3 Common Misconceptions about Running Injuries- Guest Post by RunningMate Physical Therapist & Performance Coach

I am super excited to introduce Guest Blogger Nathan Carlson, from RunningMate.  Nathan is a physical therapist that has helped me through multiple running injuries, including my freak out ankle injury shortly before the Boston Marathon.  I will be working with Nathan, again, through the summer on performance training. I can’t wait to share our adventures!

Until then Check out this awesome Guest Post from Nathan.

Trying to manage a running related injury can be incredibly frustrating. There is a lot of information out there, both from credible and non-credible sources, on how to manage various injuries. Because of the large amount of information that is available to the public, there are a lot of misconceptions as to why runners get hurt. I’m gonna go over the three most common things I hear runners say when I chat with them about why they got injured.

  1. My lack of flexibility is causing my injuries

Many runners have been told that tightness in their lower body is leading them to get hurt. For most, this is completely untrue. If you can do day to day tasks without issues, you have enough flexibility run. You only need a little bit of motion, at a few different joints, to be able to run. I did a video a few months back on how much motion you actually need to run.

Check it out here. * Running Flexibility Requirement by RunningMate

Because of this, I haven’t told a runner to “stretch” anything in at least three years. If you like to stretch, feel free to. There are a lot of runners that complain of “tight” hip flexors that have normal hip flexor length when assessed. Just because something feels “tight” doesn’t mean it needs to be stretched. If stretching doesn’t make it feel better you probably need to try something else. Sometimes when something feels tight, it actually needs to get stronger.

  1. My Foot Alignment/Arch Height/Posture is causing my injuriesNathan 1

Every runner that has bought a pair of shoes in the last 30 years has been fit into some type of foot shape/posture category. The original thought was based on the idea that based on the posture of the foot, we would need to prescribe a shoe to either provide more or less support so that arch doesn’t “cave in” and cause overpronation. This is a nice idea in theory, but in practice it doesn’t add up. We have very little evidence to support the idea that we need to prescribe footwear in this manner, or that it will reduce our risk of getting hurt. There a lot of runners that have A LOT of pronation that don’t get hurt. Haile Gebrselassie is a great example. He was a fantastic distance athlete and displayed a lot of “undesirable” mechanics when he ran. His tissue adapted to training and he was able to have a very successful career.


  1. My heel striking is causing my injuries

When it comes to running form/mechanics, there is a belief out there that running form is consistent no matter where we are running, how fast are pace is, or how tired we are. Running form is much more dynamic then that. When we talk about foot strike, most runners will change how their foot hits the ground depending on how fast they are going. It is not a static variable. If you are running on a trail, you will move different than running on a treadmill. Most runners in the world hit with their heel first when they run and that’s OK. When Dennis Kimetto set the world record in the marathon, he hit the ground with his heel first.

Nathan 2

Now that isn’t to say that sometimes we might need to change our foot-strike. When we hit with our heel first, it tends to load more to the hip and knee. When we hit with our forefoot first, it tends to load more to the foot ankle. So…if your knee hurts, it might feel a little better to hit with your forefoot. Vice versa, if your Achilles hurts, it might be better to hit with your heel first. It’s just different ways of loading the body.

So why do most running injuries happen? Training errors.

The human body is pretty awesome. We can run marathons in almost 2 hours and can cover 100 miles in a day. We are adaptable, robust and able to do some awesome things in the world of endurance sports. Our body is really good at being stressed, recovering, and then coming back stronger. That is what happens when we train a race. There is a reason why a lot of training plans will increase for 3-4 weeks and then take a step back for a week. As we move towards race day, we are slowing turning up the dial so we are primed and ready to go the day of whatever our race is.

The adaptability of the body is important to remember when we think about injuries. Small variations in foot shape, flexibility and running mechanics are very, very small variables when we compare them to our overall training plan. Most runners get hurt when they progress mileage, speed, or make a large change in training environment (more hills, more treadmill, etc.) without giving their bodies time to adapt. So what does this mean to you as a runner? PAY ATTENTION. There are definitely days to go out the door and push the pace, but if we do that too much we run into trouble. Make smart decisions as you progression training and race day will go off without a hitch.

