Youth Nutrition – Fueling Your Youth Athlete Part 1: Protein, Supplements & Hydration


Youth nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential to the overall success of athletes at any level. No matter the sport, all of the activity is fueled by what the athlete consumes throughout the day, pre-performance, and post-performance. It’s one thing to be prepared by spending many hours practicing drills, skills, technique, and conditioning, but performance will be lacking if there are deficiencies in our young athletes’ daily food and fluid intake.  

I’ll be honest, when I look back at some of my favorite things to eat when I was a youth athlete, I can tell you with certainty that I had a sugar-heavy breakfast, sugar-heavy snacks, with just an “okay” lunch and dinner. That continued all the way through high school because, well, I just didn’t know any better, and neither did my parents. But, two things that did become staples for me were peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and a huge glass of milk. Interestingly enough, those two things would end up helping me significantly as I matured as a high school athlete.

The truth is, for our young athletes to be high-powered performers, we need to make sure they put high-octane fuel in the tank. This is food that our bodies can easily recognize and break down into usable fuel for speed, strength, endurance, and power. It all starts with understanding some basic things about the calories we should be consuming.

Calories are our energy source which are made up of three macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats. Each one of these come in many different forms, both good and bad, but distinguishing between what’s optimal takes a bit of work. Kids will only learn what they are taught, and that starts with the adults in their lives.

For this particular blog post I will focus on protein, the supplements protein powder & creatine, and hydration.  In the next series on nutrition for youth athletes, I will tackle carbohydrates and fats.


Protein is essential for growth and repair; it is the building block and foundation for new muscle tissue during recovery. I don’t want to get overly scientific, but when protein is digested it is broken down into amino acids which are carried into the muscle tissue to repair the damage from excess exertion from activities. This is where lean muscle growth comes from.

Not having enough protein does cause the body to take longer to recover. It also puts limits on strength and power development. Protein also has a thermic effect on the body, nearly twice as much as carbohydrates and fat, which means that it increases our metabolism. With a higher metabolism, the body will burn more body fat during the course of a day.

The biggest challenge is making sure a young athlete consumes enough protein throughout each day.  Creating an optimal dietary pattern requires that each meal is balanced with protein, carbs, and fats.   THIS IS HOW A MEAL PLATE SHOULD LOOK:


Dr. Chris Mohr, Phd RD, the consulting Sports Nutritionist for the Cincinnati Bengals and Director of Sports Nutrition for the International Youth Conditioning Association, explains that youth athletes typically don’t obtain sufficient protein intake until the end of the day at dinner. “The typical meal plan for middle school and high school athletes starts with a bagel or bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast, a sandwich with a bag of chips and soda or sugary drink for lunch, candy bar for mid-afternoon snack, and a good amount of whatever they can get their hands on for dinner.”

However, unlike carbohydrates and fats, protein does not store in our system for later energy usage. This is why protein should be consumed with every meal. In fact, the RDA recommendation for the average adult is 0.8-grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight. That increases depending on the activity level of each person. Endurance athletes, the recommendation increases to 1.2-1.4g/lb., and strength athletes is a touch higher at 1.4-1.8g/lb.  Our youth athletes can safely consume between 0.8-1.0 grams of protein for every pound of body weight each day. So assuming you have a 120 lb. child, they should have up to 120 grams of protein per day. But how do we make that happen? What does this look like?

The typical profile of protein consists of 7-grams for every 1 oz. of meat. With that in mind, someone that has 3-ounces of chicken breast will have consumed 21-grams of protein. The optimal amount for protein usage is between 20-30g in a meal. Why? Because the body has a hard time utilizing protein for repair and recovery after 30-grams. This is called protein synthesis. So assuming you have a 120 lb. child, they should be having 4 meals a day with 20-30 grams of protein in each meal. As an example, here are some easy ways to find 20-30g of protein.


For a high school athlete, it’s a breakfast consisting of 2 eggs & 3 egg whites, or 1-cup of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. As you can see, it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Another easy way to measure this for animal protein is to make a fist and have a serving size that matches the size of your hand.  

