Run to the Top Podcast – How to Change Your Perspective: Pain is Your Ally; Not Your Enemy

 In Running

Recently Brad Beer was a return guest on the Run to the Top Podcast with Tina Muir, Runners Connect.  During the podcast Physical Therapist, Brad Beer, discusses injuries, rehab, and listening to your pain.

Listeners will get some great information on how to assess your pain; when it’s time to take a break and structure an off-season; and pacing yourself on the road to recovery. Brad understands not only the physiological aspect of injury, but the emotional and psychological effects of having to sit out races. As such, he has become one of the most sought after practitioners in the physiotherapy field.

In the episode Brad discusses:

  • How to assess your pain and know when to take a break
  • Traits to look for in a medical professional
  • The Boston Marathon and how to emotionally and physically handle the stress of missing out on races
  • Activating your gluts
  • How to strengthen your quads
  • Pacing yourself for recovery
  • Structuring an off-season
  • The most important step on the road to recovery
  • The best advice Brad ever received and his best advice for new runners

You can listen to the Podcast here

You can listen to the Podcast on iTunes here


Brad: “If the pain gets more than a 3 out of 10 on a self-reported scale, 10 being the worst pain and 0 being no pain, then go gently. If it gets more than a 5 out of 10 pain, then that’s really your body saying, “Hey. Right now, I’m not happy to be running.”
Speaker 2: Welcome to the Runners Connect Run to the Top Podcast where it’s all about learning from the best and most inspiring minds in the sport. Together, we can train a smarter, healthier and faster running community. Now, here’s your host, Tina Mieur.
Tina: Hello. This is Tina Mieur. Thank you so much for joining me for the latest episode of the Run to the Top Podcast brought to you by Runners Connect. This is Boston Week. Actually, when this goes live, Boston would have been just a few days ago. I cannot predict the future to tell you what happened, but I thought this could be a great week to have something special. Then also I decided this would be a week to focus on injuries because I’m sure even though there’s been a lot of successes and a lot of great races, there’s probably a lot of people listening right now, or maybe you’ve been in the situation in the past, where you did have good intentions for a race but you never quite made it there because of an injury.
I was thinking about who I can bring on to talk about injuries. Then it came to my mind of just how popular my previous guest, Brad Beer, his episode was. Now he has written the book “You Can Run Pain Free!” We featured Brad in a previous episode. I thought it’d be great to bring him on the show but maybe have him answer your questions particularly about injuries. I did ask for some feedback and I did get some great questions and I did, I did manage to answer those, but I also looked into questions that we often have at Runners Connect. Hopefully, you enjoy this episode. Brad is a great guy. If you didn’t listen to the previous one, make sure you go back and check it out.

After we hear a word from our sponsor, we will get right to the questions.

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Hello there. My friend, Brad, how are you doing today?

Brad: Good day, Tina. I am very well, thanks. It’s part 2?
Tina: Yeah, part two. Definitely. Brad and I are back. We did have a previous episode which you can find … I will put it on a link in the show notes. Brad is here with me today to answer some questions about injuries, about the emotional aspects of running. At the end, we’re going to have some questions that you guys have submitted. I just thought this would be a great episode to hear back from Brad, how he’s doing, as this was such a popular episode. You can actually also get the chance to win some books which we’re going to talk about later in the episode. Brad, can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to? I don’t think when we did this last podcast you didn’t even run New York. If you want to share about that and then whatever you want to tell us otherwise.
Brad: Yeah, certainly. We spoke, Tina, on the eve, so to speak, of me going in New York to run my first New York marathon. That was an experience and a half. I was fortunate to be placed in the sub-elite field so I was hoping for a really good result and hopefully a PB run. It didn’t quite go that way. I had a good run. Was sort of at 8 minutes off, I was off the time I was after and ended up with hypothermia at the end. That was the worst I’ve ever had it. The hypothermia was due to massive fluid loss. That was secondary to what I now realise is a bit of a salt problem. Tina, I couldn’t leave the recovery area for 90 minutes because I was a cold, shivering mess.
Tina: Which probably seems funny now that you’re sitting there. Brad is currently in what 30, 40 degree weather, Celsius?
Brad: Yeah. It’s Queensland summer, although I think now it’s the last week or it’s just passed us by, but yeah it was sort of 30 something degrees here in Queensland, Australia. Quite the contrast. Tina, in terms of an event and experience, certainly something that I will not quickly forget. That was New York Tina. and then back to Australia, back into the physio groove more or less straight away. I have been looking after a lot of runners and all the other stuff I do at the practice and getting ready for the year ahead. I’ve been running a few cross-country events and I’ve got my eyes focused on a marathon mid-year this year. In July, the Gold Coast Airport Marathon here in my home city of the Gold Coast.
