Feeling aches & pains during runs? Try these tips for improving running form!

We are all familiar with the aches and pains that can pop up during a long run. Knee pain, hip pain, stomach cramps or maybe it’s the day where your big toe randomly decides to hurt. If you run enough, you are bound to feel those aches and pains at some point! (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you are a bionic woman and we are all super jealous.)

The good news is there are things you can do to protect your body and minimize the discomfort that you may feel while running. Improving your running form is a great place to begin. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Relax your shoulders.

Take a moment during your runs to focus on your upper body. Are you holding a lot of tension in your neck and shoulders? The goal is to keep your shoulders low and loose. Relax them down and back, drawing them away from your ears. Sometimes it helps to give them a little shake to loosen the tension. This will help you maintain good posture and reduce neck pain after a long run.

  1. Activate your gut and your butt.

You can make a lot of progress by focusing on activating the proper muscles. First, your core should always be working when you run. Think about bracing and tightening your midsection. This will be especially useful if you tend to feel back pain after a long run. If you aren’t sure what it feels like to brace your core, just cough. See if you can use some of those cough muscles more often.

Second, make sure you’re using your glutes (aka junk in the trunk.) A lot of runners rely solely on hamstrings, quads and calves to propel them forward, and this results in under-active, weak glutes. The main problem? Your glutes are what stabilize your hips. Everything in your body is connected. Unstable hips lead to unstable knees. Unstable knees lead to unstable ankles..etc. etc. If your glutes are asleep during a long run, you may run into a number of problems such as knee pain, ankle pain or IT band pain. (Side note for anyone who needs it – your IT band is a ligament that runs down the outside of your thigh from your pelvic bone to your shinbone. I could write a whole post about the notorious IT band but I’ll save that for another time.)

So how do you activate your glutes? There are a lot of exercises you can try such as squats and floor bridges. For more on that, check out our posts on how to perform a proper squat and best exercises for runners. The goal is to actually feel those muscles contracting when you run (like how you feel your biceps contract when you show off your arm muscles.) Next time you go for a run, be aware of the muscles you feel and try squeezing your glutes as you push off in your stride.

  1. Land mid-foot.

Pay attention to how your foot strikes the ground when you run. Here’s what you DON’T want to do. DON’T let your heel strike the ground first. “Heel toe” running used to be the standard a few decades ago, but now we know it leads to unnecessary impact on the joints and it’s counterproductive. Think about it. You are trying to move FORWARD. If your heel strikes the ground first, you have a force pushing you backwards. You also have extra impact running up your leg to your ankles, knees and hips. Try this instead. Land lightly toward the middle of your foot, then roll forward and push off with your toes. Try not to sound like a Tyrannosaurus Rex when you run. More noise means more impact. Try to keep it quiet and springy!

OK now also make sure you pat your head and rub your belly. Just kidding…but I know it’s a lot to think about. Don’t try to conquer all of this at once. Next time you go for a run, see if you can pick one thing to focus on to improve your form. Once you’ve got that down, move onto the next thing. Before you know it, all of these tips will come naturally and you won’t have to think about it quite as hard!

Good luck runners and I hope these tips are helpful! Post any questions in the comments below.

-Amanda

Free Printable Wine Inspired Stickers

Wine StickersWe just got back from an extra magical weekend at the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon!  The best part of the weekend was getting to meet so many of our team tutu friends in real life. We are working on a complete race recap, but in the meantime we wanted to share some free printable stickers to commemorate the Wine and Dine fun! The set includes a sticker for the 5K, 10k, 13.1, and 19.3 distances. There are also blank stickers so you can write in a milestone of your choice.

Be our guest and download the file for free! Click here to download stickers

Directions for making stickers:

  1. Print the file on white cardstock or sticker paper (Try Avery Sticker Paper)
  2. Cut out the stickers
  3. If you print the stickers on cardstock, use glue dots, tape, or adhesive of your choice on the back of the stickers
  4. Put the stickers in your planner or training log to reward yourself for a job well done!

 

Congrats to all who ran last weekend!