Alternative Protein Options & Creatine

As a coach, I always encourage whole food options for the primary source of calories consumed daily. Our bodies operate and recover best when we consume all-natural earth grown nutrition. This means lean meats, fruits & vegetable, nuts, seeds, and high-quality dairy.

One cloudy area is the use of supplementation among youth athletes, especially protein supplements.  Enticed by the promise of “hope in a can,” teenagers tend to overuse the products, assuming that if one scoop is good, then four to five would be even better. 

It’s important to know the following:

  • Protein supplements provide NO added benefit over regular diet
  • Federal regulations do not require that protein drinks and other dietary supplements be tested before they are sold to ensure that they’re safe, effective, and free of contaminants
  • A 2010 study by Consumer Reports found 100% contamination of 15 commonly used protein supplements with one or more toxic substances including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, which can have toxic effects on the body
  • Consider supplemental if unable to meet protein needs with diet 

The best option is quite easily the most accessible and cost effective. Are you ready? It’s called MILK! One glass of milk can provide about 8-grams of protein and 12-grams of carbs.

Chocolate milk is a great choice for post exercise recovery.  It provides high-quality protein (casein & whey) for repair, natural sugars to restore energy, electrolytes, AND flavonoids that are antioxidants.



If a protein supplement is used, a whey protein ISOLATE is the clear choice because of the minimal processing and ease of digestion.   Most whey protein isolates will provide approximately 25-grams per serving.

Creatine is the most commonly used supplement and is popular among high school athletes. Creatine is touted for its ability to increase muscle bulk, strength, and performance in short duration, anaerobic events lasting 30 seconds or less.  ‘Cons’ to consider include water weight gain that can affect balance and agility, GI discomfort, muscle cramps, risk of contaminants including anabolic steroids, and it’s expensive in supplement form.

The good news is, creatine is ingested naturally by consuming animal protein.  Sixteen ounces of animal protein provides 2g of creatine, which is the daily requirement.  

Because our youngsters are still developing physically, the American Academy of Pediatrics & our colleagues at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles Sports Medicine say creatine supplements are NOT recommended for anyone under 18-years old.


Another important topic to tackle with youth athletes is proper hydration.   Here are some key recommendations to keep in mind from the Sports Medicine Team at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles:

  1. There is no evidence that drinking more than thirst is beneficial.  That said, our youth athletes don’t always recognize or respond to their thirst, so we do need to educate them that pre-, during and post-exercise hydration is important.
  2. Athletes should be hydrating normally during their day.
  3. Fluids should not be restricted during an athletic event.
  4. For activities less than one hour, WATER is best OR a glucose –electrolyte drink.
  5. For activities greater than an hour, glucose-electrolyte drink.
  6. Rehydrate frequently during exercise; drink 6 – 8 ounces of fluid every 15 – 30 mins.
  7. Avoid any drinks that are high in sugar/glucose and caffeine (i.e. Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Monster, etc.)

Let’s not confuse glucose-electrolyte commercial sports drinks with energy drinks. These are two completely different things.

Sports drinks – Rehydrate/ replenish; contains carbohydrates & electrolytes; regulated by FDA

Energy drinks – A “Pick Me Up”; contains caffeine & sugar; “Food Supplement”; not regulated!

Do Your Homework

Keeping your athlete properly nourished and hydrated can yield great benefits to their energy and performance during play as well as their recovery. It’s important to look at your child’s consumption of proteins as well as their hydration so that it’s balanced throughout the day. This can be tough in the middle school and high school populations, as they tend to eat at least one meal away from home. The best thing we can do for our youth athletes is provide them with the guidelines laid out in this article and educate them on making the best choices throughout the day to fuel them. Collegiate and professional athletes should be their role models and proper nutrition starts with making the right food and hydration choices as a youth athlete.

Below is a great video that was recently released by the USC Trojans Football Dietitian, Andrea Vanderwoude, with a sneak peek into what it takes to fuel a high-level athlete day-to-day. In it she touches on a few key points that I’ve covered in this article. Take a few moments to watch it, and also keep in mind that these are all 17-21 year old athletes as well.