Tina: You have been hard at work trying to convince me to do that one. Not that I need much convincing, but someday I would like to. Brad has been working very hard on pushing that out there for me. It’s definitely a seed in my mind now and that seed is growing every time I talk to you. I love that you managed to get that in there again.
Brad: It’s the middle of winter and I’m such a big fan. I think it rivals the Melbourne Marathon here in Australia, that’s about 30,000 competitors each and just such a great buzz. It’s the middle of winter so fast time. Middle of winter for the Gold Coast probably about 10 degrees in the morning. Beautiful, crisp sunny days and great times. To be continued Tina, I’ll keep at you until you race it.
Tina: Yeah, we’ll see when it happens. How about the book? How is “You Can Run Pain Free” going? Is it selling well? We had our 5 winners and I know they’ve been enjoying it, but how’s that been going?
Brad: Tina, thank you. It’s been a great ride and a very satisfying one professionally to get contacted online, social media, off the back of people reaching off the book sharing great, positive stories, around their success in implementing the 5 steps. One of the things that really warms my heart after writing the book is how much people have resonated with the first section of the book, which is my story where I just candidly shared my journey of injury and the mental challenges that went with that. Most of all that’s been the thing that people have commented about is, “Wow! It’s nice to know that that’s a very real thing. I thought that it was just me that felt that way when I was injured.”
So Tina, that’s been really nice to connect with people. Funny story. One of the books that was … One of the winners from last episode or the last time we spoke when we gave some books away, she got that book, she was in Melbourne, Australia and she knew of a dear friend of hers who was really in the lows after a running injury, and she’d had some serious health challenges on top of the running injury. She said to this girl, “You need to go and see this guy, this physio in Queensland. He really gets runners.” This girl said, “Actually, I’m already seeing him.” I just thought that was a beautiful little example of how small the world is and how connected we all are.
Tina: That is cool. There are so many instances of that, but that’s a pretty good one right there. Cool. Great. Today I would like to go into 3 different areas as I mentioned. I thought I would start off with the big one which is injuries, which is what most people are curious about and this first part may take a little bit of time. I thought it would be good to go through this when it comes to pain as we are used to, and running through pain, and if you stopped every time your mind said stop, you would never make it through a race. Part of running is pushing through that pain barrier mentally. How do you know which pains to run through and which pains you should stop right away, or which ones you should give it a little bit of time and stop if it still hurts? Quite a loaded question, I know.
Brad: Tina, great question. No, no great question and I’m pleased to clarify this. There’s a distinction between pain of injury and the pain of exertion. You get quite a few wise quips at time, or I’ve had about “You Can Run Pain Free.” Really every time I run I’m in pain. I know people, they recognise the difference but it is probably worth explicitly stating. The pain of exertion is that pain that we all feel whether we are racing a 5k, running a 5k, running a marathon or ultra. There’s still that exertional output which we really know as pain, but it is a different pain.
Then there’s the pain of injury, which is the pain of a number of running injuries that can exist. I guess to answer your question how do you know when to push on versus know when to rest. I do write extensively about this at the back of the run pain free book, which is the section on the power of rest, and in there I share some key criteria that help runners determine whether they should run on or stop. There’s a whole bunch but one of the main ones is if the pain gets more than a 3 out of 10 on a self-reported scale, 10 being the worst pain and 0 being no pain, then go gently.
If it gets more than a 5 out of 10 pain, then really your body is saying, “Hey, right now, I’m not happy to be running.” At that point I would recommend having a day off, having 2 days off. I like to talk about the single leg hop test which is hopping on one leg, anywhere from half a dozen to 20 to 30 times. If that pain is still there on doing that and you can’t hop because of the pain, then really going out and running again is not going to serve you well so having another day off and repeat it again. Look after 2 or 3 days, Tina if that niggle or pain is still there then it’s worth consulting your local professional.
Tina: Then is that the same with every kind of pain or is it sharp pains are a definite no? There’s different, there’s aching pains, sharp pain, there’s a gradual tight pain. Is it the same with each of those?
Brad: The structure that’s irritable will determine the nature of the pain is its experience. Sharp pains point towards certain structures being involved. Dull aches point to other structures being involved. It’s a consistent rule that if the pain is more than a 5 out of 10, you need to take care and irrespective of whether it’s a sharp pain or a dull, it’s still greater than that halfway mark then it needs to be treated the same. You can’t generalise and say, “Hey, ignore the sharp pains but pay heed to the dull aches, or the strong aches and vice versa.”
Tina: What about if it was a 5 out of 10 for the first 10 minutes and then it eases off. Is that the same thing?
Brad: Good question. That instance would be common with tendons, the patella tendon, achilles tendon, even the gluteus medius in the side of the hip or the tibialis posterior. One of those tendons will behave where it’s yucky to start with and then it warms up and feels a bit better. It still applies because your body’s still saying, “Right now, at the start of this run and for a period of time I’m not feeling very good.” Pushing on and ignoring that without some intervention can only go 1 way and it’s down a southward trail. That’s my advice on that.