18644949_408144079569472_1911289356144869376_nNathan Carlson is the owner of Runningmate Physical Therapy and Performance Coaching, a physical therapy and performance enhancement business focused on the management of runners and other endurance athletes. He can be reached on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RunningmateKC/, by email at info@runningmatekc.com, or in his clinic located inside KC Endurance’s Treadmill studio at 75th and Washington in Waldo.



Helpful tips, making time for your run

For the first time, I am not teaching summer school.  I love it! I have so much time to do the things I love.  Balancing family time and running is much, much less of a challenge.  This is NOT the case during the school year.  During the school year I am balancing work, coaching, running and most importantly family time.  It isn’t always perfectly balanced.  Thankfully, with lots of support from my husband, we make it work.  I get to do all of the things that I love so much, including running.

I have goals, big goals.  I don’t want to toe the line on race day unprepared.  For me, running is a daily priority.  It’s not the most important thing on the list, but almost everyday I can find some time to run. I do this through deliberate planning and communication.  I am able to accomplish this with an amazing supportive husband. I try to be very cognizant of how my running affects my family time and their personal time.

Here are some helpful tips for making time for your run, each day.Read More »

Run For the Hills

I am very excited that we now have the opportunity to feature guest blogger Zolts Running on Runcanvas.

Hills: They make you work harder for a slower pace, and in a race they can turn your next PR attempt into a PW (i.e. a Personal Worst)!

They quickly cause your heart rate to skyrocket, and once you reach the top your legs and lungs are burning and it can seem impossible to recover your pace after. We often dread them, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t count the number of times where I have deliberately avoided them as much as possible so I could clock a faster overall pace on my run. After all, I’ve got Strava followers to impress (or not)! However, regardless of experience level I am willing to bet that almost all runners will agree with me on two things:

  1.  Hills are extremely beneficial to our fitness
  2.  We don’t run up them enough because frankly they can be miserable!

I think we can all identify with this poor wolf!

With that in mind, I want you think of your body as a car for a moment.

If you want to make it go faster then you can either push harder on the gas pedal or increase the horsepower and torque of the engine. The effectiveness of the former is quite limited because you can only up the RPMs so much before the engine will blow out. However, there is practically no limit to how much power you can build into your engine.

Now think about how that translates to running – you can increase your cadence and/or lengthen your stride to speed up, but at some point your strides per minute will hit their max (even a hummingbird has its limits at an incredible 70 flaps per second) and you won’t be able to lengthen them beyond a certain point without injuring yourself. On the other hand, by doing plyometric exercises like hill repeats you will strengthen your legs and increase their power – that means more horsepower and torque!

The engines on both of these cars can run at 6,000+ revolutions per minute but guess which one will go faster?

So why the tendency to avoid hills like the plague??

I think many of us find speedwork and other faster-paced workouts more exciting and therefore don’t give hill workouts a fair chance. If you live in a hilly area like I do, then you come across plenty of hills on your daily runs to make up for this, right? While this is better than nothing, I would argue if you aren’t dedicating at least some workouts entirely to running up hills at some point in your training cycle then you are missing out on something powerful.

After all, even if your race schedule for the season is composed solely of mostly flat courses, you will still reap several benefits from the hill work that apply to any course, including an increase in leg strength and power, all with a lower risk of injury than with traditional speedwork. And if at some point you are looking for a new challenge you can try your hand at racing a course that is known to be very hilly (and believe me, there are plenty around here), such as the infamous Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, MO.

This is a course where PRs go to die!

Reaping the benefits of hill workouts

As you can see, the entire course is rolling with a few horrific hills, especially the one halfway through, which usually brings even the faster runners to a walk for a brief period. I ran this course in 2015 as a training run in preparation for the Kansas City Marathon six weeks later and I truly believe that the warm, humid temperatures and unrelenting hills prepared me well to run a PR (and thus far my only BQ) in a goal race that had its share of hills.

I mentioned a moment earlier that running hills carries less injury risk than doing speedwork. Nearly every runner has or will encounter at least one injury at some point in their “career” (I like to put that in parenthesis when talking about myself because I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon), and there will be times when you may still be able to run, but the strain of speedwork may be too much to handle.

After having foot surgery last year I wasn’t able to run at all for several weeks. Following that, there was a period of about 3 months during which I could gradually introduce running back into my routine, but was unable to run anything other than an easy pace. Interestingly, I quickly found that my foot tolerated running up steep hills just fine, so before long I was back doing strenuous running workouts by running up a very steep hill at what would be an easy pace on a flat surface.