If we can help or answer any questions please reach us at

USC Football #FuelOn With Sports Dietitian


Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles – Children’s Orthopedic Center

American Academy of Pediatrics

Dr. Chris Mohr, Phd. RD – International Youth Conditioning Association

Becci Twomley RD – University of Southern California Athletics


The Positive Sports Parent Series

Positive Coaching Alliance Panel on Youth Sports

We attended a great event last weekend (that we HIGHLY recommend!) aimed at coaching healthy athletes, both physically and mentally, organized by the CHLA Sports Medicine Program, LA Galaxy Foundation and the Positive Coaching Alliance. It aims to give youth sports parents practical tips and tools to help guide children in learning the life lessons that sports provide.

If you’re interested in learning more, they are having a *free* event at Palisades Rec Center next Friday, August 25! 7-9pm. They’ll be covering the best ways to set your child up for success on and off the field, character development, how to set goals for your child, and the rise of youth sports specialization related to overuse injuries and concussions.

Contact Bill Maniscalco for more information! 310-454-1412  /, or check out their website,

The Sleep Cure: The Fountain of Youth May Be Closer Than You Think


(Original article by Alice Park, in TIME Health Feb 16, 2017)

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The evidence linking quality rest to good health and longevity has never been more convincing, especially as it relates to aging, processing emotions, mental health, and disease prevention.

Scientists are learning that shortchanging sleep can compromise nearly every major body system, from the brain to the heart to the immune system, making our inability–or unwillingness–to sleep enough one of the unhealthiest things we can do.

Studies of people whose sleep sessions are irregular or shorter than seven hours show they are at higher risk of developing diseases that can lead to early death, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Poor sleep may have detrimental effects on the brain as well, increasing the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, as well as mood disorders like depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. And like smoking, a terrible diet and not exercising enough, poor sleep is now linked to an overall increased risk of premature death.

“I used to suggest that sleep is the third pillar of good health, along with diet and exercise,” says Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “But I don’t agree with that anymore. Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body for health.”

Despite the mounting evidence of its benefits, Americans are sleeping about two hours less each night than they did a century ago, and while life expectancy has been inching upward over the past century thanks to advances in medicine and technology, those gains could start to sag under the weight of our collective sleeplessness. Many people still dismiss sleep as something they can occasionally (or even regularly) skimp on.

Perhaps that’s because until very recently, scientists couldn’t even agree on the evolutionary reason why animals need to sleep in the first place. But now they know that what happens during sleep, particularly in the brain, is critical to human well-being–not to mention a long life.

Spending a good third of the day oblivious to the world around you and, by extension, incapable of protecting yourself doesn’t seem like a smart way for a species to stay alive. And yet every animal does it, leading scientists to accept that sleep must be nonnegotiable for some reason–and that we must need a certain amount of it to survive.

Following a rigorous, milestone study in 2002 of more than 1 million healthy men and women by the American Cancer Society, experts found that people who slept seven hours per night were most likely to still be alive at the end of the study’s six years, compared with people who got either six hours or less, or eight hours or more, of sleep each night. To this day, seven hours is typically the amount that doctors and public-health groups recommend for the average adult.

Another even longer study, which followed more than 21,000 twins in Finland, found that people who were regularly sleeping less than seven hours daily were 21% to 26% more likely to die of any cause during the study’s 22-year period than those who slept more than eight hours.

So clearly sleep has some real biological benefit. Could it just be that the brain and body need downtime to recuperate after the activity of the day? That was the most popular explanation for decades, until an inquisitive neuroscientist at the University of Rochester decided to look for the answer inside the brain itself. When she did, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard uncovered what many scientists now agree is sleep’s primary evolutionary function: to clean out the brain, quite literally, of accumulating debris.

In 2014, Nedergaard first revealed that while the body appears to rest during sleep, a whole lot is happening inside the brain. Neurons pulse with electrical signals that wash over the brain in a rhythmic flow. The brain runs checks on itself to ensure that the balance of hormones, enzymes and proteins isn’t too far off-kilter. All the while, brain cells contract, opening up the spaces between them so that fluid can wash out the toxic detritus that can cause all kinds of problems if it builds up.

“It’s like a dishwasher that keeps flushing through to wash the dirt away,” Nedergaard says.