Tina: What are your thoughts on if it feels like 8 during the run but then when you finish maybe later that day or the next morning then it’s pretty sore. Is that an indicator that maybe you pushed it a little bit too far or maybe it’s time to back off? Does that not really matter if you’re not running?
Brad: The body is letting the body owner, the runner, know that, “Hey, something’s up.” The next day if it’s 5 or 10 getting out of bed and then it feels okay but then it’s there again the next day, it still will signal that something’s not right. Pain is a signal that our bodies experience and we need to take heat of it. Being a runner myself, I know how difficult this is for us. We like to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not there, go out and push through it. Doing that for too long, in succession will mean that a little pain becomes something that’s a bigger pain, a bigger problem that takes longer, frustrates us more, costs more money. The whole is so much greater. No need to panic and overreact, give it 2 to 3 days but if it’s the same pattern then run and act on it.
Tina: That’s good. That’s helpful. If someone is going to take these few days off and they wanted to cross-train or do something instead, do you have any thoughts on is it better to just completely rest if it’s just a few days to give your body the complete attention of recovery? Do you go by pain like if something has any kind of pain during cross-training that’s a no? What are your thoughts on if people do take that time?
Brad: Tina it depends on the severity of the injury, where it is, and how applicable it is for them to cross-train so have they got access to equipment, have they got a condition that means they are best to rest? Generally the cycle for runners is, “If I can’t run, what else can I do?” I’m really proactive in prescribing cross-training for an injured runner, whether that’s water running, riding a bike, cross-train equipment in a gym. Getting out there, getting some sort of physical exertion just for the sanity of a runner. I’m all for cross-training but there are instances where potentially a complete rest is best but my experience to date revealed they are rare times.
One time would be if the athlete is spent, they’re not sleeping well, they’re mentally exhausted then just have a few days to freshen up. I just had 5 days off, not through choice but my litter girl is 2 and a half, picked up a head cold and I was forced to have 5 days off. I felt quite terrible. I got back to the track this Tuesday morning and I felt amazing. My legs felt the freshest they have for a long time. That’s the courtesy of having 5 days off in a row. That was off the back of a cold. I do think we are wired to not probably have enough rest as runners. I’m preaching to myself here too Tina, I’ve got my fingers pointing to me.
Tina: I can definitely see that. I think runners, it’s so hard. You’d think that we’d welcome a day off but I think once you get to that point you don’t want to do it. You’re a good example of that. I know Brad and I have talked recently about I had to take a few days off, I asked his advice and he told me to take those days off. Everything is fine now and it ended up working out well. I think we are afraid of those days off. Actually in that way, would you say that people should if they have a pain that they know in their heart, in their gut, something is not right, are you all about taking a day off as a precautionary measure rather than testing it and just going out there even though you have this gut feeling? Do you think people should keep going through pains until it gets to that point of a 3 to a 5?
Brad: Tina, what is the benefit of acting sooner? Very little, in terms of to the overall outcome. I’d much prefer to have an athlete or a runner that without being on the pathological side of being highly anxious about niggle or a strain, because we all know we get these little baby things that are there for half the run and gone the next day. Without being overly concerned about the baby little ones and acting on too quick.
I’d much prefer someone to come in and say, “You know what? I just started to noticed there’s a bit of tenderness on the inside of my achilles tendon. It’s been there for a couple of runs. What’s the potential here of what this can mean?” Verse the runner that stuck their head in the sand, pushed on for 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 weeks comes in and they’re looking at a much greater time in terms of turning around. You made a good point. You gut will scream out, that intuition is there, people know. We as runners recognise that sometimes we like to quieten down that little voice and say, “No.” Listen to it, act on it, and remember pain is your ally, it’s not your enemy.
Tina: That is very true, good point there. If someone is injured, you mentioned about before you run you should try the one legged test. Is there anything else of how people should know when it’s time to stop trying again without … I’ve had injuries in the past where every day even though it was a stress reaction where I knew I needed 3 days off, every day I would find some reason to run across the house or something to test it. How do you know when it’s time to try?
Brad: Working with a professional obviously is helpful and getting clear guidance from them. In the absence of that, the single leg hop test is so reproducible and so easy to interpret. People understand it intuitively, can’t hop, can’t run. There is no hard and fast rule as an answer to this question. You might have the same injury across different runners but all runners have different goals, different backgrounds, different degrees of severity. In terms of knowing when you can get going again, I really think the single leg hop test is the most robust self-assessment. Obviously looking out for any or feeling for any pains with basic activities of living. Is it hurting going up and down a step? Is it hurting getting out of a car? Is it hurting getting out of bed in the morning to go to the bathroom? Those little daily activities, as benign as they are, if they are painful then you’re probably not ready to run on it just yet.