I started doing a weekly hill workout and within a few weeks I felt a noticeable increase in my leg strength. My hill of choice for this workout was 200m long and quite steep; after warming up a couple of miles I would run up at a hard but controlled pace then slowly jog back down before repeating. I usually did 12 repeats, but you could do more or less depending on your weekly training volume. Either way, I am willing to bet you will notice a difference fairly quickly!

There is no vitamin that instantaneously increases your length strength and power but hills are a good start!

Then, I did a couple of practice races to test things out. I wasn’t able to run terribly fast yet because my foot still had lots of recovering to do, but I felt stronger than ever going up the hills and found that I could pass a lot of runners during that time. As I continued to recover and find my normal running pace again, I felt much less of a need than before to shy away from hills on my training runs, even when I was tired. In the end, the boost was not just physical but mental as well. What I had once been afraid of had now become my best friend!

Image by http://www.dadazi.net/audioryms/aud_story/afraid/scared.html

So – what kind of hill workouts have you tried? Did you experience any noticeable benefits in your running performance?


Author of Zolts Running, Andrew is a member of the KC running community and started running in his early thirties.  Since then he has completed over a hundred races, including 33 half marathons, his favorite distance.  Andrew is a member of Team Run 816.  


Quit googling your injuries!

Admit it, you are guilty.  You feel a pain and you head to the Google, to find out what is wrong and how to fix it.  STAHP IT!   I am totally guilty myself.  I know better, but sometimes I don’t want to admit something is wrong, so I look for ways to self-remedy. This does me no good, usually only delaying my recovery.  It can be kind of confusing, sometimes.  Training for long distance races comes with some assumed mild discomfort, the question is how much and what type.

In my mini-series Runners for Dummies, I wrote a chapter on taking care of your sick or injured runner.  This article included a great, easy to use guide in trying to determine whether you have an injury or regular muscle soreness.


If you are looking at the chart and thinking you have a relatively minor injury, go ahead and give yourself a small break now before the problem gets worse.  You may be able to continue to run at a decreased pace and distance.  This is where working closely with a coach can really help.

My rule for seeking medical advice, when in doubt check it out.  No matter how detailed you are when you are searching online, you cannot be diagnosed by strangers on the internet.  The worst part is the horrible stories and extreme cases that almost always pop up.  When I was struggling with basic shin splits, by the time I was done with the internet, I was convinced I had a stress fracture and was about to spend six months to a year in a boot. A week of treatment and I was running pain free.  The other issue with searching online, the conflicting medical advice you can find.  Anyone can have a website or post videos to youtube.  There is no screening process.  Doing the wrong things can further injure your and delay recovery.

So you have an injury, how long should you rest before seeking treatment.  Well, that depends. I rolled my ankle last week, it swelled up immediately and had a bunch of bruising to go along with it. I know the basics, RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation).  I went through the process, multiple times that evening.  I still woke up with a big fat, bruised cankle.    Normally, I would give myself a week or two.  I played soccer for years, through high school and college.  This wasn’t my first cankle.  However, I am only weeks away from my goal race. I wanted to ensure I did not have a more severe injury and that I was being as proactive as I could in returning to running.  I got in to see a physical therapist the very next day.  So timing of the injury, can impact how I long I will let the issue resolve itself.

Many running injuries are not sudden injuries due to an accident. Instead running injuries are most often overuse injuries.  When I suspect this type of injury, I will try to decrease my mileage and pace for a few days.  If I continue to have issues, I will take the next step and take some time off.  Most overuse injuries will improve after 1-2 weeks of rest.  If after that time I am still having issues, I will get checked out by a doctor of physical therapist.

Whether your pain resolves itself within a few days of easier mileage or you decide to seek treatment.  You need to address not only the symptoms, but the cause.  Increasing speed or mileage too quickly is a common error for runners.  Be sure to resume training gradually, so you don’t wind up sidelined again.  Respect the recovery process.  Slow down your easy days, take time to stretch and foam roll.  Warm up and cool down appropriately for your speed workouts.  Adding in strength training can also be a big help in preventing injuries.