Without that nightly wash cycle, dangerous toxins can damage healthy cells and interfere with their ability to communicate with one another. In the short term, that can impede memory formation and the ability to coherently compose our thoughts and regulate our emotions. Over time, the consequences can be more dire. Lack of sleep can lead to faster aging of brain cells, contributing to diseases like Alzheimer’s, which is now the cause of death for 1 in 3 seniors.

“Sleep is not just a passive state but a fairly active state on the molecular level,” says Dr. Allan Pack, director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania. “During the day, the brain is using energy resources to fire neurons. At night, a switch turns on so the sleeping brain can take advantage of the metabolic downtime to do some cleaning up.”

The idea that sleep is a time of important biological activity, rather than a period when the body checks out, is transforming how doctors think about another important factor in longevity: mental health.

Scientists have long known that sleep is important for memory. But it turns out that during sleep, especially the cycles of deep dream sleep, the brain doesn’t just revisit the events of a day in a more organized way. It also works on processing the emotions attached to these recollections. When a memory is filed away during sleep, it’s also stripped of some of the powerful feelings–like fear, grief, anger or joy–that might have clouded the experiences in the heat of the moment.

It wouldn’t be healthy, or efficient, to remember every event or experience in its full factual and emotional context. But separating the emotional aspects of a memory from its objective parts allows you to recall the experience without reliving it. “We sleep to remember and we sleep to forget,” says Walker, the UC Berkeley sleep scientist, of this coping mechanism. “I call it overnight therapy.”

This type of processing takes time. It likely happens only during deep, quality sleep, and only over consistent nights of such sleep. That may explain why people who cut their sleep short or experience interrupted sleep may not fully disentangle the emotional baggage from their memories.

In those cases the memory, in its emotionally taxing entirety, continues to resurface every time the brain tries to sleep, in a vain effort to be properly processed. The brain tries to store the memory in a neutral way, but without deep sleep, there just isn’t enough time for that triage.

Walker believes these aborted efforts may drive conditions like PTSD, which is well understood to be common among combat veterans but which may be more common among the general population than therapists and researchers previously thought.

“The more nights you sleep, the more soothing the influence of sleep on that memory,” he says. “Sleep continues to work on those emotional memories and flatten them out after about a week. Now there’s great evidence that PTSD is a disorder in which that process fails.”

There’s also strong support for the idea that insufficient sleep may be a trigger for, and not just a symptom of, a number of mental illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia. Depriving people with bipolar disorder of sleep, for example, can launch a manic episode, while some people with depression report worsening symptoms when they aren’t sleeping well.

Fully understanding the role sleep plays in mental illness is a rich area of future research. Already many doctors think consistent, high-quality sleep can have a direct bearing on the health of those with mental illness. “Anyone who suffers from moderate or significant mental-health concerns needs to be aware that sleep may be one of the most important things they can do,” says Walker.

Stress, scientists also know, is one of the more potent accelerators of aging, and a body that’s not sleeping enough looks similar to one that’s stressed out–it’s highly reactive to perceived threats, even when those threats don’t pose any real risk. Biologically speaking, both stress and lack of sleep have the same result: fight-or-flight mode is triggered, blood pressure spikes, breathing gets shallow, and the heart starts to race.

Those stress reactions would be useful if you needed to react to a physical threat, but that’s not usually what’s going on. And staying in an alert mode can trigger a number of unhealthy conditions, the most damaging of which is inflammation.

Inflammation is the body’s natural defense system against injury or invading microbes like bacteria and viruses. It’s why your toe turns red and throbs when you stub it or when it’s infected: white blood cells rush to the area in order to protect it for the short time it’s needed to help you get better. But inflammation can also become chronic, and that’s when the real trouble starts.

Chronic inflammation, doctors now know, is a leading driver of many diseases, including some cancers, cognitive decline, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes–even chronic pain. And one of the main drivers of chronic inflammation is, of course, not sleeping enough.

Experts are insisting, with increasing frequency and noise, that sleep be a priority–as important or more than what you eat and how much you exercise. We wouldn’t dream of skipping meals on a regular basis, so why skimp on sleep?


