Category Archives: Guest blog

Five common running injuries…

Sooner or later, we all seem to deal with an injury, and sometimes they can become prolonged nagging nuisances. The following information was prepared by Chiropractor Dr. Elizabeth Douglas as a resource for runners to better understand some of the common injuries that they may face, how to treat them and more importantly, how to prevent them. Of course, it’s always important to consult your health professional of choice when making decisions about your body and any potential injuries you may have. There are many opinions on running injuries and the following is presented for informational purposes only.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=stretching&iid=5068665″ src=”8/0/8/4/Woman_in_running_c6ec.jpg?adImageId=10205690&imageId=5068665″ width=”234″ height=”299″ /]1. Achilles tendonitis: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon — a large tendon connecting the two major calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) to the back of the heel bone. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and is forced to work too hard causing it to become inflamed. If the inflamed Achilles continues to be stressed, it can tear or rupture.

Symptoms: Dull or sharp pain anywhere along the back of the tendon, usually close to the heel. Limited ankle flexibility, redness or heat over the painful area.


  • Tight or fatigued calf muscles (due to poor stretching, rapidly increasing distance, or over-training excessive hill running or speed work).
  • Inflexible running shoes.
  • Runners who over-pronate (feet rotate too far inward on impact).

Preventative measures:

  • Stretching of the gastrocnemius (keep knee straight) and soleus (keep knee bent) muscles.
  • Correct shoes should be worn — specifically motion-control shoes and orthotics to correct over-pronation.
  • Gradual progression of training program.
  • Avoid excessive hill training.
  • Incorporate rest into training program.
  • Address muscular imbalances early with the help of a health professional.

2. Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Pain and inflammation located on the outside of the knee due to continual rubbing of the band over part of the femur (thigh bone). The rubbing occurs during the bending and straightening motion of the knee and can result in irritation. Initially, a dull ache on the outside of the knee one to two kilometers into a run, with pain remaining for the duration of the run. The pain disappears soon after stopping running, later, severe sharp pain that prevents running. The pain is generally worse when running down hills, or sloped surfaces and may be present when walking up or down stairs. Iliotibial Band Syndrome can be the result of poor training habits, equipment and/or anatomical abnormalities.

Training habits:

  • Running on a banked surface.
  • Inadequate warm-up or cool-down.
  • Increasing distance too quickly or excessive downhill running.
  • Worn out shoes.
  • Over striding.

Abnormalities in leg/feet anatomy:

  • High or low arches.
  • Over-pronation of the foot.
  • Wide hips.
  • Uneven leg length.
  • Bowlegs or tightness about the iliotibial band.

Muscle Imbalance:

  • Weak hip abductor muscles.
  • Limited ankle flexion.


  • Change running shoes every 500 to 800 kilometres (300 to 500 miles), or every three to four months, when they have lost approximately 40 to 60 percent of their shock absorbing abilities. High mileage runners should have two pairs of shoes to alternate between, to allow 24 hours for the shock absorbing material to return to its optimal form. Do not underestimate the importance of good shoes in the prevention of many types of injuries. It’s worth the cost in the long run. Always slowly increase running mileage and if adding hills, do so gradually. Downhill running especially increases friction on the IT band as well as fatiguing the quadriceps, which are the main stabilizers of the knee.
  • Avoid training on uneven surfaces, as the down leg may be predisposed to ITBS.
  • After a run, cool down and stretch; ice if necessary.
  • Foam rollers can help keep the tissue mobile.
  • Strengthen stabilizers of your iliotibial band. Seek a health specialist for individual assessment of muscular imbalances.

The prognosis is generally good with appropriate treatment and correction of precipitating factors.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=knee+injury&iid=5245099″ src=”b/8/1/2/closeup_of_a_f15b.jpg?adImageId=10205344&imageId=5245099″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]3. Patello-femoral Pain Syndome (PFPS): Patello-femoral Pain Syndrom is a degenerative condition of the cartilage surface of the back of the knee cap, or patella. It procues discomfort or dull pain around or behind the patella. It is common in young adults, especially soccer players, cyclists, rowers, tennis players and runners. The condition may result from acute injury to the patella or from chronic friction between the patella and the groove in the femur through which is passes during motion of the knee.


  • Pain beneath or on the sides of the kneecap.
  • Crepitus (grinding noise), as the rough cartilage rubs against cartilage when the knee is flexed.
  • Pain is most sever after hill running.
  • Swelling of the knee.


  • Muscular imbalances — weakness of the quadriceps (specifically VMO), tight ITB, tight hamstrings, weak or tight hip muscles, tight calf muscles.
  • Over-pronation/over-supination.
  • Wide hips.

