These Issues Can Increase Your Risk of Injury and Ruin Your Chances of Achieving Your Running Goals

single leg stand assessment

Hello Runners,

Last week my friend Sam and I were doing our weekly easy run together in beautiful Chautauqua Park (photo of Chautauqua Park) and we get talking about a common injury we’ve both had, plantar fasciitis. Several years ago, this condition kept me from running for nine months. This injury really hit Sam, an ultradistance runner, at the end of last year and he is continuing to struggle with it now. Recently, this injury has crept up on me again, since I haven’t been as diligent with my strengthening exercises and recovery.

During our conversation, Sam mentioned that he had recently met with massage therapist, Josh Shadle with TRI-Massage ( Josh provided some deep tissue massage, for muscles that were tight and plantar fascia, and he assessed that Sam needed to strengthen his glutes and provided some exercises to help Sam.

Weak glutes and outer hips muscles are a common issue among runners. One of the big reasons is that we sit on our butts for hour after hour, day after day. Having weak glutes and outer hip muscles is a problem because when we run we don’t have sufficient strength to stabilize the leg when we have one foot on the ground. As a result, the hip and then the rest of the leg internally rotates (basically inward collapsing of the hip, knee, and ankle) leading to overpronation of the foot. As this is repeated, we significantly increase our chances of developing plantar fasciitis, iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, and issues with the knee, including patellofemoral syndrome. Yikes!

Over the next couple of blogs I will discuss assessments for areas commonly weak in runners, and ways to functionally strengthen these areas to help you minimize the risk of developing the aforementioned injuries. Also, increasing glute strength, as well as core strength, will also increase your power and allow you to run faster.

Assessments for Glute and Outer Hip Muscle Strength

One way to assess glute and outer hip muscle strength is to assess it statically. That is, while not running.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand without shoes, preferably in bare feet
  • Put your hands on your hips
  • Stand with your right foot on the floor and raise your leg off the floor in front of you until the upper leg is approximately parallel with the ground
  • Relax the shoulders and look straight ahead
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds, have someone recording (video) you as you are standing
  • Repeat on the left leg
  • Then repeat bringing the leg in back of you until the lower leg is approximately parallel with the floor (this will probably be a little easier)

How did you do? Were you solid as a rock with your one foot on the floor, or was it a struggle?

If you weren’t able to stay steady for 30 seconds, your glutes and outer hip muscles are either weak and/or not been properly activated.

In the next post, I will discuss what you can do to strengthen the glutes, so that you can be more stable on one foot, and prevent injuries from occurring while you run.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,




Jay Dicharry. Anatomy for Runners. Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2012.

Richard Hansen. “Injuries” Sports Medicine Clinic, Boulder, CO, February 2015.


Have Fun with a 5k Early in Your Marathon Training

Hello Runners,

I encourage you to consider running a 5k in your first two months of half- or full-marathon training. I found an organization called Park Run ( that does local free 5ks throughout the year.

First, running a 5k can be a nice change from the normal routine of weekend long runs, which your body and mind will greatly appreciate! If you do most, or all of your training alone, a 5k will be a great opportunity to be around and connect with other runners. In addition, being in a race environment can be motivating and inspiring and help you enjoy and appreciate your training more.

Also, a 5k early on in your training can be a great way to determine your baseline fitness. Your performance from your 5k race can be used to predict your performance in a future half- or full-marathon, depending on your training for the next 12-16 weeks. This training will need to include long runs and other workouts that appropriately stress your aerobic system, such as progression and threshold runs.

Your pace for a 5k can be used to determine paces for your training runs by using prediction calculators. I use races and prediction calculators with almost all of the runners I coach, to tailor their workouts, so they are getting the most benefit, while training at paces that are most appropriate for them.

There are several online calculators that can be used including:

However, you need to use these intelligently in predicting your future half- or full-marathon pace. This includes taking 5-10 seconds off your 5k time and then plugging into the predictor calculator. Keep in mind this is a projected pace for these events, and certainly not a pace you would run these events at now. After all, you won’t have done long runs much more than 8-12 miles at this point.

You should aim for a negative split in your 5k. That is to run the last half of the 5k faster than the first half. The easiest way to accomplish this is to keep a consistent pace for the first three miles and then speed up for the last 200 meters or tenth of a mile. Also, Coach Jay Johnson, in his book Simple Marathon Training, recommends running the first mile very conservatively, including running the first half mile at a pace that is challenging, but comfortable. He says don’t worry about those people who pass you because most of them will be running a positive split (slower second half of the 5k). He suggests a negative split race is a better predictor of your aerobic fitness than a positive split race.

Make sure you recovery well from your 5k. You should perform a cooldown after the 5k, including walking and then stretching/foam rolling. Also, I recommend a brisk walk or other low to moderate cross-training the next day for approximately 30 minutes. You may want to take the following day off from running completely before resuming your running.

So, go out and enjoy a 5k!

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,




  • Simple Marathon Training, Jay Johnson.

First Steps To Achieving Your Running Goals for 2019!

June 9 2018 pic 1 distant goal

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  – Lao Tzu

Hello Runners,

Happy New Year! I hope that 2018 was a great year for you. If so, and even if not, I hope you a looking forward to an amazing 2019. I know that I certainly am! This year is my 35th year of running and I will be training to improve upon my marathon PR, with the ultimate goal to break 3 hours. My plan is to run a late summer or early fall marathon and will begin training next week. I plan to use the first couple of months of training for fitness training, before I transition into marathon-specific training, since I took about three weeks off from running while recently visiting New Zealand, which was awesome!