The full article can be found on, click here: The Sleep Cure

Neck or Back Pain from Sitting? 3 PT Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Elevate’s Dr. Katie Lichty, certified in The McKenzie Method® of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy® (MDT), shares three easy ways to stop your neck or back pain by reversing your rounded sitting posture and improving your spinal health.

The McKenzie Method (MDT) most commonly uses repeated motions to assess spine pain, develop a treatment, and reduce the likelihood of re-injury.  MDT is heavily researched, and studies show that for low back or neck pain, receiving MDT within the first 14 days following injury can help resolve symptoms in the first 3 to 5 treatments, and greatly reduce the need for more expensive and invasive treatments, and diagnostic imaging such as X-ray and MRI.
TRY THIS: Repeat these 3 exercises for 10 reps, 2x per day
Seated Cervical Retraction (Chin Tuck): 
– Make sure you sit in an upright seated posture.
– Keep your chin level and look straight ahead as you slowly move your head backwards as far as you can manage, aligning your ears over your shoulders.
– Place your hand on your chin and gently push the head further backward.
Repeated Thoracic Extension: 
– Find a seat with a low and rigid back (or use a foam roller!)
– Sit all the way back in your seat with your feet flat on the floor.
– Reach hands behind your head and extend upper back, using the backrest as a fulcrum.
Repeated Lumbar Extension (Press Up):
-Begin flat on your stomach on the floor with your hands under shoulders. Keeping your hips on the ground, lift your chest up trying to straighten your elbows (trying to go further each time).
*Keep glutes and abs RELAXED during each set!
As a general rule, the closer towards the center of your neck or back the pain travels, the better (even if it is more intense), and the further away from the middle of your spine (i.e., glutes, leg, shoulder), the worse.
*Avoid pain with the exercises. Reps and frequency are given as a general recommendation. In the clinic, actual exercise dosages are patient-dependent based on your PT’s assessment and mechanical diagnosis.
Contact us for a full evaluation and individualized care for your neck or back pain.

Shoulder Pain? Its Common Cause and What To Do

Elevate Co-Founder, Dr. Meredith Soelberg PT, DPT, MBA, explains a common cause of shoulder pain and exercises to help.

Shoulder pain can affect up to 47% of people in a year’s time, and 40% of those affected will still have pain after 1 year. 
Shoulder pain with reaching that comes on without trauma can be caused by “impingement” of sensitive structures in a small space in the shoulder called the subacromial space, and is often referred to as “subacromial impingement syndrome.” The impingement of these sensitive structures (such as the rotator cuff tendons and bursa) is often caused by poor posture and faulty shoulder blade mechanics.
Here’s a series of exercises to improve muscle activation and coordination of the shoulder blade & rotator cuff muscles, and better position the shoulder to avoid impingement and pain with reaching.
Level 2 video pictured.  Level 1 video click here
Level 1 – Table series
Try each exercise 5 times, for a 30 second hold each time.
For sidelying exercise, try 10-15x, 2 sets.
Level 2 – Standing series with band
Try each exercise 10-15x.
For Level 1 & 2 exercises, focus on rolling the shoulders back, squeezing the shoulder blades together toward the spine and away from your ears. Maintain this “squeeze,” even when the shoulder moves.
*Avoid pain with the exercises. Contact us for a full evaluation and individualized care for your shoulder pain.

Elevate’s Youth Athlete Performance & Strength Development Class








We are excited to announce that Elevate is hosting a Youth Athlete Development Series, designed by Elevate Physical Therapists and Youth Athletic Development Expert, Joynier Lockett, to help our youth athletes progress in their sports and reduce injuries. Joynier’s passion for helping youth athletes propelled him to become certified in Youth Long-Term Athletic Development by the IYCA (International Youth Conditioning Association), and a Certified Speed and Agility Coach through Athletes Accelerated.

Starting April 18th and 23rd


4pm:  8-12 year olds

5pm:  13-18 year olds


9:30am:  8-12 year olds

10:30am:  13-18 year olds

Here’s what each age-specific class will teach:

1) Foundational Movement skills that translate into their sport through Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD) programming.

2) Proper strength training through body weight movements to teach them body awareness while learning to control their high-speed movements, and reduce their risk of injury.

3) Speed & Agility mechanics to become faster and more explosive at a level designed for their current age, with the focus on long-term development. 