Preventative measures:

  • Stretching of the quadriceps, hamstring, ITB and gluteal muscles. Remember to stretch well before running, strengthening of the quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscles.
  • Correct shoes.
  • Orthotics to correct over-pronation.
  • Avoid excessive downhill running and cambered roads (stay on the flattest part of the road).
  • Gradual progression of training program.
  • Incorporate rest into training program.
  • Address muscular imbalances early with the help of a health professional.

4. Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome): The term “shin splints” refers to pain along the shinbone (tibia) — the largest bon in the front of your lower leg. The pain is the result of an overload on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone.

Pain or tenderness along the inside of the shin (usually about halfway down the shin) that may extend to the knee. Pain is most severe at the start of a run, but may disappear during a run, as the muscles loosen up. This is different to a stress fracture, where there is pain during weight bearing activities (walking, stair-climbing, etc.).


  • Inflexible calf muscles and tight Achilles tendon place more stress onto the muscle attachments.
  • Over-pronation.
  • Excessive running on hard surfaces such as concrete pavement.
  • Incorrect or worn shoes.
  • Overtraining or a rapid increase in training load or intensity.
  • Beginner runners are more susceptible to this problem for a variety of reasons, but most commonly due to the fact that the leg muscles have not been stressed in such a way before they started running.


  • Prepare for exercise/activities — understand what muscle groups will be used and slowly start conditioning them by strengthening them. Talk with a PM&R physician to determine the appropriate type of exercises.
  • Properly stretch muscles before running — muscles and joints need to warm up before beginning a run. Also be sure to allow for a “cooling down” period afterwards.
  • Use an appropriate running shoe — there are several brands and models of running shoes. Make sure you are using the type best suited for your feet and your running style. Running shoes should also be replaced regularly. Consult a specialty running store to choose an appropriate shoe.
  • Incorporate hard days and easy days into your training program — mileage should only be increased approximately 10 per cent each week. Runners should make sure to decrease their mileage slightly every third week as a way to allow for recovery prior to additional mileage increases. Runners should also be patient with their development, being careful not to push themselves too far or too fast.
  • Active Release Therapy (ART) or Soft Tissue Therapy can be used to correct muscular imbalances.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=sports+injury&iid=5167506″ src=”9/1/d/9/Closeup_of_a_3034.jpg?adImageId=10205489&imageId=5167506″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]5. Plantar fasciitis: An inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick fibrous band of tissue in the bottom of the foot that runs from the heel to the base of the toes. When placed under too much stress, the plantar fascia stretches too far and tears, resulting in inflammation of the fascia and the surrounding tissues. The tears are soon covered with scar tissue, which is less flexible than the fascia and only aggravates the problem.


  • Pain at the base o the heel or bottom of the foot.
  • Pain is most severe in the mornings on getting out of bed, and at the beginning of a run. The pain may fade as you walk or change running stride, in an attempt to alleviate the pain.


  • Stress, tension and pulling on the plantar fascia.
  • Inflexible calf muscles and tight Achilles tendons (placing more stress onto the plantar fascia).
  • Over-pronation (Feet rotate too far inward on impact).
  • High arches and rigid feet.
  • Incorrect or worn shoes.
  • Overtraining.

Preventative measures:

  • Stretching of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Repeat stretches two to three times per day. Remember to stretch well before running and to stretch the plantar fascia.
  • Place a golf ball under the foot, and roll the foot over the ball. Start with the ball at the base of the big toe, and roll the foot forwards over the ball, then back again. Move the ball to the base of the toe and repeat. Always exert enough pressure so that you feel a little tenderness.
  • Correct shoes.
  • Orthotics to correct over-pronation (can try taping to see if this provides relief prior to orthotics).
  • Active Release Therapy (ART) or Soft Tissue Therapy to calf musculature.

For more information on stretching, or to learn different stretches to help prevent some of the above injuries, check out Runner’s World’s page on stretching here.


Running for cancer survivors: a journey to wellness

Claire was the 2:15 pace bunny for the Mississauga Half Marathon in 2006

As a running instructor for the Running Room and Nike, I have taught numerous beginner clinics, but none have touched my heart and soul more than the Breast Cancer Survivor Clinics. As we all go on our weekly long runs, and pass runners on Toronto’s numerous paths, we assume that everyone who is running must be healthy.

This is not always so.

I have been privileged to teach three Breast Cancer Survivor Clinics on behalf of the Running Room, which are tailored to women who have had cancer, although I have not had cancer myself. As with any running clinic, we embark on a nine-week journey to increase their fitness level; this is a wellness clinic for thrivers. As a group they learn about fitness, but most of all, they build self-esteem and a network of fast friends. Cancer survivors share a powerful bond, which coupled with a common goal of the 5K Run for the Cure makes for a magical experience.

