Let’s Run

A lot of people ask, “does my running form matter?”. The answer is YES. And while there is not one “right” way to run, there are certain elements of your form that you should be aware of to help you get the most out of your run. Making these small adjustments to your form may also help you begin to see an increase in your breathing ability, endurance and speed during your runs.

*Head – keep your head and neck in a neutral position to decrease the strain on your neck

*Shoulders and Arms

    -keep your shoulders relaxed

    -keep your arms slightly bent at the elbow

    -don’t let your hands come up above your chest

    -avoid crossing your arms in front of you (this will help with your breathing and avoid cramps!)

*Trunk- while you run you should keep a slight forward trunk lean to help propel your body forward

    – forward lean does NOT equal hunching, hunching over should always be avoided to help optimize breathing

*Knees- be sure to drive your knees up and forward to help propel you forward and also help avoid tripping

*Feet and Ankles- try to land on your midfoot/forefoot when running rather than your heels (this will help keep you moving forward and avoid increase force/stress going up your leg)

If you or someone you know is interested in a running assessment please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our PTs would be happy to help you!

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Rules of Stretching

As you exercise and play sports, do you take time to stretch? As most people are short on time, the first thing to get cut from a workout is the stretching component. As physical therapists, we recommend that you don’t cut the stretching out as this can lead to an injury. Check out the stretching rules below to learn what you should focus on when you stretch:

  1. Perform a dynamic stretch (no holds) prior to your workout that mimics the sport or exercise you are about to participate in.
  2. Perform a dynamic stretch for a minimum of 5 minutes prior to your workout.
  3. After your work out, perform static stretches (hold stretches).
  4. Perform static stretches in all the major muscles groups you just used during your workout.
  5. Hold static stretches for 15-60 seconds for 2 repetitions each.

In summary, you can complete dynamic and static stretching for your workout in approximately 10 minutes. That 10 minutes is crucial to not skip as this could save you from an injury that could last weeks or months.

Written by Dr. Amanda Macht- owner of Harbor Physical Therapy

3 Easy Stretches for Heel Pain

If you suffer from heel pain, it may be caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the sole of the foot from your heel to your toes. Repeated stress to the foot can cause inflammation to that band and cause sharp pain in your heel. This pain may feel worse first thing in the morning or when you are on your feet for long periods of time.

One part of treatment for plantar fasciitis includes stretching the tissue and muscles in the foot and calf to decrease tension around the heel. When performing these stretches, try to hold them for 30 seconds each, repeat 3 times, and perform them 2-3 times a day.

Seated Stretch – while sitting with your foot crossed over your other leg, pull your foot and toes back towards you.

Runner’s Stretch – while standing in front of a wall, place the foot that hurts back behind you and push your heel towards the ground.

Stair Stretch – while standing on the edge of a step, drop your heels down until a stretch is felt in the calves.

If you would like to learn more about how to get rid of your heel pain, contact Harbor Physical Therapy

How Do I Start Running for Exercise?

While the act of running itself is quite simple, finding and getting into a routine of it can seem daunting and difficult. But no fear, today we are going to discuss a few tips to get you ready to run!

  1. Invest in a good pair of running sneakers – This is the one piece of equipment you need to run, so do yourself (and your legs) a favor and buy a good pair of sneakers. Your best way of finding the right shoe for you is to go to a sporting goods store or a running store, there you will find people who can help guide you to your perfect shoe.
  2. Start small and slow – Start by just running a block or a lap around a track and see how you feel. A good way to build endurance is to split your workout into run-walk-run-walk, etc. Another way to build up to increased distances is to give yourself a target and then go a little further; example: aim for a tree in the distance, then once you get to the tree go for the next building/mailbox/driveway etc. As you build endurance you will be able to push yourself farther and farther.
  3. Set a goal- Give yourself something to work toward! Get some friends or family and sign up for a fun laid back 1miler, 5k, etc. Community held races can be a great way to learn to pace yourself and meet other runners in your area.
    If you would like to learn more information about how to start running consistently for exercise, contact Harbor Physical Therapy and one of our physical therapists can help create you a running program.

Tips for Staying Active this Summer

Summer is just around the corner and with COVID-19 restrictions continuing to be lifted and the weather getting nicer, more and more people are headed outside to get some fresh air and exercise. While summer comes with more consistent warmer and nicer weather, it can also pose some challenges to daily workout routines. Here are some tips to stay safe and stay active this summer!

  1. Stay Hydrated– As temperatures continue to rise, remember to keep drinking water before, during and after your workouts. If you are engaging in more vigorous workouts, be sure to not only drink water, but also sports drinks to help replenish your body’s essential electrolytes (however, be sure to buy sports drinks low in added sugars). 
  2. Save Your Skin– While you are moving around and not just lying in the sun, you are still at increased risk of getting sunburnt. Be sure to apply sunscreen prior to participating in any outdoor activity and reapply as necessary. For additional sun protection you can also add in wearing a hat and/or sunglasses to help protect your body from the sun’s rays. 
  3. Time is Key– If your schedule is flexible, try working out early in the morning or later on in the evening to avoid increased exposure to the sun and the heat. If you do end up exercising in the middle of the day, be sure to take the above steps as well as listen to your body if it needs a break. You could also opt to take your workout indoors and do a circuit or a workout video. 
  4. Plan Ahead– If you know it’s going to be a hot one and you are still planning on adventuring into the outdoors, be sure to be prepared and plan ahead. If you are taking a hike or going on a picnic, be sure to bring extra water, food and sunscreen with you. If you are going on a walk or a run, try to plan a route that has a lot of shaded areas, access to water, or even bring water with you. 