There are exceptions where clinically you’ll work with an athlete or a runner who’s got an event coming up and you know you’re not putting them in any great harm, irreversible damage by allowing them to run through some pain. They’re more the exceptions when there’s a deadline, the runner’s accepted the risks. They’re of the view that, “You know what? This event means more to me than anything else. I accept that ideally I might rest but given the fact I’m not going to rupture a tendon or anything disastrous, I’m choosing to keep running.” There’s times where you just support runners in their decisions. I like to give them the information, let them decide, and then work with them as they decide. Unless they’re going to put themselves in grievous harm, sometimes you’ve just got to work with the athlete, the deadlines they’re working to and the psychology.
Tina: That’s helpful because I think that is a lot of the difficulty is when you do have a big race coming up, is it worth keeping going with it. You brought up some great points. If this is important to you, if this is your be all end all, you’re not going to do any long term damage, and you know you’re going to take time off afterwards then yeah, maybe it’s okay. Obviously it depends on the situation. Like you mentioned it would be good to work with a medical professional. Speaking of that, what would you say are some treats you can look for in a medical professional that you can trust? Obviously there are a lot of people out there who don’t understand running. You ask them about running pains and they’ll say, “Rest. Completely stop.” How do you find someone that you can actually trust and knows what they’re talking about?
Brad: Great question. Really Tina, the running communities around the world are mixed and varied. Generally you listen out for the word of mouth about a particular professional. Everyone wants to give an opinion or advice about what’s worked for them, what didn’t work for them or what worked for their friend. I’m not talking about, meaning advice that comes from running colleagues. We’re talking about health professionals and how to hopefully source someone that’s going to help you the most. Unfortunately at times it’s just trial and error. That’s the reality of engaging professional services in any arena, be it financial, insurance or whatever.
Listen out for word of mouth advocacy about someone. Are they connected in the local running community? Do they run themselves? Only runners understand runners. The other thing is does the advice … Proactive runners like listeners to runners connect Tina the podcast from the top. They’re educated, they’ve got a good baseline, idea or make sense. Just take rest of and don’t do anything. Put your blinkers up, don’t be afraid to challenge and ask questions. Once again, most times our intuition screams.
Tina: That’s really helpful. One more thing related to that, is they’ve seen this medical professional, they’ve found the right person, maybe used as you mentioned, a runner group. If you run on your own most the time, I’m sure your area will have some kind of running community somewhere you could ask anyone living in this city, “Do you know of a good physical therapist?” They will tell you. They’ve had their treatment, they’re on their way back. What about this fear of injury? Or maybe the phantom pains? How do you recommend runners fight through those thoughts of, “This hurts. Does it actually hurt or am I just thinking it hurts?”
Brad: Tina the question is how do they differentiate between a perceived problem and a real problem and what they need to take heed of coming back from injury? The keys would be once again working closely with your health professional, asking questions. I do find that runners ask the most questions, but I’d much prefer to be answering the questions and not having to patch them up because something’s gone wrong. Ask good questions. Follow the recommendations. Also be sure that whoever you’ve engaged to help you with your injury has not just treated the pain but they’ve looked at you as a runner more holistically, and looked at what I call the contributing or causative factors of the injury in the first place.
It’s just prudent that not only are the major contributing factors treated, identified through rehabilitation process but all contributing factors. Otherwise you’ve left this vulnerable return of that same injury because all of the factors haven’t been addressed. What are all of the factors? Really that’s back to the 5 step framework and you can run pain free. It’s 5 steps, they’re the framework and bits and pieces that live in those. My patients have great examples and people that have read the book and give great feedback through, the 5 steps work. They’ve just got to exist at one given time. That’s where the art, science, and the thrill of the chase for us as runners live. Can we make these 5 things work at once?
Tina: Definitely. I’ve read the book, I’ve talked about it, and the last time we talked and I really enjoyed it. I’ve been passing along the advice to others. It is difficult to get those 5 together especially when we hear so many things pulling us in different directions, telling us how to work on our form, how to get stronger, what to do, and what to change. It can be difficult. Anyone who hasn’t read the book definitely should check it out. This is a good time to mention, Brad has been kind enough to do another giveaway. Brad has said we are going to do another 3 books to giveaway. Anyone can enter worldwide. To enter that you’re going to go to There will be a link for you to click to enter to win. Thank you for that Brad.
Brad: Pleasure. Tina, let’s make it 5 books. We’ll make it 5. The same as the last episode and that gives 2 more people a hot opportunity to get info in their hands.
Tina: That’s great. Thank you, that’s really kind of you. Let’s move on to the next area. This episode is going to come out the week of Boston Marathon, so the race would’ve been 2 days ago. We are talking in the future here. Thinking ahead to that moment or while you’re in this moment right now, I’m sure quite a few people are missing races right now through injury, maybe their race was cancelled, or something happened, some kind of family issue. We do have to miss races from time to time. There’s obviously a big emotional aspect of that which you did talk about in the book. I thought it would maybe be better to go into this a bit deeper today like how people can handle emotional aspect of injury, especially at a time like this when we are blasted with, “I ran my best marathon. This was the best experience of my life.” How do you get over the emotional aspect of being on the bleachers or sitting out for this one, how do you handle that?