-Christine

Free Printable Belle Inspired Planner Stickers

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some serious love for Beauty and the Beast happening in my life right now. Between the new live action movie trailer, the 2017 Princess Half race theme, and the Lumiere Two Course Challenge medal release I am exploding with Disnerd happiness! We originally planned to post a recap from the runDisney Virtual Shorts series today, but I decided to hijack the blog to share some free printable Belle inspired stickers instead!

The stickers say, “This beauty runs like a beast,” and feature our favorite beauty in a pair of red running shoes!  For extra magic the set includes blank stickers to customize with your personal accomplishments.Free printable stickers

Be our guest and download the file for free here: Free printable belle sticker file

Directions for making stickers:

  1. Print the file on white cardstock or sticker paper (Try Avery Sticker Paper)
  2. Cut out the stickers
  3. If you print the stickers on cardstock, use glue dots, tape, or adhesive of your choice on the back of the stickers
  4. Put the stickers in your planner or training log to reward yourself for a job well done!

Side note: I also love the Xyron Sticker Maker. It’s super cheap and you can turn anything into a sticker – as long as it fits into the machine!

Happy training, friends!

-Christine

Free Printable Stickers – Dopey Inspired Badges

 

IMG_1170Happy summer, team tutu! It’s hard to believe it, but it is already time to start training for 2017 races! If you are registered for the runDisney Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles through Walt Disney World), the official Jeff Galloway training schedule started this week. We are so impressed by anyone who has the willpower to complete 48.6 miles! We definitely hope to do this challenge one day! In honor of Dopey training starting up, I thought I’d share a set of free printable Dopey inspired stickers to make training a little more magical.

I’ve used printable “I did it!” stickers for training runs and commemorated the Princess Half and Tinker Bell Half with some race inspired stickers. It was very motivational to see all the stickers in my training planner. We’ve also released a set of printable stickers inspired by the runDisney virtual running shorts series and it was so fun to add those to my planner while I wait for the medals to arrive. Figured fans of the Dopey race might also enjoy some planner sticker magic.

IMG_1171

Here is the link for the stickers: The stickers include a sticker for the 5K, 10k, 13.1, 26.2, and 48.6 distances. For extra magic the set includes an “I did it” sticker and blank stickers to customize with your personal accomplishments.

Directions for making stickers:

  1. Print the file on white cardstock or sticker paper (Try Avery Sticker Paper)
  2. Cut out the stickers
  3. If you print the stickers on cardstock, use glue dots, tape, or adhesive of your choice on the back of the stickers
  4. Put the stickers in your planner or training log to reward yourself for a job well done!

Side note: I also love the Xyron Sticker Maker. It’s super cheap and you can turn anything into a sticker – as long as it fits into the machine!

Good luck to all who are starting their journey to the Dopey Challenge in January!

-Christine

Countdown to Tinker Bell Half Marathon: What Should I Do the Week Before the Race?

FullSizeRender

Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend is officially one week away. We’ve been busy putting the final touches on all our crafts and costumes to make the weekend as magical as possible. One of our Runs in Tutus traditions is making matching tote bags and Mickey ears to wear at the parks and Expo. We are happy to say that after a sister weekend of intense crafting and eating too many homemade Mickey pancakes, these have been finished! If you see three weirdos walking around the park in coordinated outfits and matching tote bags, you have likely spotted us.

IMG_8801These cute bags are definitely exciting, but it turns out there is more to race weekend then just crafting. We also have to run a race. We’ve all worked really hard over the past few months with early mornings, long runs and sore muscles. The work isn’t over just yet. The final week of training is crucial when it comes to having a successful race day.

Here are some things you can do this week to prepare for race day:

  1. Take care of your body. You want your muscles to work seamlessly on race day. Take some time this week to stretch and foam roll. You can find some foam rolling tips here. Sports massages are another great way to prepare your body, but any massage should be done at least 48 hours before the race. I’ve also become a big fan of the BFF, a body buffer that vibrates and “buffs” your muscles. This thing is awesome for getting muscles to relax and recover quickly, and even Jeff Galloway has endorsed it. If you see their booth at the Expo and you’re feeling sore or tight, definitely stop and give it a try.