The students at these courses are as diverse as you can imagine — ranging from age 30 to 70. Some have only recently completed treatments, while others have been in remission for over a decade. These ladies bravely face a wide array of health challenges, ranging from depleted energy, to depression, to lymphedema, to weight management. While some cancer patients suffer from weight loss due to drug therapies and treatments, a great number experience weight gain.

The sessions begin like most other clinics, with a little lecture on a wellness topic followed by a group run/walk. The lectures focus on topics ranging from nutrition, speed walking and injury prevention, to oncology-related topics such as cancer support resources and the effect of lymphodema on exercise. These clinics are particularly individualized, with some students walking the entire nine weeks, while others take on the traditional run/walk format. Everyone is welcome to proceed at their own pace, and each and every lady’s accomplishments are applauded, whether they manage to walk five blocks or run five kilometres.

While some instructors enjoy teaching marathoners who are striving to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I love teaching cancer patients who are brave enough to take that first step out the door. My personal philosophy is that teaching running and walking clinics is an honor. I have never met a student who didn’t teach me more than I taught them. It takes a deep inner strength to combat cancer, and when I ask my students whether they are nervous about entering their first race, they always reply, “How hard could it be after chemo?” My role as an instructor is to lead, encourage, inform, listen, smile, and inspire, but frankly it’s my students who do that for me every day.

As you head out the door this week for your long run, wondering whether you can manage that nagging hamstring, and whether you have brought enough Gatorade with you, just think — how would I feel if I were worrying about my next round of chemotherapy instead? Embrace each and every run as a blessing. Wave to every child you see in a stroller. Smile at everyone you pass, you never know what they are going through.

About Claire:
Claire Colle has completed four marathons and 12 half-marathons in her running career. She has been a running instructor with the Running Room since 2005, coaching Learn to Run, 5k and Breast Cancer Survivor clinics. She was the instructor for the 2009 Nike 10k Cancer Survivor Walking Clinic and teaches group cycling classes four-times a week at GoodLife Fitness Clubs. She has her RPM Les Mills certification for cycling, Schwinn cycling instructor and Can-fit-pro certification. By day, Claire is a Marketing Manager at IBM and a mother of two teenage sons.

Yoga for runners…

I’m excited to present today’s guest blogger Christine Felstead — creatrix of yoga for runners. Those who know me, know that in addition to running, my other love is yoga. I recently had the pleasure of attending one of Christine’s yoga for runners classes at the Downward Dog Yoga studio in the Beaches, which I’ll write about in a future post. Today’s post is an article Christine wrote for The Fartlek Runner on the benefits of yoga to runners. Enjoy!:

Runners love to run – and so they should! Running is a fabulous sport that invigorates the body and mind. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a runner’s long, rhythmic stride, seeing the look of determination and focus on their face, and feeling their euphoria and sense of freedom that comes with every step.

The lucky ones — those who are structurally symmetrical and balanced — can enjoy years of running with minimal discomfort. But many of us aren’t in this elite category, and yet we still want to enjoy the benefits that running offers. Running affects the body through its repetitive use of the same muscles. Every sport or activity involving repetitive movement carries its own set of potential issues. Note the classic modern day overuse symptoms of lower back/shoulder stiffness and carpal tunnel strain from sitting for extended periods of time at a computer

While running, specific muscles in the legs, hips and feet are used in continuous repetition and become overused. Overused muscles will shorten from being in a constant state of contraction. Without opportunity to restore length to these muscles, they will continue to shorten and eventually restrict and even limit the range of motion of related joints, creating misalignment in the body that in turn makes one more prone to injury. While each body is unique, it is safe to say that runners are susceptible to tightness in the hamstrings, hips and lower back. Initial soreness may be a warning that something is out of alignment. Rarely will the issue go away simply by “running through it”. Moreover, taking time off running may cause the acute pain to subside, but once you’re back on the road, it’s very common for the injury to flare back up. Unless the initial muscle imbalance that caused the injury is treated, the same injury will reoccur.

Yoga is a perfect complement to running because it works to restore balance and symmetry to the body. However, while the stretching is such a key part of the benefits of yoga for runners, there are also tremendous benefits related to strength, lung capacity and mind/body centering. Benefits of yoga for runners include:

Strengthening: Improves strength in core and upper body and also in leg muscles that are not used in running (e.g., adductors, gluteus).

Lung Capacity: The conscious breath work that is practised in yoga can also increase lung capacity.

Mind/Body: The meditative aspects of yoga are well known, however many of us don’t immediately relate this to the meditative aspects of running. Especially during longer runs and/or races, the requirement to remain focused, calm and tuned to the body is key. Running is meditation in motion!