Working with a coach can help you avoid injuries.  If you have found yourself with a string of injuries, one after another.  A coach can really help you train smarter and help you get out of that negative cycle.  A coach can give you strength and stretches that will compliment your training program.  Coming off and injury, working with a coach can help ensure that you return to running at a safe rate.

Injuries suck! Don’t rely on internet advice to get you back to running.

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My favorite part of my recovery routine, is Epsom Salt Baths

img_2661 Growth is made during your recovery.  You work out hard, tearing your muscles down and your body rebuilds, stronger than before.  You should treat the recovery process with as much respect as your speed workouts and long runs.  The better you recover, the more you can push yourself during subsequent training sessions.  Since most of us are NOT professional athletes, waddling around the workplace like a duck because of soreness, is less than ideal. I rely on Epsom salt bath multiple times a week, to help me push through training and recover faster.


  • Epsom Salt contains magnesium, the second most abundant element in your cells. Magnesium offers our body many benefits including; aiding in muscle control, energy production and helping flush toxin from cells which can help alleviate muscle soreness.
  • Stress Relief- A warm soak can be great for relaxing the mind and body. Taking a warm evening soak can be very helpful in getting a good nights rest.
  • Relieving muscle soreness and increasing flexibility. This is the main reason I take frequent soaks.

*There isn’t definitive research proving/disproving the efficacy of Epsom Salt baths.  Anecdotally, I have found Epsom salt baths to be extremely relaxing and very helpful in improving flexibility and aiding in relieving general muscle soreness.  If the benefits are only a placebo effect, it isn’t harmful.


               All the time! Ha. I like to take an Epsom salt bath the evening before my long runs and after any run that I felt was taxing.  This is usually two to three times a week, sometime more during especially draining weeks.  If, however, I have any visible swelling or inflammation, I will skip the warm baths.  I don’t want to do anything that would increase swelling.  Sometimes I will replace with a ice bath, but mostly I will just ice the specific area, in a moving/massaging motion.



               The directions on the packages vary, so I have played around and do what seems to work for me.  I will put four cups on Epsom salt into a tub and fill the bath with the warmest water that I can tolerate.  I will relax and soak for ten to fifteen minutes first and then start gently stretching in the bath for five to ten minutes. I will spend twenty to thirty minutes in the soak total. Afterwards I like to foam roll while my muscles are warmed up from the bath. This is an important step in maintaining the benefit I get from the Epsom salt soak.



img_2655 I have two brands of Epsom Salts that I really like.  The first brand is Dr. Teals Epsom Salt.  I like to use the unscented kind and add in a variety of essential oils.  I have used this brand for the last year and a half, I started when I was training for my first marathon.   For general soreness, this is a great product that I would recommend.  It’s easily found locally and often on sale.




My new favorite brand is Epsoak, by S.F Salt img_2657Company.  I was participating in a twitter chat, for BibRave and was selected to receive a free product.  I chose the “energizing” eucalyptus and peppermint scented.   The first time I tried it, I didn’t seem to notice much difference between this brand and others.  The main differences I noticed at the time were the very strong smell (which I liked) and the smaller than usual salt grains which helped it dissolve faster.   A few weeks later I was feeling especially run down and I used the product again, and it was magical.  It relieved my soreness and achiness, so much better. When I was running with a head cold and feeling drained, I felt like the Epsoak really helped alleviate the symptoms and allow me to continue training.  So for general soaks, and soreness the two products seemed to perform similar, but when I am really achy and run down, the Epsoak gives an additional level of comfort and relief.  It does cost more, and I haven’t found it in stores.  I totally think the product is worth it, to order and have available.

Have you tried Epsom Salt baths?  What is your favorite part of your recovery routine?

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Waiting to set my goal time/pace for Boston Marathon


The closer we get to April 17th, the more I am getting asked about my goal time for the Boston Marathon. I am also getting a lot of (unsolicited) advice, on what others think my goal time should be. Especially, after recent races. Some people look at me like I have two heads when I tell them I don’t know, or that I haven’t decided.  Some people just seem to think I am lying because I don’t want to share my goals.

It’s not that I don’t have goals, overall.  I just don’t put a time limit on my goals.  My body will adapt and improve at its own rate.  Picking an arbitrary goal time and date, trying to reach some self-imposed expectation just adds more stress and sets me up for disappointment. I want to be able to enjoy the journey, as much as the destination.  I have enough anxiety leading up to this race, without adding more to it.