Athletes can come for both or one class per week.

Per Class: $35 per athlete

Package of Sessions: 10 classes for $300 ($50 savings)

To ensure every child has the opportunity for individualized attention, classes are limited to 8 athletes, and starting early is encouraged as each session will build on mechanics learned in the previous session.

Registration can be done via email, phone, or in person, up until two days before each class.

Email or call 424-322-8585 to reserve a spot today!

Having a drink? Keep this in mind

You might need this for St. Patty’s!

As healthcare practitioners, it’s important for us to stress (especially on “drinking holidays”) that alcohol is a known carcinogen, with a variety of side effects and we want to promote living a lifestyle that is as healthy as possible. We’ve had a lot of questions lately on what to drink without derailing your hard work. Well, first and foremost, it’s best to lay off the sauce altogether, but if you plan to partake, here’s a quick guide of things to consider over the weekend:

If you’re watching total calories: 

Because ethanol (alcohol) is quite calorie-dense, the lowest overall calorie choices are drinks that have both a lower alcohol content and low sugar from mixers.

But let’s be real:

If you’re not aiming for low alcohol drinks, you can still keep your “high alcohol drinks” low-cal by adding only low sugar mixers like club soda, ice cubes, muddled herbs, coconut water, coffee, or freshly squeezed juice (like lemon, lime, or grapefruit)

If you’re limiting sugar:

The lowest carb options for drinks in general are pure distilled liquors like whiskey, gin, vodka (bonus points for gluten-free potato vodka), and tequila.

Things to Avoid: 

Mixed drinks (like piña coladas, mudslides, and margaritas), wine coolers, most beers, liquers, sodas, and syrups, and driving!

If you forgot and went a little overboard:

Sweat it out! 

The best thing you can do is drink extra water, make sure to eat, and work out! Happy St. Patty’s!

The 10-Second Test That Can Save Your Knees

From Elevate Trainer Joynier Lockett and Dr. Meredith Soelberg, DPT. 

Some of the most common knee pain and injuries that occur and that we treat here at Elevate are patellofemoral pain (“runner’s knee”), IT Band Syndrome, and patellar tendinitis (“jumper’s knee”), as well as the less common and more catastrophic injury called an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear.

Nearly 70% of ACL tears are non-contact injuries and occur during movements like cutting, twisting, decelerating, and landing from a jump in sports like soccer, basketball, lacrosse, football and volleyball.

These knee injuries are often caused by weakness and poor control of the trunk, pelvis, hips and knees, and poor body alignment during movement.


The good news is, a couple of simple tests can easily detect key risk factors associated with knee pain and injuries, including the devastating ACL tear.


The top box jump in the video demonstrates “dynamic valgus” (inward collapse of the knees) and it is a movement pattern associated with knee pain and injuries.  Dynamic valgus, combined with poor shock absorption and poor trunk control during cutting, twisting or landing can overload the ACL in a split second.  Wear and tear from dynamic valgus during daily activities and sports is also associated with the more common knee injuries mentioned.

The bottom box jump in the video shows proper landing technique with good shock absorption and the knees tracking over the toes without collapsing inward.  Great landing and movement mechanics stem from proper glute, knee and trunk strength, so exercises to address these areas should be a pillar of any athletes’ training regimen.


Have a friend or family member take a video of you jumping down from a box as shown, OR performing a tuck jump 10 times.  Use slo-mo if you have it!

Here’s an example of a dynamic valgus collapse in a tuck jump test:



If your legs are wiggling around like a baby giraffe, then it’s time to add some corrective strength and movement training to your program. 


Congrats to Elevate Runner Claudia Lane!

Claudia Lane recently won first place in the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championship, completing a 5k run in only 17:04.8! Congratulations on an amazing finish, from the entire Elevate team!

More photos from the race and all of the finishing times are posted on the Foot Locker National Championship website.

