Ever wish you were one of those people who ran for fun, not just because it was good for you? Or maybe you’re a seasoned runner who enjoys logging miles daily, but your race times won’t budge.

Whether you’re a novice runner working on a couch to 5K plan, or a lifelong distance runner with sights on an upcoming marathon, a session with a physical therapist (PT) or chiropractor can help improve your running performance. These providers can help you become a better, more efficient runner—helping you feel better on the road and potentially leading to new personal bests.

PTs and chiropractors are well known for their work in recovery and helping you get back to form post-injury, but they’re also great people to work with when you’re injury-free. PTs and chiropractors can help you improve mechanics, optimize form, and prevent injury. 

There’s never been a better time to work with a PT or chiropractor to optimize your running performance: Nearly 60 million Americans participate in running, jogging, and trail running, but American race runners have never been slower. Let’s explore four ways these providers can help you become a better runner.

1. Assessment and Goals

First, your provider will want to learn more about you. How long have you been running? What bothers you about the way you run right now? What are your goals? 

All of these questions give your provider the information they need to create a plan tailored just for you. For example, a plan for a casual runner planning to run their first 5K this fall will be very different from an ultrarunner who wants to move from 50-mile to 100-mile races. 

Your provider will then walk you through a series of tests and measures to better understand your strength, stability, and flexibility, and inform the next phases of treatment.

2. Analysis

Next up is watching how you actually walk, jog, and run. On a treadmill, they’ll check out your gait, angles of your body, and overall running form to give you more specialized advice. They may use software to help analyze your gait and provide a slow-motion analysis to pick up on hitches and any other quirks that may be missed by the naked eye.

This analysis will allow your provider to improve running biomechanics by pinpointing potential trouble areas you may have not even realized were affecting the way you run. For example, the average weight of an adult-sized head is about 10 pounds—if your head is leaning forward or pulling backward when you run, that could be putting undue pressure on your body. Your PT or chiropractor can work with you to align it above your spine and reduce strain on your neck and shoulders.

3. Correction

Following the evaluation and analysis, your PT or chiropractor will discuss his or her professional assessment with you, giving you the opportunity to ask questions. After pinpointing the areas of focus, they will work with you to improve within those areas. There’s no such thing as perfect form, but your provider will work with you to optimize your existing form to enhance performance and prevent injury.

For example, if you experience a hip drop on the right side with each stride, your PT or chiropractor will test the strength of your gluteal muscles and perform retraining techniques in order to get proper gluteal activation. This retraining process will lead to a functional strengthening program designed to increase strength and stability, as well as prevent injury. 

They may follow this up with mobilization techniques to ensure proper joint movement to allow for proper range of motion as you run.

4. Holistic Approach

Your PT or chiropractor may also work with you on other factors that could improve your running, such as proper diet, healthy lifestyle, and referral to other healthcare professionals as needed. They often work with a team of other professionals in order to get you to your optimal performance, and may recommend speaking with a dietician or acupuncturist to augment their work with you.

Orthology takes a multidisciplinary approach and has different specialties all under the same roof, so it’s a one-stop shop for a comprehensive plan to help you become the best runner you can be. 

Preparing for Your Visit

When you come in for your first visit, be sure to wear attire you would typically wear while running and allows the provider to easily evaluate your form (for example, a more form-fitting pair of shorts would be better than loose joggers). Bring your running shoes, as well as any inserts you may wear with them, and details about your training program. 

Every person is unique and one person may need multiple visits to be prepared for the event or race, while someone else may just need one visit with their therapist to reach their goals. To start your journey to optimized running performance, click here to book an appointment with an Orthology provider.