Run Archives - Catalyst Physical Therapy & Wellness Mission Valley San Diego

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—THE TOP 3 THINGS EVERY YOUTH ATHLETE NEEDS —

Sports participation is on the rise with an all-time high of an estimated 45 million participants in youth programs in 2019 [1].This increase in participants has led to the formation of more and more leagues, and additional pressure on athletes to compete more frequently. Let’s face it, youth leagues are making good money and there’s very few central organizations controlling how they roll out their schedules and coordinate with neighboring groups. Year-round competition has quickly become the new normal for sports, and kids are being pressured at earlier ages to keep up. With no down time and poor skill development forced into the diet of these youth athletes, there is bound to be a higher injury rate and early burnout [2].

It’s staggering that roughly 8 million of the youth athletes will be seen by their physicians, or report to emergency rooms annually with sports-related injuries [3]. The incidence of ACL injuries has increased over the last 20 years with peak occurrence taking place in high school female athletes [4]. With the overuse injuries on the rise and sport specialization trending at a younger age, we must pay close attention to our kids’ developing bodies and minds. Not only has early sports specialization (playing one sport for an entire year) shown a direct link to overuse injuries, but it’s also leading to an early burnout and eventual drop from participating in organized sports.

Research conducted by the National Alliance of Sports has shown that 70% of children drop out of organized sports by the age of 13. 

This is scary considering a large number of parents are quick to up the training regimen for their children in hopes of forming the next superstar the second they show an ounce of talent or affinity for a specific sport. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand how exciting it is to see your child naturally excel at riding a bike, kicking/throwing/hitting a ball or climbing a wall. If your child shows a natural talent for kicking a ball and wants to be the next soccer superstar at age 10, it’s natural to think you should enroll them into the elite organizations offering year-round competition. But at what price? Would you still do that if I told you they were much more likely to suffer from a knee injury at the age of 14 or 15 that could put their career in jeopardy?

There’s no arguing that children need to be protected from early damage to their bodies during their formative years and puberty. The wrong dose of running, jumping, cutting, hitting, throwing can injure your child for the season, and threaten their long-term development. Being on the front lines of the physical therapy field now for over a decade, I’ve seen ACL sprains, growth plate injuries, and strains/sprains showing up in younger and younger athletes. This has me nervous because according to research, this likely won’t be the last time the majority of these kids are seen in a clinic setting. Getting injured early in life has also been shown to cause a myriad of other problems, like decreased bone mineral density, skeletal deformities, higher re-injury rates, and even increased likelihood of chronic pain in adulthood [5].

— If it looks ugly, chances are it’s not a matter of if but when their body will break down —

Repetitive movement patterns with faulty mechanics will lead to overloading (too much stress) in the growth plates, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones, and muscles comprising our skeletal system. It’s the simple fact that when you tell 10 kids to kick a ball, they’re going to do it 10 different ways. No coach can conjure perfect form for all of their athletes, but they must be able to recognize when poor mechanics need correcting to prevent irreversible damage to their athletes’ bodies. For example, take a 10-year-old, tall girl that has excessive shoulder mobility but poor core stability and tight hips from growing too fast. If you ask her to go up in the air and deflect a ball over the goal, or block a shot, there is good chance she’s going to drive her knees excessively inward upon preparing to jump, arch her back to ensure her hand gets in front of the ball, and fail to slot her shoulder correctly when blocking the shot. This may not always be the case, but if not corrected, it will undoubtedly lead to increased stress across the ligaments or growth plates in her knees, excessive force across her lumbar spine, and possible rotator cuff or labral injuries in her shoulder down the road.

So, are coaches to blame? Absolutely not! It’s the system that needs revamping. Each organized league must be held accountable to take the child’s development seriously. That can’t happen without pressure from the parents and health care field. We all must strive to pick out ways to assist the kids with movement training and coordination development. 

So How Do We Fix The Broken System?