Take a Dip– Planning on hitting the pool this summer? If you do, try doing a pool workout! Almost all exercises you can do on land you can also do in the pool. Advantages of pool workouts include increased buoyancy and availability of graded resistance. Be careful not to overdo it. Exercises in the pool can feel easier than on land so you may be tempted to do more, so be sure to progress yourself as tolerated.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan

Which Should Come First: Weightlifting or Cardiovascular Exercise?

As most people know, a combination of weight lifting and aerobic/cardiovascular exercise is recommended by medical professionals to enhance health and longevity. Because most of us don’t have the time nor energy to space out workouts into multiple gym sessions per day, a common question arises: should weights or cardio come first?

The answer, like most things health and fitness, is not entirely straightforward and depends largely on your individual goals. If you’re an endurance athlete or someone who just prefers to prioritize aerobic exercise, it’s recommended that you do your cardio prior to weight training in order to optimize aerobic performance and cardiovascular fitness. Performing exercise in this order is also shown to increase post-exercise energy expenditure (i.e., more calories continue to be burned even after you finish working out).

On the other hand, if you’re a powerlifter or simply someone who prefers to lift weights, doing so prior to cardio is shown to maximize muscular strength and size gains. Weightlifting prior to cardio is also recommended in older individuals as age-related declines in muscle mass that hinder aerobic performance may be mitigated when workouts are structured in this fashion.

Here’s the main takeaway: choosing whether to do cardio or strength training first depends on your fitness goals, but either way is shown to confer great health benefits. So the choice is yours!

Written by: Dr Scott Newberry

How does Movement Help Injuries Heal? I’ve got a bone to pick.

If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist, you know that exercise is usually prescribed as the primary treatment for a number of injuries and conditions. Clearly exercise has numerous benefits, but it can sometimes seem counterintuitive to place resistance or load through an injured area — doesn’t it need time to rest and heal? The short answer to that question is generally yes, especially immediately following the injury; however, the appropriate amount of movement and exercise can actually promote healing and recovery.

My goal is to help you understand just how exercise helps restore normal functioning of injured body tissues. This article is part of a series that will discuss how various types of tissue depend on movement to recover. Today’s subject is bone.

In the case of fracture, bone is the exception to the rule of “get it moving ASAP.” Allowing a bone to fully heal is vital to maintaining its structural integrity throughout the rest of your life. However, once it is healed and in cases where the bone has begun to weaken such as osteoporosis or osteopenia, weight-bearing exercise is vital to maximizing its strength and reducing the risk of re-injury.

Exercise helps strengthen bone by increasing its density. Density is typically measured by something called a DEXA scan, which is used to diagnose osteoporosis/osteopenia. Over time, the density as measured by these scans is maintained or increased in response to exercise. However, these increases are site-specific, meaning that exercises involving your lower body will only increase the density of the bones in your lower body (and vice versa with your upper body). Of particular note is that in postmenopausal women — the demographic most affected by osteoporosis — exercise is shown to mitigate losses in bone mineral density. So, after speaking to your physician or physical therapist about which exercises are best for your condition, it’s time to get moving!

Now let’s get specific about the best types of exercise. Exercise that is in an upright position against gravity is considered most effective for improving bone health. Such exercises include walking, jumping, and resistance training with weights or bands. Bone thickens in response to these types of exercise because gravity and the physical pull of the muscle tendons on our bones elicits an adaptive response. Exercises such as swimming, while still very healthy for us, aren’t quite as effective for improving bone density.

Written by: Dr. Scott Newberry

How does Movement Help Injuries Heal? Tendons and ligaments.

If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist, you know that exercise is usually prescribed as the primary treatment for a number of injuries and conditions. Clearly exercise has numerous benefits, but it can sometimes seem counterintuitive to place resistance or load through an injured area — doesn’t it need time to rest and heal? The short answer to that question is generally yes, especially immediately following the injury; however, the right amount of movement and exercise can actually promote healing and recovery from injury. This is where PT comes in.

My goal is to help you understand just how exercise helps restore normal functioning of injured body tissues. This article is part of a series that will discuss how various types of tissue depend on movement to recover. Today’s subject is injured tendons and ligaments.

Tendon and ligament injuries range in terms of type and severity and are broadly categorized as tendinopathies or ruptures in the case of tendons and sprains in the case of ligaments. Examples of tendinopathy include tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and Achilles tendinopathy. You may have also heard the term “tendinitis” used with these conditions. Though complex and multifactorial in nature, tendinopathies often involve tissues that have become weakened and painful through repetitive usage. Ligament injuries are usually due to trauma — you’ve likely heard of athletes injuring their anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.