For the casual, avid or competitive runner, the benefits can include:

  • Improved running times
  • Feeling better while running
  • Less aches and pains
  • Nagging injuries that heal and do not recur
  • Reduce risk of new injuries

Now that you have been convinced of the benefits of yoga for runners, and perhaps interested in giving it a try, you may be scratching your head wondering where to start. If you live in Toronto you have a plethora of yoga resources at your fingertips – like Starbucks, yoga studios are everywhere. While all forms of yoga are good, I also encourage you to try one of my yoga for runners classes. These classes are tailored to the needs of runners and many students feel more comfortable knowing they are in the class with others that are equally stiff. I offer a range of workshop and drop-in classes across the Greater Toronto Are — for more details, please visit my website.

For those that prefer to practise yoga on your own, there is a yoga for runners DVD that is tailored to runners and provides the basics so you can start feeling the positive effects right away.

Kick off the new year with some yoga for runners – your body will thank you!

Christine Felstead has more than 20 years experience as a marathon and road race runner and used to run with the Metro Central Silver Runners. She has been practising yoga for 14 years and has been a yoga instructor for the past eight. Focusing primarily on runners and endurance athletes, Christine’s work with runners teaches them to incorporate yoga as an effective means of cross training, helping to keep them healthy and on the road.

Confessions of a winter runner…

Today’s post is a guest post by Allison Larsh, who was profiled on The Fartlek Runner’s Toronto Runner series.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=winter+running&iid=4510111″ src=”c/4/4/f/Unusual_Arctic_Cold_9f97.jpg?adImageId=8569166&imageId=4510111″ width=”380″ height=”248″ /]  You know the one thing that really kills me about summer days? That everyone else loves summer days. You go out for a run —say on a trail by a certain valley — and soon enough you realize that everyone (and their dog!) had the exact same idea. All of a sudden, escaping for a bit of solitude during a run is a little bit harder to do. But, switch the calendar a few months and I’m singing a different tune. I can run the 7.5 km loop without seeing a single other person. It’s me, the trail, and the sub-zero temperatures.

That’s right. My name is Allison and I’m a winter running fanatic.

First, let me get a few things I don’t like about running out of the way. These things are pet peeves, and it’s probably too early in our relationship to tell you about them because I’m afraid I’m going to come off as, well, a bit of a bitch. But, here it goes. I don’t like dodging people on the sidewalk, especially when they are on my half of the sidewalk. And I don’t like to be hot and sweaty. Also, I’m pale, and let’s face it, this skin was not made for the sun. And last, I run to be by myself. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy running with friends, because I truly do. But, a lot of the time, I run to get into a better headspace, my headspace, without interruptions. I know, this is making me sound cranky, it’s just that running really is my alone time.

The thing that people don’t seem to realize is that running is actually more comfortable in the winter. I know, it sounds crazy, but hear me out. It’s a summer day — let’s say a balmy twenty degrees centigrade. You go out, tank top and shorts, and you start out feeling fine. Then you knock out a few kilometers, and your internal temperature rises a few degrees. After 10 km, you’re outright hot. If it’s humid, your legs have started to feel heavy and every step feels a little bit harder than it should. This doesn’t happen when it’s cold. Instead, you start out a bit uncomfortable. But, throw on a hat, some winter leggings, a wind proof jacket with a soft under, and some mittens, and for the vast majority of the run, you’re… wait for it… comfortable. Last night, the Weather Network told me it felt like -14. Well, I’d like to argue. After 2K, it felt more like perfection.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=winter+running&iid=3429676″ src=”0/9/1/2/Germany_Hit_By_c388.jpg?adImageId=8568324&imageId=3429676″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]Of course, there are some problems that I haven’t quite sorted out yet. For instance, I am not happy with how early it gets dark. And some days, with the wind chill it really is just too cold. But for the most part, I promise, once you get out there, you will wonder why it took you so long. There are days where the snow is fresh and the sun is shining and it will more than match that beautiful fall day or that perfect summer afternoon. One of the best things about living in Toronto is living in a city with four seasons. Winter is definitely one of our most, ahem, talked about. It’d be a shame to write it off without testing it out first. When you come home and pull off that ice encrusted toque and peel away the layers to settle into a bath, you’ll be proud of yourself for adding a little bit more of a challenge to that tempo run, or that speed work, or that long run. It will make you feel more confident in your running and more optimistic about what you, yes you, can do as a runner.

There’s certainly something hardcore about running in the winter. I don’t usually wave at runner’s during the summer (those fair weather runners!). In the winter though, I smile and sometimes even say “hi”. You can’t ignore the feeling of understanding. That is, in a nut shell, what I love about winter running. I don’t run to spend time with other people. I run because I love to run. When I see other runners, especially in the winter, I am struck by a feeling of community, and it always makes my run just a little bit better.

Oh, I almost forgot the absolute best thing: all that winter running gear totally hides any and all jiggling. Promise.

You can hear form Allison on her blog at