Here are three of the most important ways I’ve found to develop youth athletes:

  1. Get screened by professionals to assist with proper physical development
  2. Increased time with cross-training to overcome their weaknesses 
  3. Insert “down time” into the annual schedule to recover properly, and rebuild

I’ll go into detail on each one of these below:


ATHLETE PERFORMANCE SCREENING

Athletic performance screening can help identify the individual challenges each athlete faces throughout the different stages of development. Why is it that we see the dentist every 6 months to assess our oral health, but physical health takes a backseat? Truth is, we should be giving our body the same focus and attention that we give our mouths. Annual physicals are not designed to thoroughly look at a child’s physical development. Rather than waiting for a child to report pain, we can get ahead of injuries by performing detailed assessments or screenings more regularly to ensure the movements they routinely perform are done correctly. This screening must mimic the common actions in the sport they play, and assess the areas of the body that research shows are often injured.

The screening can be performed for each athlete individually in a controlled setting, like a gym or clinic, or out on the fields. The goal of these screenings should be to identify the body’s weak spots and determine a corrective exercise program to promote proper athletic development. When completed on the team level, athletes can be categorized into different groups based on their physical abilities and given corrective exercises, drill work, and appropriate sports performance guidelines to allow coaches and trainers to better prepare the teams for the rigors of competition.

CROSS TRAINING

Cross training is often thought of as choosing a lower impact activity to insert in place of your main sport. For example, a soccer player might choose cycling or swimming instead of running to keep up their endurance levels between their heavy periods of competition. While this is one form of cross-training, it’s also important to consider the benefits of what a solid gym or weight training program can do for a developing body. Resistance training is commonly thought of as bad for youth athletes. This simply isn’t true. While I don’t condone spending 5 days a week in the gym following a strict strength training regime, I do believe the right corrective exercises inserted into a routine for kids can make all the difference when it comes to preventing injury. The trick is to make these exercises challenging, well-rounded, and fun. This will allow our youth athletes to form healthy movement habits, and develop coordination and efficiency that will protect the commonly overused areas of their bodies. 

PROPER RECOVERY

Recovery is all too often an afterthought for developing athletes. While I’ll forgo the detailed description of how recovery affects our bodies both mechanically and metabolically, I will say that stress across muscles and joints must be monitored and controlled to avoid developing overuse injuries. Most professional organizations are aware of this theory now, and utilize different ways to monitor and alter training loads for their athletes based on the demands of the position they play and the competitive match/practice schedule. These organizations are taking note of how each athlete’s recovery for their body differs and charting ways to assist them in balancing their training bouts to allow for ample performance. Basically, they’re not just asking how the athlete feels anymore, but are now monitoring how their heart rates and body movement (e.g. range of motion, strength, blood chemistry) are adapting to the physiological stressors. This allows them to tailor the weekly workouts and guidelines for recovery for each athlete individually. This isn’t to say your 10-year-old athlete is also in need of this, but a simple rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and an awareness of down time each year (or directly after large amounts of competition) is warranted to ensure your child is not damaging their vulnerable areas and in risk of long-term injury. 

In closing, I hope you understand that not all athletes move the same, and the demands of each sport differ. It’s not the coaches job to identify the movement inadequacies and implement a corrective exercise program. Rather, it’s the organization and parents job to promote the health at all times of the youth athletes. This comes through education and strategic alliances with organizations that can help deliver proper warm ups, exercise guidelines, and physical screenings. By paying more attention to the quality of the movement early on in our kids’ development and creating healthy habits, we’re giving them the gift of longevity in becoming a life-long participant. Whether they go to the big leagues or not, having a young athlete learn the principles of healthy movement and balanced training loads will prove it’s worth over time, and cut down on the early drop-out rates that are trending in our current era. 

If you’re interested in learning more about ways to get our professionals involved with your athlete or organization, please fill out our questionnaire (athlete performance questionnaire) or check out the athlete performance section of our website to learn more (Read More). 

Brian Wilson, MPT

DOWNLOAD ATHLETE OVERUSE PDF

REFERENCES:

[1] State of Play 2019: Trends and Developments in Youth Sports. The Aspen Institute/Utah State 2019 National Youth Sport Survey. 2019 Sept; 3: 1-32.