Tendons connect muscle to bone, transferring the force produced by a muscle into a nearby bone to create movement. Tendinopathies often develop in situations where a person puts a repetitive load through a tendon over a sustained period of time. It is most likely to occur when the level of activity is increased relative to baseline (i.e., too much too soon), such as someone taking up tennis for the first time in a while or playing more matches than usual.

The sustained tendon stresses can cause areas in the tendon to become disarrayed and no longer align with the direction of applied force. In other words, the fibers aren’t able to convert muscle energy into movement as efficiently. The gold standard strategy to disrupt this process is to load the tendon through slow, heavy resistance training which stimulates the tendon to remodel itself and repair the injured areas. Eventually, the tendon becomes strong enough to handle loading without pain.

Ligaments connect one bone to another, protecting joints from moving in directions they shouldn’t. While ligaments are not exactly the same as tendons, the loading principles discussed with tendons allow them to handle higher loads through similar mechanisms — by increasing their thickness and the amount of force they can handle.

One very important thing to keep in mind is that immobilization is very detrimental to the strength and health of tendons and ligaments. Therefore, seeing a PT after injury may give you the best shot at retaining as much function as possible in the injured tissues.

Look out for the next article in the series about bones.

Written by: Dr. Scott Newberry

How does Movement Help Injuries Heal? Cushion for the Pushin’.

If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist, you know that exercise is usually prescribed as the primary treatment for a number of injuries and conditions. Clearly exercise has numerous benefits, but it can sometimes seem counterintuitive to place resistance or load through an injured area — doesn’t it need time to rest and heal? The short answer to that question is generally yes, especially immediately following the injury; however, the right amount of movement and exercise can actually promote healing and recovery from injury. This is where PT comes in.

My goal is to help you understand just how exercise helps restore normal functioning of injured body tissues. This article is part of a series that will discuss how various types of tissue depend on movement to recover. Today’s subject is cartilage, specifically the type that protects your joints from impact and is implicated in the onset of osteoarthritis. This type of cartilage is called articular cartilage. The scope of this article is how exercise helps a joint that is painful due to age- or activity-related changes, not acute articular cartilage injury due to trauma.

Articular cartilage covers the ends of bones where they connect to each other at joints. For instance, there is cartilage covering the end of your femur and the top of your tibia (shin bone) where they meet to form the knee joint. Over time, a loss of thickness in this tissue is normal and not always associated with pain. However, for many people, particularly those who aren’t very active, the loss of tissue can become painful and inflamed. This is termed osteoarthritis. It may seem counterintuitive that something often referred to as “wear and tear” is most common in people who don’t move very much and thus aren’t exerting much wear or tear on their joints. However, there is a distinct explanation for this phenomenon.

Cartilage receives most of its nourishment from nutrients being diffused or pushed into it from the fluid inside the joint. It does not have a very good blood supply like most of our other tissues. Therefore, it is reliant on movement to provide it with a fresh supply of nutrients; if you don’t move often, it doesn’t have a chance to receive adequate nutrition and degenerative changes can take place. The cushioning ability of the cartilage in terms of thickness and strength depends on frequent movement! Therefore, your PT will often address pain related to osteoarthritis using a graded exercise program.

Look out for the next article in the series about tendons and ligaments.

Written by: Dr. Scott Newberry

How Does Exercise Help Injuries Heal? Put some muscle into it.

If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist, you know that exercise is usually prescribed as the primary treatment for a number of injuries and conditions. Clearly exercise has numerous benefits, but it can sometimes seem counterintuitive to place resistance or load through an injured area — doesn’t it need time to rest and heal? The short answer to that question is generally yes, especially immediately following the injury; however, the appropriate amount of movement and exercise can actually promote healing and recovery.

My goal is to help you understand just how exercise helps restore normal functioning of injured body tissues. This article is part of a series that will discuss how various types of tissue depend on movement to recover. Today’s subject is muscle.

Muscle injuries are quite common. A “pulled” muscle occurs when a force strains the muscle fibers beyond their limits, resulting in tears that can range in size from very small to large. A common example of this in the sports world is a strain of the large muscles on the back of the thigh: the hamstrings. Muscle strains usually recover in a matter of weeks, though can take longer depending on severity.

So how does movement help? After the acute stage of the injury passes, generally within 5-7 days, a return to minimally painful movement helps stimulate the building of new proteins which repair the damaged areas. Movement also helps push inflammatory enzymes, many of which can cause our nerves to become more sensitive, out of the affected area while bringing a fresh supply of blood — and with it much-needed oxygen and nutrients — to the healing tissues. Lastly, moving a muscle is critical to maintaining its range of motion and preventing increased stiffness or motion loss. As more movement is tolerated, exercises should be progressed to continue facilitating the healing process, eventually allowing restoration of strength that matches or exceeds the pre-injured state.

Look out for the next article in the series about how cartilage responds to movement.

Written by: Dr. Scott Newberry