Brad: Tina I don’t think there’s any magic cure. As runners, focused people, as we like to set an event and work diligently towards it, the unmet expectation of not being able to compete whether it be due to an injury, an illness, family circumstance, whatever it may be. It’s going to produce disappointment because the expectation wasn’t met. It’s how do you then work through the disappointment? Information is key. Turn it into a learning opportunity. What can I learn from this? There’s a great saying that I think I’ve often when I’m trying to reconcile disappointments in my life, and that’s “Experience itself is not a great teacher but evaluated experience is a great teacher.” How can I evaluate that experience? What can I do differently next time? How can I respond verse react?
There’s a lot of maturity in that. Running is such a great metaphor for the character that we go through in life, the highs, the lows, the trials, the challenges, the night, the day. It’s a beautiful equivalent in terms of the drama. Looking at it from a learning opportunity would help. Certainly getting people around you that can truly empathise with you. That’s where I’ve been amazed at how my sharing of my story has opened doors and conversations with runners all over the place, it helped us connect and engage around that. Being open, letting people know how you really are feeling. If you’re working with a therapist in the case of an injury, find a therapist that hopefully can empathise from their own experiences. That’s where working with someone that runs is helpful.
Also, if they’re not forthcoming in asking you about, “How’s this making you feel Mr. or Mrs. Runner?” Then share it with them. Say, “You know what? I don’t know why but this has really got me down. I’m feeling quite anxious. I’m even fearful about will I be able to run again?” Don’t bottle those questions or emotions up, get them out there. I think that would probably be a couple of keys I’d share in terms of how runners can deal with the disappointment of missing events. Obviously pick the next one. Pick ourselves up and use it as fuel for improving come the next one.
Tina: What if someone is going to a medical professional, they’re very helpful and they’re doing what they can but they just have no interest in running? I live in Kentucky in the US and a lot of people here think running is the worst thing ever. They have no desire. The medical professionals here, some of them, or other places they want to help and they know what to tell you to strengthen but they just have no interest. You did talk about that embarrassment aspect in the book about how we have to feel embarrassed and do not want to share because we’re like, “It’s only running.” As you mentioned in the book it is such a huge part of who we are. There is nothing wrong with feeling down or upset because you missed a race. Any other thoughts on how people can do that if they don’t have that medical professional to share with?
Brad: The online world is a beautiful place in terms of being able to connect with people that aren’t geographically close. Whether it’s a community like Runners Connect. There’s so much ability to connect with likeminded people these days. We’ve had a couple of chats on Skype Tina recently. They’re easy to organise. You can find your people even online. If you’re geographically a bit isolated and don’t have that network around you, outside of that, if you can’t find the right help in the flesh in your local area, then jump online. There’s so much of information around these days. Do a bit of a Google search and there’s often normally a rabbit trail, be it a great podcast episode, or a great blog. There’s normally a rabbit trail. I’m constantly thrilled when people walk into my physio rooms and they’re already really up to date with some stuff. I’m like, “That’s tremendous. I’m not offended.” They’ve got a good information here what can I add? It’s like, “Great. Let’s build on your knowledge. Let’s get this thing going as quick as we can.”
Tina: That’s good. I’m sure that is huge. Anyone listening if you are struggling to find that there are great communities, Runners Connect is a huge one obviously that we like saying. I’m sure Brad is fine and I also am fine if you do want to email either of us. I will put a link to both of our emails on the show notes. If you do need that, if you can’t find anyone to talk to you can talk to us as well. Obviously Brad is more medically and professionally experienced than I am but I’m pretty good at empathising if someone needs it. Related to another emotional aspect, what about runner blues? I don’t know if you’ve heard of that term. You’ve done a big race, you’ve prepared for that race, and it either went well or it didn’t go well, either or, but runners tend to feel a little bit down for a few weeks, a bit lost. Have you had much experience with that? Any thoughts on that?
Brad: I’ve personally experienced that and also certainly observed it with runners in my community and runners that I’ve treated in the practice. It’s that expectation leading up to a big event. If it’s a major event often a lot of learning from that. It’s that coming down from the high. Wow I’ve been building up for New York this amount of time last year, all of a sudden it’s over and what do I go back to now? Often we just move on, pick the next one and keep going. That’s a psychological aspect. I think it’s healthy to have the next thing. It’s also healthy to stop, pause, celebrate it. I’m terrible at this, I do a race, then I just want to wake up the next day and do the next one better or faster. Many of us are wired that way. We often miss those moments to celebrate and then go again for the next one.