[2] Difiori JP, Benjamin HJ, Brenner JS, Gregory A, Jayanthi N, Landry GL, Luke A. Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. British journal of sports medicine. 2014 Feb 1;48(4):287-8.

[3] Pinyao R, M.P.H., Ashman JJ, Ph.D., and Akintunde A, M.S.P.H. Emergency Department Visits for Injuries Sustained During Sports and Recreational Activities by Patients Aged 5–24 Years. National Health Statistics Report. 2019 Nov 15; (133) 1-15.

[4]  Beck NA, Lawrence TR, Nordin JD, DeFor TA, Tompkins M. ACL Tears in School-Aged Children and Adolescents Over 20 Years. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2017 Mar; 139 (3).

[5] Fulton J, Wright K,  Kelly M, Zebrosky B, Zanis M, Drvol C, Butler R. Injury Risk is Altered by Previous Injury: A Systematic Review of the Literature and Presentation of Causative Neuromuscular Factors. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2014 Oct; 583–595 (9).

 


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The Runner’s Rulebook: A Guide from Your Running Coach

 

What is the Runner’s Rulebook?  Well, it’s a guide from your running coach, that’s me, Coach BW, that teaches you how to keep running fun and pain-free year after year!

 

First, there’s no doubt that running is one of the world’s most popular sports.  Why?

  • No major equipment is needed to run
  • Running improves both your physical and mental health
  • Through running you build strength, and strong bones, as it’s a weight-bearing exercise
  • The attractiveness of a “high” euphoric feeling that you get running, especially outdoors, as you fall into a balance between your thoughts, effort, and your natural surroundings
  • During times of stress or long workdays, you can turn to running as an outlet.  It can provide you with a ‘reset’ that allows you to become a better version of yourself

 

A Guide Based on Experience

 

As a runner, an endurance coach, and a physical therapist for the past 14+ years, I created the Runner’s Rulebook based on my experience coaching running at all levels.  From beginners in the sport to professional runners. 

In addition, I also assess and treat running injuries on a weekly basis, and teach other physical therapists how to do the same.


Now then, the Running Rulebook does not contain hard lines drawn in the sand.  But, more of a template that can be revisited as your body evolves over time.  Let’s jump into my Top 5 Rules for Runners!

 

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1. Take time each year to understand your body

Taking the time to understand your body as a runner means taking a good look at your physiology and musculoskeletal makeup.  Therefore, a review of medical history, injuries, and, a true assessment of your flexibility and strength in all areas of your body pertinent to running.  

 

For example, have you taken a medication or been forced to wear dress shoes that have led to losing some of your ankle and toe mobility?  Well, we rely heavily on this mobility for running. 

So, a shortening of a person’s ankle dorsiflexion or change in toe extension can be directly linked to foot pain.  This pain typically does not improve unless you have a specialist identify what needs to be done.  Signing up for our run assessment is a great first step- literally! 

 

Running injuries are typically not acute.  But, they gradually evolve over time.  Therefore, the impact and stress applied to your joints needs to be balanced with the right exercise. 

For me, it may mean stretching a little more on one side versus the other.  For you, it could be activating a certain muscle set.  Moving through a strength routine.  Something to help you better control the forces applied when landing on one leg and absorbing shock. 

 

Catalyst run program

 

2. Manage your energy levels to become your best self

Next, proper energy management is essential when choosing what time of day you plan to run to keep it fun and pain-free.  Each run should complement your energy levels, allowing you to feel a sense of achievement and balance. 


As a runner and running coach, when I’ve gone for a run during a time when my energy levels were exhausted, it’s just junk miles.
  Wondering what I mean by this?  Well, there are mixed reviews on what junk miles actually are, and whether they worth having in your running training plan. 
As a running coach, I’d view junk miles as days when your running on empty.  Where each step feels heavier than the last.  Overall, you feel clunky and out of any sense of natural rhythm.


