How a Runner’s Clinic Can Help Keep You Strong and Healthy

If you’ve been running for a while, chances are you’ve suffered some type of injury — from black toenails to stress fractures, we can really do a number on ourselves.

And, if you’ve ever had a serious running injury, you definitely know how it feels when injury steals your freedom. It’s frustrating. It’s exasperating! It feels like a huge step backward when you’ve spent so much time moving forward.

If this sounds familiar, you may have also experienced one or more of these symptoms of Not Running Due to Injury (or NRDTI — because if there’s one thing the world needs, it’s another acronym.)

  • You give the stink-eye to fellow, healthy runners as they pass you by. Nothing personal, you just really hate anyone who can run like a sprightly wood nymph right now.
  • You stare longingly at your running shoes whilst icing and tenderly stretching your injured bits.
  • You compulsively Google how much fitness a person loses in five weeks, two days, and eleven hours.
  • And most egregious of all, you lace up your running shoes before you are healed, thus risking further injury and more setbacks.

As a runner who is prone to injury, I finally decided to pony up for a professional evaluation. An ounce of prevention and all that. So a few months ago, I visited a runners’ clinic to address the potential causes of my suffering and setbacks.

A firsthand account

​I follow behind the athletic trainer like a lost puppy. Treadmills, stationary bikes, and strange devices that appear to be instruments of torture fill the space. Eventually we reach a little area that resembles a medical exam room.

“Tell me about your running,” the trainer says, and follows up with so many questions that eventually I grow uncomfortable. More than a few times I feel like yelling Just read my mind and fix my running! but patience prevails. I’ve got to admit, this guy is thorough.

At last he asks me to stand and examines me from feet to hips. At his command, I shift my weight from one side to the other. He sticks a hand under each of my arches and mutters something under his breath. I can guess. The undersides of my feet resemble a certain landmark in St. Louis (thanks, Dad) and cause me to supinate to the point that I have actually sprained my ankle.

“Alright!” he says at last, clapping his hands with glee. “In a few minutes, we’re going to get you on the treadmill and I’ll record you running. They use these treadmills in space!”

I hop up on the space treadmill. Ooooh, cushy. I would run every day if I were an astronaut.

I walk until he tells me to increase the speed to a comfortable running pace and proceeds to squat in front of me and record my far-from-perfect stride.

No shame, no gain.

With the tablet-toting trainer kneeling at the front of the treadmill, I try to focus on doing all the things I know you’re supposed to do, but which take an awful lot of mental effort — especially when you’re being studied as you do them.

And in the end? The video does not lie. I run like a geriatric ostrich chugging up a never-ending hill. I lean much too far forward and strike with my heels, causing the rest of my foot to crash to the ground and send shock waves up my shins. To say I overstride is like calling the sun a flashlight.
Hmmm…I sense I’ve got my work cut out for me.

“Run with exaggerated posture,” the trainer tells me. “Stand up as tall as you can, pull your shoulders back and imagine a string pulling your head up until you get rid of that extreme forward lean.”
I ask if all this will get rid of the knife-sharp shin pain and he assures me it will — if I do the work. True to his word, he sends me home with some colorful resistance bands and pages and pages of exercises to do.

The first night I can barely walk when I’m finished. But I keep at it. Strong hips, strong glutes, strong calves and an almost total overhaul to my running form have given me months of pain-free running.

The verdict

You might be embarrassed. I was. You might not want to put yourself through such a comprehensive evaluation.

Maybe the cost is too high. But if you can swing it, and if you love to run but just can’t seem to leave injury behind you, I highly recommend seeking professional help.

I am definitely not an expert, but what I can tell you is that your body and your mind will thank you. Mine have.

Don’t know what to look for in a clinic? Here are a few tips:

  • Choose a runners’ clinic that is affiliated with a medical center, or at least well-known and reputable.
  • Ask questions when you call to set up your appointment. What is included with your evaluation? What is the cost? How much feedback will they provide?
  • If you don’t live near a runners’ clinic, choose a sports medicine clinic that specializes in running issues and injuries. Sports medicine clinics may not have a program specific to running, but most will have excellent knowledge in the treatment and prevention of many types of injuries.

Originally published at Medium.com

How a Runner’s Clinic Can Help Keep You Strong and Healthy
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