February snow storms are sure to continue, despite our spring running training and racing goals. Winter activities such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing are excellent ways to build strength and cardiovascular fitness, while providing a much-needed break from running. It is very important, however, to condition our feet and lower legs for the impact of spring running. Ski boots provide more support and rigidity compared to running shoes. Combine increased foot and ankle support with a low impact descent on skis, and the stage is set for spring running injuries.

Running places unique eccentric demands on the musculature of our feet and lower legs. During an eccentric contraction, a muscle contracts in a lengthened position to resist an opposing force. Greater demand is placed on muscle and connective tissue (tendons) during eccentric contractions. Running freely down a rocky mountain trail requires eccentric muscle strength. Now is the time to prepare your body for running with a few simple, targeted drills to make you more durable when the snow and ice melt.

1. Heel Raises-Drops: Increase the tensile strength of the Achilles tendon and calf musculature to reduce tendinitis and muscle strain. Picture1

2. Quick Feet Drills: Rapid, low impact footwork to boost agility and balance.Picture2

3. Plyo-Hops: Build power and shock absorption capacity with powerful bounding hops and cat-like soft landings.Picture3

4. Split Squats: Slow eccentric loading in a squat position followed by a burst and weight shift for leg and core strength.Picture4

5. Runner Lunge Hops: Stabilize-Hop- Stabilize-Repeat sums up the runner lunge hop. Try holding your position for 5 seconds when you land the hop portion of the runner lunge.

As with all strengthening exercises, slow, intentional movement with an emphasis on form and balance should be primary. Sufficient gluteal, core, and extremity strength is necessary before attempting an eccentric strength-based exercise program. Contact the running injury prevention experts at Sapphire Physical Therapy with your specific training or running injury questions.

John Fiore, PT
Sapphire Physical Therapy

*As a reminder, Sapphire PT will be at the Runners Edge Thursday, February 2nd & Thursday, February 16th from 5:15-6pm to answer any questions you may have on running-related injury issues.