  1. Stay hydrated. Drink A LOT of water throughout the week. You want to start hydrating well in advance of race day. It’s easy to forget this when traveling, so be sure to always have a bottle of water with you on long flights or road trips.
  1. Plan ahead and keep race day stress free. We already feel anxious enough about race day. Being prepared and planning in advance can help alleviate unnecessary stress. If you’re flying to the event, bring all your race items in your carry on luggage; give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport so you don’t feel rushed. Know what you’re wearing on race day and have plans for your meals, especially the night before and the morning of the race. Start packing early so you don’t forget anything! Check out our Tinker Bell Half Marathon Packing Checklist for ideas on what to bring.
  1. This isn’t a final exam; don’t try to cram. Unlike a final exam, cramming for a race is not effective. If you procrastinated on training or missed a few long runs, don’t try to squeeze it all in this week. Get in a few short runs, but don’t over do it. You will just end up feeling sore and fatigued on race day.
  1. Visualize success. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself crossing the finish line on race day. Focus in on every single detail: the crowd, your outfit, Mickey, the California sun. What does it feel like? Try to feel those exact emotions as you visualize your success. Open your eyes. Did you dream it? Good. That means you can do it.

  1. Faith. Trust. Pixie Dust. Think happy thoughts. Believe in yourself and trust that your training is sufficient. Have faith that this race will be the best race ever and make it the best race ever! Also, start to hoard pixie dust so that you have it stockpiled on race day.

See you in Disneyland!

-Amanda

How to Perform a Proper Squat

IMG_8423The Runs in Tutus sisters are currently in the middle of training for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon which is coming up quickly on May 8th! Whenever we’re preparing for a race like this, training runs are absolutely crucial, but cross-training is just as important. Incorporating strength training, mobility work and even a different type of cardiovascular exercise can greatly improve your performance as well as minimize the aches and pains that arise during long distance runs.

Today I wanted to talk about one of the most functional strength exercises you can do: SQUATS. It’s a movement we perform again and again throughout the day every single time we stand up out of a chair. It’s also a great exercise choice for runners because it targets running-specific muscles such as glutes and hamstrings. Long distance running is a great way to increase muscular endurance, but it isn’t the most efficient way to build muscular strength. That’s where exercises like squats come in. Strengthening the muscles in the glutes and legs allows us to run faster, increases our stability and protects our joints. As an added benefit, the glutes are the body’s largest muscle group which means that it requires a lot of energy to use them. In other words, you burn lots of calories doing squats because your body is working hard to use those big booty muscles.

To perform a proper squat follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips
  2. Look straight in front of you, not at the ceiling or the floor
  3. Put your weight in your heels (you might want to try lifting your toes up off the floor at first to get the idea)
  4. Keep your midsection tight
  5. Push your hips back and bend your knees (push your butt back FIRST then bend your knees.) It’s a gross image but the best way to describe it is imagine you are using a public toilet and trying not to sit completely on the seat.
  6. Once you get to the bottom, drive through your heels, squeeze your butt and abs, and stand back up

There are a few common mistakes that you want to look out for.

  • Direction of your knees: You want to keep your knees in line with your feet. A common mistake is the knees caving in as you squat. Think about pushing your knees out to stay in line with your toes. Whether you have your toes facing completely forward or slightly turned out doesn’t really matter in my opinion, as long as your knees and toes align. But if you are a big time fitness nerd then you probably know there are a million different theories and opinions on this.

FullSizeRender

  • Position of the chest: Bring your shoulders down and back and try to keep your chest up. When you lean your chest forward, you are taking the weight off of where we want it and your glutes are doing less work. It’s also putting more stress on your lower back. If you’re having trouble squatting with your chest up, try just sitting onto a chair then standing back up until you get stronger.

FullSizeRender-2

FullSizeRender-3

  • Not driving your hips back: A lot of people will try to just bend their knees and not drive the hips back. When you do this, your heels will probably come up off the ground and your knees will trace way in front of your toes. This is not so great for your knees and it’s also pretty much taking your glutes out of it. Remember – butt back first!