There’s also a very real physiological affect after a major event. By that I mean mentally there’s a lot of thought processes involved in competing, getting there. Then the exertion of the actual event, I often say, “After a major race, you’ll feel a bit neurologically fried for a few days.” The adrenal glands get a real taxing because the adrenaline’s pumping, the neurological system is literally a bit dulled. That’s why I said the term fried. The immune status is probably pretty low, so quite immune compromised. The body is a bit fragile after a major event. I think those physiological signals feed that whole mental status also. Runner’s blues is certainly a real thing. Having a healthy aspect on your running and your life helps, having a partner, and supporting others on your teams is key as well.
Tina: Finding things that are not running related also helps as well, showing that you’re not just a runner. If you like painting or if you like cooking, that’s a good time to try out some of the new things that might bring you happiness.
Brad: Our identity is not our performance, it’s certainly a fine line many of us walk in, we’re so focused, enjoy it so much and it’s part of why we struggle when all of a sudden we can’t do the thing that we love, injured or something. That’s always a good reminder that I’m not my running. There’s more to me than my running. It doesn’t mean that it’s an easy thing to work with, no matter what we do in life, a big part of our identity is what we do.
Tina: Great. I’m going to take a quick moment to thank our sponsor.

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Now I’m going to ask you about some questions that our listeners had about running, and injuries. One we get quite often and one that was asked when I did put this out there was how do you get your glutes to fire? I know you had some suggestions in the book and I’m hoping people go out and read them or win them in the giveaway. What are some exercises you can recommend to someone who right now hears this thing of the glutes are asleep or the glutes are not working properly, how do they get them to go into action?
Brad: Great question. It’s the right question too Tina, because I share about this in step 4 the importance of hip stability. The 3 steps of developing, improving hip stability are to activate the muscle or muscles to develop endurance. How do you activate the glutes? It’s either the glute medius on the side of the hip or the glute max at the back of the hip, the bottom, and they’re both different activation exercises. The glute medius, the one on the side there’s an exercise I call the wall press which doesn’t feature in the book. It’s a great way of activating it. I’m not sure if you want me to share a link or something?
Tina: Yeah. We can put a link in the show notes, for sure.
Brad: There’ll be a post on that and a video that accompanies it. That’s a wall push. That can be done when a runner is cleaning their teeth in the morning. That’s actually an evidence based best practice way of activating glute medius. Then in terms of glute max, there’s a multitude of ways. One of my favourite ways is your basic single leg bridge, lying on your back, lifting the pelvis up and down, that’s activation, a lot of a level exercise in the sense it doesn’t have weight on it it’s just the body weight. That will certainly stimulate it. Probably my favourite glute max activation exercise, and Tina same thing I can share a note with you on this, a link, would be what I call the donkey kicks. If you can picture this it’s a runner in a downward dog position and throwing their leg up backwards behind them as high as they can with alternate legs. It’s a great way of getting that inner range glute max activation. I actually think that’s the best practice way so it’s one that I do regularly myself to keep my glutes switched on.
Tina: You said about getting in a downward dog, is that on your feet? I always thought donkey kicks was hands and knees. You’re saying you’re going to be on your feet?
Brad: Yeah. We’re thinking of different donkey’s here and you’re thinking about the Kentucky donkey.
Tina: I guess so.
Brad: I know what you mean. This is very much the downward dog position on the hands and the feet. Then simply throwing a leg up behind you as if you had to throw it over your head. I know the exercise you’re referring to, I’d call that the mules.
Tina: The mules, that’s not quite a donkey then.
Brad: Maybe, I don’t know. Semantics.
Tina: I will put a link to all of those exercises you mentioned in the show notes at Again you can enter to win the giveaway there. Next question which is similar to exercises related. As I mentioned Boston has just finished but there are other downhill races. What can you do to prepare your quads for downhill races if you don’t live somewhere that has those hills to practice on?
Brad: Great question. Certainly strengthening them will help with that great loading that goes on the quads in downhill races, that eccentric loading which is the precursor normally for muscle soreness so that’s where the muscle lengthens as it’s also trying to generate force. Once again I can share a link with the listeners through you there that is an exercise called an isometric wall squat. That’s where as it suggests you’re squatting against a wall. Your legs are at 90 degrees, perfect angle. You squat down and hold it with increasing time. If you really want to super-size the results you stick a 20 kilo plate on your lap and you hang onto something heavy in your hands. You’re working with more than your body weight. That’s a great way of generating great control activation and strength in those quads which will help with downhill running.
Tina: That’s helpful. I would encourage listeners to check out the show notes to get the exercise that he’s talking about so you can make sure you’re doing it correctly. Moving on, another question we get often I’m interested to see how you come up with this. We have written many articles on this and I can share them in the show notes as well. What about running easy enough? How can runners pace themselves a bit better to make sure that they get that recovery?
