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How Your Work Can Impact Your Running, And How to Reverse It

Few people get to spend their days perfecting their sport. Instead, we balance long workweeks with our athletic ambitions.

OhioHealth sports medicine physician and Columbus Blue Jackets team physician Jason Dapore, DO, says runners of all levels often underestimate the impact of their day job on their running performance. If your job requires you to sit most of the day, your back, hamstrings, hips and glutes need extra attention to keep you in top condition.

Dapore says these muscles are the most powerful in your body, and there are steps you can take to make sure they stay that way. He covers the signs that they need more care, recommends exercises to add to your daily routine, and shares which specialists to turn to if you need more guidance.

Your squat is suffering

“The squat is one of the foundational exercises for runners and athletes,” says Dapore.

Start by testing your air squat form:

  • Your shins should be vertical.
  • Your hips should crease below the tops of your knees.
  • Your form should be sound and upright.

If you struggle with doing an air squat properly, you need to work on strengthening your hamstrings. Exercises that target your hamstrings include:

  • Banded hamstring curls
  • Box squats: Start with a taller box (or stack books on a chair), then decrease the elevation until your form is good at all heights.

Your muscles spasm

If you notice your hamstrings spasm when you lay down or exercise, that’s a sign they are tight and weak.

“If an athlete comes in and says that they’ve always had tight hamstrings, that tells me that they’ve always had weak hamstrings,” says Dapore.

Because hamstrings are such powerful muscles, you can’t lengthen them just by stretching. You have to add weight. Try weights with these exercises – they will boost your glute strength, too!

  • Squats
  • Good mornings
  • Romanian deadlifts

You have pain in your behind

If you run on tight hamstrings for many years, you may pay the price later in life as your gluteus medius tendon breaks down. When it tears and becomes inflamed, commonly known as runners butt or dead butt syndrome, it can cause pain that radiates around your hip and down your leg. It may be difficult to sit, walk and run.

You can avoid this syndrome by keeping your glute and hamstring muscles strong. Target your glutes when exercising with movements like:

  • Squats
  • Bridges
  • Lying-down leg lifts

And make sure you stay active throughout your workday. Take stretch breaks and short walks away from your desk, or try using a standing desk or a counter if you have one.

You have neck or back pain

Sitting for long periods of time with poor posture can make your midback stiff and unable to rotate as effectively. You may also experience neck pain.

Your back muscles stabilize and support your spine and pelvis when you run. If you have a strong back, your spring will also be stronger. A weak back will cause you to sway more and forces your leg muscles to overcompensate, which can lead to damage and injury.

Try performing an overhead squat. This will test your hip, core and midback coordination and mobility. If you struggle, you need to work on strengthening those muscles.

Exercises that can help include:

  • Bent-over rows
  • Banded pull-aparts
  • Pull-ups

“Work them into your day,” says Dapore. “For example, between conference calls, you can do four sets of 30 banded pull-aparts. Fight against that desk!”

Turn to specialists who can help you

Starting a new exercise or strengthening program is always more efficient when you have experts who can help pinpoint weaknesses, make recommendations and monitor your progress.

Dapore recommends starting with a local team that includes a physical therapist, strength coach and sports medicine physician. A great resource in central Ohio is the OhioHealth Runners Clinic, where we help runners of all levels improve performance. You can also look online for additional support. OhioHealth provides several Sports Medicine resources via our website and expert tips on the OhioHealth Blog.

“I also like the blog, How to be a Supple Leopard, Jill Miller’s Roll Model Method, and the Prehab Guys,” says Dapore.

Meet with different people and try out a few resources to decide what resonates with you most and who you connect with best. That’s the team you should build around you.

Take care of yourself

“Once you get into the half marathon or full marathon distances, you’ve jumped into professional grade running. So, treat yourself like a pro athlete,” says Dapore. “Get a professional team around you and dedicate times throughout your year for training, performing and active recovery.”

Schedule an off-season for a mental break. Maintain your cardiovascular fitness, but don’t over emphasize it at the detriment of your strength, mobility and overall musculoskeletal fitness.

Having a team of experts by your side can help your mobility, help you recover and keep you in optimal running and strength shape.

The OhioHealth Runners Clinic and OhioHealth sports medicine physicians are here for you! Visit OhioHealth Find A Doctor to find one near you.