FullSizeRender-1

So how low should you squat? This really depends on your flexibility and your body. A healthy range of motion is to squat until your thighs are parallel with the floor. If you can squat lower than that without compromising your form, then go for it because that’s even better.

FullSizeRender-6

If you can’t squat to parallel at first, don’t sweat it. You can still improve your strength by doing a small range of motion. Also remember that everyone’s squat is a little different. Here is one of my favorite stretches for opening up the hips to allow for a deeper squat. Make sure you keep the heels down just like you would in a squat.

FullSizeRender-4

My final advice is for anyone who feels intimidated by doing strength training at the gym, because I hear that all the time from friends and clients. Don’t be. Everyone at the gym is too busy worrying about themselves to care about what you are doing. Just get in there and do your thing. Channel your inner Mulan. You know she felt out of place at first, but then she saved China.

Go get ’em!

– Amanda

 

Free Printable Stickers: Star Wars Dark Side Inspired Badges

It’s almost 30 days until The Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side in Orlando. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a set of free printable Dark Side inspired stickers to commemorate the magical weekend. I’ve used printable “I did it!” stickers for princess training runs and commemorated the Disney Princess Half Marathon with some mermaid inspired stickers. It was very motivational to see all the stickers in my training planner. I figured fans of the Dark Side might also enjoy some planner sticker magic.

IMG_5777

Click here to download the stickers. The stickers include a badge for the 5K, 10k, 13.1, and 19.3 distances. There are also stickers numbered 1-12 to reward yourself for various training run distances. For extra magic, the set includes a PR sticker and blank stickers to customize with your personal accomplishments.

Directions for making stickers:

1. Print the file on white cardstock or sticker paper (Try Avery Sticker Paper)

2. Cut out the stickers

3. If you print the stickers on cardstock, use glue dots, tape, or adhesive of your choice to the back of the stickers

4. Put the stickers in your planner or training log to reward yourself for a job well done!

Side note: I also love the Xyron Sticker Maker. It’s super cheap and you can turn anything into a sticker – as long as it fits into the machine!

May the force be with you, runners! Good luck to all who are headed to The Dark Side Half Marathon!

-Christine

Frozen Themed Workout Inspired by Winter Storm Jonas!

Someone really made Elsa angry this week! If you live anywhere around the Northeast, you are currently stuck at home braving Winter Storm Jonas AKA “SNOWZILLA.”

12552979_10156785815690179_2480795075389632947_n

Photo courtesy of Washingtonpost.com

I’m in Washington, DC where we have over 20 inches of snow. I’m bored out of my mind, and I can’t get outside for a run. Instead of going insane, I decided to create a Frozen themed workout to embrace Elsa’s powers and eventually blow this snowstorm away. The whole workout takes about 10 minutes. It goes along with the soundtrack, or you can try it out while watching the movie! Good luck!

38073cd2-7bbb-4713-bc33-f9f1099ea8c5

For the First Time in Forever: Run in place for the duration of the song. Every time you hear Anna sing “for the first time in forever,” do a burpee! This will get your heart rate up for sure.

Let it Go: This is a booty track! Work out the glutes and get in some toning. Watch the video to get the exercises down then try it on your own! I guarantee your butt will start to burn right away.

Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People: Hold a plank for the entire song

photo-3

In Summer: Alternating lunges for the whole song. When you get to the bridge, hold a lunge on one side, then try to balance on one leg!

Stay safe in the storm everyone!

-Amanda

Free Printable “I DID IT” Stickers for Your Planner!

Confession: I dislike winter. The cold really bothers me, anyway. Between the early sunsets and cooler temps, I can find plenty of excuses to skip a run. We are currently training for the Glass Slipper Challenge and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, so I need to stay on top of my training!

I decided to make some printable princess and fairy stickers for my training log that say “I did it” to reward myself for completing my training runs and workouts, and keep me accountable during the cold winter training. I’ve been using them for about a week and so far so good. I figured I might as well share them here on the blog in case any of our readers also need some extra winter motivation.