Brad: Through training how can they pace themselves to make sure they get the recovery in? It’s a fairly general question I guess. If I’ve understood the question right, my best answer would be to have a structured week where you know your sessions in advance. Day 1 recovery run, Monday whatever it might be speed work, whatever work Tuesday, Wednesday a week long-ish tempo run. Thursday, Friday recovery, whatever. So long as there’s some structure where it’s not hard session, hard session, hard session, hard session as soon as you start. We start putting those hard sessions together with 2 great of being compacted then you start to put yourself in a dangerous zone. Common sense is normally fairly good for runners. I’ve just pushed it hard, the next day I need to be easier. That’s that fine line that we walk though, isn’t it?
Tina: That is what I was looking for but how would you say people keep those recovery runs easy enough? It’s too easy to think, “Everyone’s going to be staring at me, I’m going too slowly. This feels useless I feel like I’m not getting anything out of this.” How do you get out of that mindset?
Brad: It’s a battle we often all face. I heard somewhere and I think it was the Kenyan’s reporter once said that people run their slow runs too fast and their fast runs too slow. You need to look at some of the world’s best marathoners and when they’re going steady they are going extremely steady. If it works for them then it will work for the majority of us. Look at the greats and imitate what they do and they do not run their hard or recovery runs fast. It’s normally the overzealous beginner or seasoned foolish runner. I am not reporting to not be in that classification at times. I do think we just need to remember that fast runs faster, slow runs slower.
Tina: That can be slow enough to the point to where you can have a conversation. I like to breathe through my nose the whole time, not opening my mouth at all, that’s how I check in with that. Let’s move on to structuring an off season. Are you a big fan of runners peaking or do you have thoughts on whether people should keep going year round? Is that good for their body? Are you putting yourself at a higher injury risk if you do continue year round without peaking or without taking time off? Are you doing your body any harm?
Brad: There’s different schools of thought here. The filter that I use is what’s the athlete’s psychology, their psyche like? What’s their level of performance? Your professional elite athletes will have a whole month out. They need it, they’ve been trying to hit optimal output for the better part of half a year and doing it for the other 5 months. I think in an ideal model everyone would have a month off where they cross train just to keep their sanity but they put their joggers on to run down to the shop but they’re not doing formal training.
In an ideal model I don’t year to year do the 4 weeks, it might be 2 weeks and even then I’m fighting with myself to not go for a run. It becomes such a part of our lifestyle. Everything from our adrenal glands it attacks every time we go out for a hard run through to hormone levels, sex hormones for male and females. Certainly male endurance runners often run very low on testosterone levels which affects their health in many ways. I do think it’s great to have a complete break. In terms of periodisation I’ve always been a fan of that since I was a junior triathlete working on a periodised training program. I think clarity is powerful for training and it certainly is one way of avoiding the over training trap because you know where you’re at in any given point in time in a running calendar year.
Tina: I will say that Runners Connect does have some helpful information on how to structure your season or use periodisation as Brad just mentioned. Be sure to check those out if you do need it. That’s about all the questions I have from our listeners. Are there any other common questions about injuries or about the emotional side of running that you’ve looked into that you often get that you would like to clarify or help runners with?
Brad: Probably 2. The first is where getting the right pair of shoes fit in the equation of both rehabilitating the running injury and preventing running injuries. In terms of the 5 steps and you can run pain free, it sits there as the third step. It’s not the first step. My little mantra is running form before footwear. A runner really needs to take stock of what their running body is doing. That’s everything from their tight bits, stiff bits, and weak bits. Look after that because there’s much greater upside before we run off to buy what we perceive is the next most perfect pair of shoes that we hope will cure all ills.
There’s no point in spending that money on a pair of shoes if the cadence isn’t ideal or the hip stability isn’t there and different things. That’s a common question, do I need to go get new shoes? Certainly and that’s why it’s one of the 3 of the 5 steps, the runner needs to be in the right pair of shoes but Tina, it shouldn’t necessarily happen before the runner takes a look at their running body deficits. The only time is if their shoes are so far gone they need to do that concurrently. We need to look at your shoes. You can’t be walking around in those let alone running in them. That’s the exception. That would be question 1.
Question 2 that’s a commonly asked question would be of the running technique tips which is step 2 in the 5 step “You can run Pain Free” process. There’s 5 steps and that step alone the running technique. What’s the most important one? My answer to that is always get your running cadence under control first. Make sure you’re not over striding. If you get that in place then principles 2, 3, 4, 5 in the running technique section they will normally flow. Trying to focus on your body lane and utilising your tendons more before you get your cadence right it’s like putting the cart before the horse. That would be the second most frequently asked question I get from runners.
Tina: We mentioned last time, I was really over striding and the way I found it easiest was to imagine I was a duck tucking my tail between my legs. Do you have any other thoughts on what you tell people for if they do want to stop over striding and shorten up their cadence or increase their cadence?