I have been asked about training, without a goal.  I have written about this before.  I don’t train based on where I want to be, I train based on my current fitness level. (read more)  Luckily, I also work with a really smart coach.  (Read more about my choice to work with a coach here).  When a plan is calling for marathon pace, the plan is usually trying develop your aerobic threshold.  That is the purpose of the workout.  Understanding that every workout has a purpose and training at a level based on goal time and not current fitness levels negates the purpose of the workout.  That doesn’t mean that you won’t improve.  It does mean, you may not be training as efficiently as possible.  Balancing the risk/reward scales is a key component to smart training.  Training above your current fitness level increases your risk for injury and doesn’t necessarily increase  how quickly your body adapts to training.

It’s okay to have an idea of where you are going, but you definitely need to be willing to assess and adjust your goals throughout your training cycle. As I get closer and closer to race day, I am starting to get a clearer picture of my current training and fitness levels.  With 6 weeks left, and a few short distance races along the way, things are beginning to fall into place.  There is still time for things to improve, and unfortunately things can go wrong.  Life happens.  Weather can be a huge factor come race day, and I may be teetering on what my actual goal pace will be all the way up to the starting line.  Having only run one prior marathon, I am not exactly an expert.  I know I can use some calculators to get some general ideas.  Although, I feel like these calculators can be a bit overly optimistic for most runners.  There are many limiting factors that the calculators don’t take into consideration. I still always put my times in for fun, though. I will definitely look for, and respect, the opinion of my coach that I have worked with through this training cycle.  I am a big fan of developing A, B and C goals and adjusting as the race progresses.

No matter what, I will feel accomplished because I will have tried my best. I have pushed my limits many times already through this training cycle.  I feel like I have grown a lot, as a runner between my first marathon and this current training cycle. Every race and training cycle is an opportunity to grow and improve, no matter the clock KC-finishtime.  I already have a new 10k PR to add to my list, and I am pretty excited about that. That was a huge confidence booster, I hope that positive momentum will help move me through the rest of my training cycle. I am very optimistic about this race, I can’t wait to line up at the starting line. This will not be a race that I plan to jog, or run for completion.  I plan to lay it all out there come race day.


Maybe I do have one goal….NOT to have an ugly cry at the finish line.  Like I did after my first, HA!


Let’s talk about streaking….


NO, I am not talking about running through the quad and into the gymnasium.  I am talking about a running streak.  A running streak is running at least one mile, every day.  Your run streak is however man consecutive days you can continue this trend.  It’s pretty neat to hear about the extreme run streaks that some runner have going on.

I have a few running friends that have built up a run streak that last more than a couple years.  So, do I run streak? No, I do not. Run streaking, is just not for me.  It is not something I have any interest in doing.  I was drained this week, I ended up feeling sick and down-right awful.  I lost sleep and missed work. This week was a great example of a time, that running would have done more harm than good. Here are a few of my reasons, for not streaking;

  • I need and very much respect the recovery process. I have written about this numerous times already.  Growth doesn’t come from the workouts, it comes from the recovery after the workouts.
  • Streaking doesn’t help me reach my goals. If your goals are to increase speed and run faster times, streaking could impede your performance growth. There are days, like this week, when running causes more harm than good.
  • My body is just not built for streaking. Not all runners are created equally.  I am not just talking about some runners being naturally faster than others.  I am injury prone.  Taking days off allows me to work harder and stay injury free.
  • I need mental breaks, as well as physical. At one point, I was burnt out on running. I don’t want to feel that way again. I don’t running to become a chore that I dread.  Those days off are a break for me mentally, just as much as they are physically.
  • Too much work for one mile. At some point run streakers will run as little as one mile. For me, the work to get dressed and make time for one mile isn’t worth it. At this point in my training, that one mile doesn’t really have any positive effect on my training. Too much work, for junk miles.


I am not saying, run streaking is bad.  I think it’s pretty neat.  I participated in a month long run streak, and that was enough for me.  If you are considering trying a run streak, please take steps to participate safely.  Here are a few posts that discuss the positives of run streaking and how to join safely.

7 tips for a successful #runstreakrunstreak

How to complete a run streak safely

Let’s talk about it! Do you run streak? Why or why not?


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