Dec 10, 2016; San Diego, California, USA; Claudia Lane (41) crosses the finish line and wins the Girls Milesplit Foot Locker National Finals at Balboa Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-348782 ORIG FILE ID: 20161210_ter_rb5_057.jpg

San Diego, California, USA; Elevate runner Claudia Lane (41) crosses the finish line and wins the Girls Milesplit Foot Locker National Finals at Balboa Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Running is good for you… Fact or fiction?

runningWinter is wrapping up, New Years resolutions are still holding on for dear life, and the summer body is in full throttle. During this time of year, thousands of men and women hit the road in order to prepare for the LA Marathon. Running is the easiest, cheapest and most efficient way to build cardiovascular endurance. But is running safe for muscles, tendons, bones and joints?
It’s a popular belief that running is detrimental to cartilage health, and can lead to arthritis. In fact, research shows quite the opposite. A 2011 systematic review from the American College of Sports Medicine found that physical activity, including running, did not increase the risk of arthritis. Within that same review, a study from Sweden actually showed improvements in cartilage composition in runners! This is encouraging news for both avid, experienced runners, as well as the novice who is just trying to test the pavement.
Here are some helpful tips from Elevate to help you minimize injuries as you hit the open road:

1) “Everything is Good in Moderation”

While running has its benefits, doing too much too quickly can result in pain and injury. If you are a novice runner, start with shorter distances at a moderate pace (10-12 min miles), and consider a walk/run approach. The common rule of thumb is to increase your distance by 10% each week (If you are starting with 5 miles per week, the following week can be increased to 5.5 miles). Researchers found that a person who runs at a moderate pace for 30-45 mins, 3-4 times per week does not run a significant risk of cartilage damage or osteoarthritis. Moderation is the name of the game.

2) “Be Fit to Run, Don’t Run to Be Fit”

More than 70% of all runners will experience an injury that limits their function. Most of these injuries occur due to a poor foundation of strength and conditioning. Common injuries that runners experience include Iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral pain, patellar tendinitis, shin splints, or Achilles tendinitis. A big reason for these injuries is a lack of strength to meet the high demands of running. Common areas of weakness include the gluteal muscles, calves, and arch stabilizers of the foot.
Here are a few exercises from the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical
Therapy to help prepare you for the road or trail. We will focus on some foundational hip extensor and abductor activation with the following 3

Be sure to use proper form, and feel your posterior hip muscles turn on. Add
resistance bands at the thigh if necessary.

3) “Consider Your Shoes and Surface”

Footwear plays an important role in how the body absorbs shock. Make sure you wear a shoe that is conducive to your walking and running style. The number one variable should be comfort. If you don’t like the feel, you will hate it more when you run. Another variable is how your feet hit the ground. 75% of runners are heel strikers, 25% are mid foot or forefoot strikers. One pattern is not necessarily better than another. If you are serious about running, see a PT with experience helping runners. Knowing your strike pattern will provide insight into how you absorb force from the ground, and what is the best shoe for you. At Elevate, we utilize high-speed cameras and movement analysis software to uncover and correct faulty running mechanics leading to pain.
Surface needs to be taken into consideration as well. Harder surfaces create a large ground reaction force, which may place a higher load or stress through your joints and muscles. Start with running on softer surfaces, such as a flat grass field, or rubber track to decrease loading forces. Also consider that asphalt roads are harder than cement side walks. Trail running has is own perils due to the uneven terrain. This would be recommended for the most seasoned runner, as the incidence of ankle sprains rises significantly.

4) “Consider Your Current Fitness Status, and Injury History.”

Being overweight should not deter you from running, but here are a few things to
consider: According to a journal from the Computational Biomechanics of Medicine, with someone who is moderately overweight, there is around 40% greater pressure on the knees, hips and ankles during walking. With that in mind, during running, there can be anywhere from 2.5-8x a person’s body weight placed through the joint.
If you are someone who is looking to begin a weight loss program, consider shorter distances at slower speeds or the run/walk method, and allow ample recovery time (1-2 days in between runs). You can also consider other low impact exercises, like biking and swimming, to begin. As your body adapts, you will be able to increase both pace and mileage while minimizing injury risk.
The principles of moderation and strength building should be a top priority in order to run safely. If you are unsure about whether you should be running, come in to Elevate PT for a full movement evaluation, to help you get fit to run!

Neighmond, P. Put Those Shoes On: Running Won’t Kill Your Knees. National Public Radio: Your Health. Mar 28,


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