This fitness training will allow me to build my aerobic base and focus more on my running form (running economy) to make myself an efficient runner. The emphasis for my marathon-specific training will be to continue improving my running economy and aerobic fitness and then to build speed.

Depending on your goals and current fitness level, you may not need to train as long, however, if you have taken some significant time off from running, or if you are a beginner who is planning to complete your first marathon, you might consider taking at least 1-3 months to progressively build your aerobic fitness before engaging in marathon-specific training. I also strongly recommend performing strengthening exercises that will help you improve your form and minimize the risk of injury.

Next week, I will begin daily posts of what I did for my training, as well as recommendations and tips. You can access these posts at under Blog Posts. For those who opted in through my website to receive emails with tips and recommendations, I will send weekly summaries, so that you are not being constantly bombarded with emails! However, you can also access the daily posts, as I just mentioned. The tips and recommendations can help guide you to improve your running performance, although you may consider a more customized training program to meet your specific needs.

I believe the beginning of each year is a great time to assess your health, fitness, and running form. This is a great time to meet with your physician, if you haven’t recently, to assess for cardiovascular disease risk factors, hormone and various vitamin and mineral levels.  Assessing these can help you identify any areas that may need addressing, so that you can maximize your running performance and your health.

I strongly recommend the following post for guidelines on what assessments to do before you begin your training for this year:

I want to talk a little bit more about iron and vitamin D, which I mentioned in the articles above, since these are commonly low in runners, and so vital for performance and health.


  • Why it’s important
    • Iron is a primary component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your exercising muscles for energy production to allow you to run
    • Thus, iron levels can affect running performance
  • What test(s) are best to assess iron levels?
    • Serum ferritin test
    • Tissue-mineral analysis, very accurate, but very expensive!
  • What do I do if my iron levels are low?
    • You should discuss your test results with your physician, and if your levels are low discuss supplementation options with your physician
  • What should you consider as far as selecting a supplement
    • Most important factors are safety, absorption, and effectiveness
    • Choose natural forms: ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous sulfate, NOT the ferric forms of these
  • What type of supplements are best?
    • I recommend a whole food as opposed to a synthetic supplement
    • Whole food supplements will display: “100% Whole Food”, “From Whole Food Source”, “Naturally Occurring Food Sources”, “Food-Based” or something similar
    • Beware! “Natural” does not mean whole food based and is often primarily synthetic
  • Why are whole food supplements better?
    • Generally, more effective and safer than synthetic supplements
    • You get a better balance of nutrients and synergistic effects, which are better for your health and performance
  • Are there health issues with high iron levels?
    • Yes, so you should be tested and discuss supplementation with your physician before taking any iron supplements
    • High levels of iron are toxic and can lead to heart disease
  • Who doesn’t need an iron supplement?
    • Generally, men and postmenopausal women because body’s stores are high enough

Vitamin D:

  • Why it’s important
    • Affects all aspects of health including: bone health, maintains nervous system, heart function, normal blood clotting, fights colds and flus, plays an important role in cancer prevention
  • What test is best to assess Vitamin D levels?
    • 25 hydroxycholecalciferol (yes this is a mouthful and not super easy to say!) test
  • Best source
    • Production in the skin when contacted by the sun’s UVB rays
    • This is a problem though in most areas of the U.S. during the winter months because it’s impossible to get enough UVB exposure then, therefore you will most likely need to supplement during winter months
  • What do I do if my Vitamin D are low?
    • You should discuss your test results with your physician and if your levels are low discuss supplementation options with your physician, especially for the winter months
  • Should I supplement all year around?
    • Probably not, because your body can most likely produce enough vitamin D from sun exposure, except for the winter months. Again, you should discuss this with your physician
    • For the non-winter months you should get enough vitamin D as long as you are getting about 10-15 minutes of sun exposure at noon or early afternoon at least twice per week on the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen
  • What are the best supplements for Vitamin D?
    • Food-based which specifically say vitamin D, mixed form of vitamin D, or primarily vitamin D3 (active form of vitamin D)
    • Probably the best is high quality cod liver oil (although not super yummy), although be weary of mercury toxicity
    • Another option is a vitamin D-only supplement, I usually take the one by Thorne Research (vitamin D3/K2). You can check, which is a great source for quality of supplements (they do charge $35 per year)
    • You should take any vitamin D supplement with food, especially fat to help with absorption
  • Are there health issues with high vitamin D levels?
    • Yes, so you should be tested and discuss supplementation with your physician before taking a vitamin D supplement
    • High levels of vitamin D have been associated with certain cancers

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.  Next, we’ll talk about running shoes and attire, as well as running in the cold and wind.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,



-              Beyond Training by Ben Greenfield. Victory Belt Publishing, Inc. 2014.

-              Super Nutrition Academy, Yuri Elkaim (Registered Holistic Nutritionist)


All the information presented in this blog post is for educational and resource purposes only.  It is there to help you make informed decisions about health-related fitness issues.  It is not a substitute for any advice given to you by your physician.  Always consult your physician or health care provider before beginning any exercise program or taking any supplementation.  Use of the advice and information contained in this blog post is at sole choice and risk of the reader.

Coach Brian Hand has no ties or investments in Thorne Research and does not receive any form of compensation for mentioning Thorne Research or their products in this blog post.