Brad: That would be to do a stop take. By stop take I mean do a count and a manual count, not a digital count. It’s great to have your cadence on different devices however there’s nothing like getting a head to foot connection. Count 1 minute of your running every 5 minutes. Pick a leg, can be the left, can be the right. How many times is your foot hitting the ground in that minute of running? If it’s less than 90 steps a minute as a guide then it’s likely to fit into the category of over striding. There’s a lot of debate if you dig deep into the literature about what’s the ideal number, etcetera? They found there’s a 10% increase in cadence will remarkably improve performance and decrease injury risk. We have to put a line in the sand somewhere. I believe the best number is 90 as a guide.
Tina: Good. That’s helpful. Thank you for sharing those common questions. I’m sure some people listening have been like, “Yup. That’s exactly what I was wondering.” Thank you for clearing that up. All I have left are the final kick questions. What is the greatest advice you’ve ever received? A loaded question yes.
Brad: I think it’s more of a mantra I live by and that’s a short cut will only cut you short. It’s nice for runners. Runners want to cut a little corner here or there literally. The easy way is rarely the way that is the right path. Embracing the little difficult bits along the way I think it builds character and at the end of the day when we move on from this earth that’s all we really leave behind is our character in memories that is. Shortcut will only cut you short.
Tina: That’s good. I’ve never heard that one before but that makes total sense in running. Favourite book? Unfortunately you are not allowed to say, “You Can Run Pain Free.”
Brad: I’m going to push you here, can I have 2?
Tina: Yes. You may have 2. This is your second episode so you’re allowed 2.
Brad: Second guest, you get 2 books, you’re stretching it. On a running front because this is a running podcast, “Born to Run” is such a fun read, so well written. Obviously the success of that book speaks volumes for the quality of its writing. That’s a great read. I couldn’t put that book down. That’s great. That’s on a running front. On a personal front a book that’s forever changed me written by a gentlemen in the UK called Gordon MacDonald and it’s called, “Order Your Private World.” In short it’s about cultivating an inner victory about your habits, and about your outlook. That was a book that turned me upside down in a good way.
Tina: I’ll have to check that one out. I’ve never heard of that. I love those kinds of books. Actually speaking of “Born to Run” we did actually have … I don’t even know if you know this. I did have Christopher McDougall on the podcast earlier in the year. I’ll put a link to his episode in the … Actually, it would’ve been last year, coming up to a year ago now. We’ll put links to that in the show notes. He was a fantastic guest. He was really fun. Interesting for you this will be, what advice would you give a new runner? This time you only get 1.
Brad: Buy “You Can Run Pain Free” and study it. No. Save yourself some injury problems. No. That would be to just watch not spike in the training load. New runners get characteristically overzealous, get very excited in a way. We all have been there I should say. That overzealousness you want to get out and train and push harder. For that first period of running every running session is like a PB. You’re discovering your new limits all the time. There comes a point where that tapers off and you don’t want to end in injury. You want to have a nice, long, enjoyable running career. Don’t overdo it to start with, get good advice, read “You Can Run Pain Free.”
Tina: Way to sneak that in there. Very hidden there. What is your favourite pre-race meal?
Brad: Pre-race meal is 2 rice crackers, basic little rice crackers. 2 boiled or poached eggs and half a banana on one of those crackers with a little bit of what we call in Australia herb of marray which is a form of salt. A bit of that sprinkled on there. After New York, my salt mishaps there, probably a little bit more salt next time.
Tina: I think actually we talked about Enduro packs, I need to get you on that. The salt spray I use is amazing. I love that product. I’ll have to get you on that as well. Finally, your last question, what is your favourite running product?
Brad: I would say my running sunglasses. I live in Australia and live in sunny Queensland. I like to protect my eyes. My Oakley Radars I think they are, I actually just replaced the lens because they’ve been so used, they were starting to blister up from all the salt and the sun around here. I could run without them but I don’t like to. My running sunnies.
Tina: I actually would agree there. I got a pair of Oakley Fast Jacket, Hot Jacket, something, and I cannot … If it’s even slightly sunny out I can’t not run with them, they are like life savers. That’s a good recommendation, I like that. We’ve come to the end of our second episode so you are actually my first repeat guest as the podcast [inaudible 00:57:00]. That was a big thing for me because we got on so well and I knew people would get a lot out of this. It has been value packed. Thank you so much for sharing and for giving so much helpful information and I know that our listeners are going to take a lot from this.
Brad: Absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Tina: Thank you.

How much did we manage to read your mind? You can let us know in the show notes whether we actually hit your questions or whether there was other things you wanted to know about. When it comes to injuries if you did, I’m sure if you write those questions on there Brad will be happy to answer. I know injuries can be really confusing and hopefully we helped to clear some things up today. If you do have any questions just email either Brad or I. Speaking of him, that’s really awesome that he’s decided to offer to give away another 5 of his books to Run To The Top listeners, which you can answer to win at Brad is just an awesome guy and hopefully you didn’t mind that that was more of a conversation of old friends than it was a strict interview. From what I hear people enjoy that a bit more because it’s not so serious. Hopefully you got a lot out of this and I hope you have a great week.

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