Running – A Physiotherapy Perspective – by Andre Le Leu

Personally, there is no better feeling then when I hit my ‘second wind’, I find myself drifting into a day dream, my breathing has finally steadied, and my legs seems to work without me thinking about it.  I feel free to glide through the rest of my run without that sense of pain or fatigue, then there is the euphoria which brings me back to running time after time.  The science, behind the ‘second wind phenomena’ comes when the body releases a large about of endorphins into the system in response to stress.  Endorphins are our bodies natural morphine supply, and yes we all crave them.  You can stimulate endorphin release in a number of ways such eating chocolate, taking a hot bath, or laughing with friends.  The ‘second wind’ phenomena however, gives you that double bonus of feeling great and pushing the body to work off that extra latte.


Here are some basic tips to optimise your running experience and hopefully reduce the risk of some of the more common injuries. The first bit is to target the calf complex and yes there are two muscles involved here, the soleus which helps us to balance and stand up all day and the gastrocnemius that helps us to sprint or jump.  A quick test to check the length of the calf muscle is to try a knee to wall test.


There should be no more than ½ an inch difference between the two legs. If there is a big difference then you need to work at stretching out the tight side, otherwise your stride may become uneven. 


Next for the hamstrings, these are a really important muscle group as they help us to stop quickly as well as improving rotational control of the knee.  A progressive strengthening program in the ‘off season’ has become the main-stay of most professional sports, so it must be useful for all of us to take time to train them up!


The final muscle group is the gluteus maximus (bum), this is the power house of the body and is critical to our ‘core stability’ and limb alignment. Not only does the glut stabilise the hip and spine but is also absorbs the impact energy from the feet hitting the pavement.  A quick test to check the balance and strength of the gluteus maximus is to perform a single leg hip thrust.  The effort and co-ordination of the movement should be the same on both legs, if one side is more difficult than the other then you can use this movement as a training exercise or seek professional advice.


By Andre Le Leu – Physiotherapist


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