Free printable "I did It" stickers for your planner or running log

CLICK HERE for Princess themed stickers

CLICK HERE for Tink themed stickers

Directions for making stickers:

  1. Print the file on white card stock or sticker paper. (Try Avery Sticker Paper)
  2. Cut out the stickers using a 1 inch circle punch, paper trimmer, or scissors.
  3. If you print the stickers on card stock, use glue dots, tape, or adhesive of your choice to the back of the stickers.
  4. Put the stickers in your planner or training log to reward yourself for a job well done!

Side note: I also love the Xyron Sticker Maker. It’s super cheap and you can turn anything into a sticker – as long as it fits into the machine!

Happy training!

-Christine

Advice for Runners from Physical Therapist Dr. Karen Bonney

karenWhen I started training for my first full marathon, my biggest concern was preventing injury and getting through the race safely. I wanted to cross the finish line feeling awesome – not like I was just hit by a bus. Because of this, I decided to schedule a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) with Dr. Karen Bonney at Elite Performance and Rehab in Washington, DC.

The Functional Movement Screening is an assessment tool to observe human movement through a ranking and grading system. It is performed by a licensed physical therapist like Dr. Bonney who is certified in FMS. Particularly useful for athletes, this screening technique allows your therapist to assess where your body is strongest and weakest in order to provide an optimal recovery program.

Even though I didn’t have any existing injuries at the time, this assessment was still extremely beneficial for me. By identifying the weak and strong areas in my body, I was able to recognize the more vulnerable muscle groups and therefore prevent injury before it even started. For example, I learned that I needed to perform more barefoot balance exercises in order to strengthen my feet and ankles. I highly recommend the FMS for both new and experienced runners!

Being the nerd that I am, I recently decided to pick Dr. Bonney’s brain a little further regarding injury prevention for runners. She shared some valuable information with me, and I’m very excited to share it with all of you.

1. What are some of the most common injuries you see in runners?

Running injuries vary across the spectrum, but I often see overuse foot and hip/back injuries. 

2. What can runners do to prevent these common injuries?

Runners can prevent these common injuries with the proper balanced workout routine each week. This routine has a combination of running, hip/core strengthening, flexibility and mobility.

Remember, foam rolling is an important part of mobility training. You can learn a little about foam rolling here. Also, check out this video for some great hip flexor stretch ideas. Hip flexors are notoriously tight for many long distance runners!

3. Is there any particular type of exercise you would recommend in addition to running to prevent injury?

There is no magic exercise, but I would highly encourage runners to make sure that there is in fact a strengthening component to their weekly workout routines.

Check out a few of our recommended strengthening exercises here.

4. When done safely and correctly, should long distance running be pain free or is it normal to feel aches and pains during long runs?

Even when your training is done safely and correctly, there is always room for aches and pains to creep in during long runs. I think the most important part is understanding the difference between “good pain” and “bad pain.”

  • Sharp, acute pain that continues to increase throughout the run – is not good.
  • Pain that travels, radiates up or down a body part – is not good.
  • Numbness or tingling that continues to increase throughout the run – is not good.
  • Pain that makes you change your running mechanics throughout the run – is not good.

 All of the above examples are reason to seek out guidance and/or an evaluation from your local Physical Therapist!

5. Do you have any advice for selecting the appropriate footwear?

Footwear is a complicated one but ultimately the latest research out there shows that REGARDLESS of your foot anatomy, your best bet is to make sure the footwear that you purchase is COMFORTABLE on your feet. It must feel good to you. Do not buy footwear with the notion that “you need to break it in” – that is just not true!

6. Who is your favorite Disney princess?
I love Goofy!!! 
goofy-word-search-420x420

Princess Goofy?

7. Anything else you would like to add? 

The most important advice I can give runners and all athletes is to make sure their weekly workout routines are balanced and thorough! When in doubt, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions!

Learn more about Dr. Karen Bonney at www.karenbonney.com or on her latest blog post through Active Life DC, http://activelifedc.com/elite-performance-and-rehab-physical-therapy-in-dc/116048

Contact Dr. Bonney (DrBonney@KarenBonney.com) with any questions or to schedule a Functional Movement Screen or initial evaluation! Follow her on Twitter @BonneyKaren.

Wishing you many successful and pain free runs!
-Amanda