal life left me feeling unmotivated, depressed and lacking in self confidence. After weeks of feeling useless and sorry for myself I decided I needed to do something bigger than myself, set a goal, reach it and regain my confidence.

So I started a couch to 5k program. It doesn’t sound like much but this was a huge deal for me. I started the program, registered for a 5k and started running. It took awhile for me to get into it but I remember the day I fell in love with running. I went to the gym with my friend and I was supposed to run for 30 minutes on the treadmill which would work out to 3.1 miles. My friend was working out somewhere else in the gym and wasn’t ready to leave when I had reached 30 minutes. But I felt fine so I decided to keep running. That day I ran 4.5 miles, a huge accomplishment for me because that was the most I’d ever run in my life.

All of this was less than six months ago and now I’ve PRed with a 5k time of 26:58, I’m gearing up for a half-marathon at the end of September and have begun training for a marathon in November. A lot of non-runners think runners are just plain crazy. I mean who would want to voluntarily run an endless amount of miles, suffer from blisters, tight muscles and other injuries and for what, to reach the finish line? Well most runners I know, including myself, would tell you it’s so much more than that. Running gave me clarity. It gave me something I could achieve on my own. Something I was finally good at. But more than the peace that I found while running, running helped me find my heart and my passion. Now I run not for time or to get a new PR but I run with heart.

What I learned at Healthy Living Summit 2012

HLS12 runners and walkers before the 5k

I think I’m still digesting everything I learned over the weekend at the Healthy Living Summit but words honestly cannot describe the wealth of information I took away from the conference and not to mention the amazing bloggers I met along the way.

First off it was great to meet some of the bloggers and people I follow on Twitter in person finally! Meeting them and hearing them talk about their passion for blogging and health and fitness made their blogs even more real for me. I could finally really see their personality in their blogs. I was able to hear all of their stories about how they started their blog, why they wanted to share their experiences with other people and where they want to take their blog.

I attended sessions on Saturday and learned about how to create a virtual challenge from Amanda Brooks of Run to the Finish, blogging with brands, questions from other newbie bloggers and an incredible amount of information about social media. While I could go into extensive detail about everything I learned during these sessions, I rather write about what I took away from them.

It’s going to sound cliche but the theme I heard reverberating throughout the summit was “stay true to yourself.” Whether you’re looking at brands to partner with, doing a review of a product, hosting a virtual challenge, or just connecting with local businesses, don’t do anything you are uncomfortable with or don’t believe in 100 percent. As a relatively new blogger (I’ve been blogging since March) it’s easy to get distracted by brands reaching out to you or wanting to do a virtual challenge so bad that you loose track of your core mission. But connecting with brands you truly support and support you back is a surefire way to expand your reach and impact more people.

I also learned it takes time for a blog to grow into something bigger. While many bloggers have full time jobs like myself, it can be hard to quiet that excited dreamer inside of you with all the ideas but I’ve learned to be patient. Many of the bloggers who were on panels or led sessions at HLS12 had been blogging for at least three or four years. It takes time to grow and I think if you give your blog enough time to develop it can turn into something amazing.

Most of all I realized just how supportive the healthy living blogging community is. It was refreshing to be in a ballroom full of people who totally “get it.” While many of my friends and family know about my blog, I think a lot of them think it’s something I just like to do for fun (I think my Dad called it my online diary once), but to me it’s so much more and the girls (and a few guys) at HLS12 felt the same way I do. It was great to be in a conference session where everyone has their computer, phone or iPad out, live-tweeting everything the presenter is saying. This is the world we live in and it was amazing to be surrounded by people who feel the same way. Also, I honestly think friendships were formed over the very short but amazing weekend. It was only two and a half days but the bonds and knowledge that were shared will last longer.

All I know is I will definitely be going to Healthy Living Summit 2013 and hope to see all of the amazing bloggers I met this year again soon! If you went to HLS12 share your thoughts in the comment section!

Monday Motivation: Do what others say cannot be done

When I first started running, I was focused on just finishing a 5k. I was not a runner and just started last March but I knew if I set that goal for myself, I could accomplish it. Pretty soon, I realized I could run farther and longer than a lot of other people. I remember the day when I broke through the mysterious “wall” and was able to just keep running, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I had never been really good at anything athletic but now I was able to run 4 miles and then 6 miles and pretty soon, a half marathon.

But when I told some of my family and friends about my dream to run a marathon, a few doubted me. They told me it was too ambitious, I hadn’t raced enough smaller races yet, I could hurt myself and I just wasn’t ready. It’s hard to hear this form people you love, especially when you just want them to be happy for you. But it gives you a choice. You can either listen to what they say and change your mind about your goals, or you can ignore them and go full speed ahead with confidence in your ability to reach your goal. I did the latter.

Week 11: Half-marathon/marathon training update

Setting my training plan up the old-school way.

First off, the Healthy Living Summit this weekend hosted by Healthy Living Blogs was absolutely amazing. Literally words cannot even explain the impact this past weekend had on me, but that’s for a whole other post (probably to come tomorrow). But first, I want to give my weekly update about my training runs this week.

I’ve decided to still call it half-marathon training because I’m doing the half first but this also marked the first official week of my marathon training. Overall, the week went really well and my knee is definitely getting better.

My training plan (for the first week of marathon training) called for three runs this week starting with an easy 3-mile run on Monday. My average pace during the run was 9:21/mile with faster paces of 7:22/mile. This run was great and easy. I probably could have pushed a little harder but it was early and I wanted to be cautious with my knee.

On Tuesday I did some power yoga for strengthening in the morning and cross-training at the gym after work. For cross-training I went on the elliptical and did strengthening exercises, particularly with my legs.  I also did some arm exercises, ab work and did my longest plank every for 3:49.5! I was really excited about this, I may or may not have done a little celebration dance at the gym…

Wednesday was a speedwork day so I took to the treadmill (because I still don’t have a GPS watch) and did 4 miles with 2×1600 at a pace of 9:20/mile. I did the run in 37:00 and felt pretty good. I knew I was holding back and could have gone a lot faster but I wanted to be careful again because of my knee.

I took Thursday as a full rest day but did some yoga for recovery which was great for my hamstrings because they were feeling pretty tight.

Due to the Healthy Living Summit, I had to fit my long run in before the weekend so I did it on Friday night. My training plan called for 9-miles and I did it no problem! I had to do it on the treadmill because it was getting late, still really hot and I don’t have good reflective gear. I don’t know why but treadmill runs always seem harder, I think it’s mostly because I get bored but I don’t know. My average pace was 9:20/mile which was decent but I know I can go faster. I’ll work on it.

Saturday was the first day of the Healthy Living Summit for me and we had a CrossFit workout in the morning. This was my very first venture into the world of CrossFit but it wasn’t as intimidating as I expected it to be and I really liked it! I think I might try to add it into my workout schedule for cross-training.

Sunday morning we had a 5k fun run at the summit and that was really fun and relaxing, especially since we ran along the Charles River in Boston and into Back Bay. In all, it was a great week in training and an amazing week overall! I will write a post tomorrow to tell you all more about what I learned this weekend and to introduce you to some of the bloggers I met!

Here’s a quick glimpse of my week in training:

  • Monday- 3-mile easy run, 9:21 average pace
  • Tuesday- Power yoga in the A.M. and cross-training/strengthening after work
  • Wednesday- Speedwork, 4 miles with 2×1600 at 9:20/mile
  • Thursday- Rest and recovery yoga
  • Friday- 9-mile long run, 9:20 average pace
  • Saturday– CrossFit
  • Sunday- Healthy Living Summit 5k Fun Run

Total mileage- 20 miles