Therefore, understanding where and when you are naturally inclined to harness energy is extremely beneficial for the success of your run training plan.  How do you determine when and where to fit in your run?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you wake up with energy and need to waste a bit to feel productive?
  • Do you get energized throughout the day interacting with people?
  • Are you someone that feels low on energy regardless of the time of day? Do you always need motivation to get outside and run?


running coast Carlsbad

 

3. Understand what style of runner you are

Did you know that your running form or technique matters?  Yes, there are direct links to the mechanics of how you run that influences how long your body will last in the sport.  A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise provides robust evidence that technique explains a substantial proportion of the variance in your ‘running economy’ and performance. 

 

Do you know what type of runner you are?

Ask yourself, do you:

  • Land on the balls of your feet the majority of the time?
  • Have weak ankles or fallen arches?
  • Have a long stride?
  • Land on the heel of your foot every time despite whether you’re going uphill or downhill? 

 

By identifying and addressing some of these issues, you can actually change your running form.  And a change in your running form could actually save you a lot of time and money- helping to avoid medical expenses from injury and the purchase of unnessary equipment (shoes, braces, orthotics). 

 

Need help identifying what type of runner you are?  Make an appointment for a run assessment! One of our specialists will identify exactly what style of runner you are, and they can help you identify form issues that could lead to energy leaks costing you efficiency.

 

Why get a run assessment?  Well, having someone assess your natural style will prove extremely beneficial when it comes to becoming a more efficient runner.  What do I mean by that?  Efficiency equals faster speed, fewer impact forces on your body and less energy leaked that limits your performance.

 

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4. Set goals that make sense for what kind of runner you want to be

As a running coach, I see it all the time. Runners pick their races based on the training partners they’ve chosen. While I’m all about having people alongside you to motivate you towards your goal, don’t become a marathoner because your friends do.  Or, because it’s often seen as the pinnacle of the sport.

Think about why you enjoy running.  Then, set at least one or two races on your calendar that are your ‘A’ races.  These races should speak to the very reason you’ve taken up the sport! 

 

How do you determine what kind of runner you want to be?  Ask yourself if you:

  • Crave the hills?
  • Enjoy the environment found on trails or gravel roads?
  • Love pushing the pace on a track?
  • Need just 30 minutes of solitude to feel recharged?
  • Want to achieve a personal best in a 5k/10k? 

 

Based on your answers, you’ll be able to sprinkle in some of the motivating stuff you need each week while training and naturally increase your motivation towards your goal race.  This allows you to keep your eye on the prize!

As a running coach, I call these your soul-feeding workouts.  Fit one into each week to recharge. 

For me, this might be intervals on the track.  For you, it may be a walk/run combo in the woods to re-center and focus.

 

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5. Plan your workouts in advance and have someone hold you accountable

I’m not the most knowledgeable running coach in the world.  However, I see such success with my endurance athletes because I get to know them.  And, I help them to set realistic and fun goals that fuel them as human beings.

So, I love coaching and training runners of all ages and abilities.  In my experience, there are some of you who will need a 5-day adventure running race to feel fulfilled, while others only need a 5k.

 

How to Become Accountable

Bite-sized goal setting coupled with reality checks on performance is what allows a runner to progress.  Then, it all comes down to accountability. 

For you, accountability may come through writing in a journal or reporting progress over the phone to a running coach each week.  Or, it could be logging miles on Strava, GarminConnect, Suunto, or sharing via a social media post to allow friends and family to cheer you along. 

Either way, track what you do week-to-week.  Set goals for the year and constantly evaluate your progress towards meeting those goals.  This will lead to long-term success.

 

 

Final Thoughts from Your Run Coach

Running should never feel as though it’s a chore.  Something that you have to check off the list each day.  Therefore, pay attention to my top 5 rules.  This will allow you to feel fueled and avoid burnout year after year.

It’s a blessing to be able to run!  So, if you place emphasis each year on evolving your body alongside your goals in the sport, you’ll be able to look back with a smile and embrace the infinite amount of small steps it took to get you where you are.

Want to get started with me as your run coach?  Awesome!  The first step is to make an appointment for a run assessment. 


Personally, I want to run into my 90s, and I never lose the euphoria I get while trail running! 
I don’t need the distances to get longer and longer, I just need the views with each route I choose to be worth the challenge.

-Coach BW

 


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