Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Running Sideways!

By Todd Schemper, PT, DPT (Work Systems Rehab, P.C.; Des Moines, Iowa)

Why do we always run straight forward? Our bodies are designed to move in so many other directions. Running is a great activity. However the fact that we always run in the same plane of motion may be causing weakness patterns and overuse strains in our bodies. I am not recommending that we all start running sideways or backwards, but including cross-training, warm-up activities, or even tweaking to your running a few times during a workout may be a great way to help prevent injuries.

There are three main planes that our trunk, neck, legs, and arms move through. The sagittal plane is the plane that we run in, straight forward. This plane also includes movement that is backwards, as in walking backwards, or reaching straight behind your body for the baton in a relay race. The frontal plane is the second of the three planes. This plane includes all sideways motions, or movements like reaching to the side to grab a cup of water at an aid station during a race. Last is the transverse plane which includes all the rotation that our bodies are able to do. Examples of transverse plane movements are turning your head to look behind you and turning around the cone during an out and back race.

Since we mainly run in the sagittal plane our bodies may weaken in the frontal and transverse planes. As your body weakens you become less stable with not only movements in those planes but also in the sagittal plane. So what can you do about this potential problem?

One way is to cross-train with activities that incorporate frontal and transverse plane movements. Examples that come to mind are ultimate Frisbee, swimming, golfing, tennis, basketball, and weight lifting. Moving your body in different directions helps to keep your muscles balanced and strong in all planes of motion.

Other options for runners are running drills before or after a few of your runs each week. Ideas here include backwards running and lateral shuffle or crossover running, and even skipping, bounding, and kick butt drills are all great. Find a track, a quiet street, or a football field, and run each drill a few times for 50 meters.

If you are really wanting to get into multi-plane running and feel safe with the above drills, try throwing a few of them in during a run. Turn around and run backwards for a while. Shuffle sideways or run around a pole or tree (to the right and left). I have a friend who was passed in a marathon once by a guy running backwards, so there are some people who really take this seriously.

However you explore moving in the frontal and transverse planes within or alongside your running program, your body will thank you for targeting muscles and joints in a way that normal sagittal plane running will not. Enjoy running sideways!

Todd Schemper, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist, co-owner and clinic manager with Work Systems Rehab, P.C. in Des Moines. He enjoys running with his wife Denise, triathlon training/racing, and helping other runners stay injury free. Todd can be reached at (515) 309-4706 or todds@worksystemspc.com.

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