RRRRRRUNNERS!!! 5 ways to avoid achilles pain and misery!!!

March 1st, 2019 by Phil Brown



Do this stuff and avoid being off training and a grump around the house because your achilles is feeling like an over – tight guitar string playing “Ace of Spades” out of tune.

Once your achilles tendon is inflamed, it takes a lot of consistent effort and energy to get rid of that “itis”…..wouldn’t you rather be using that time to make progress in your training? 5 EASY FIXES TO AVOID THIS COMMON OVERUSE INJURY will ensure you stay on track for that next personal best!


1. Stttttrrrrrreeeeetch!!!!

Get flexible, save yourself a “world of hurt” as Jesse in Predator puts it. If you “ain’t got time to bleed” then you want to get stretching regularly and with purpose so you can avoid being left at the back of the pack limping and on the menu as prey…….ok enough Predator gags…….

2. Errrrr…..warm up thoroughly? (see “warm up….duh!” coming soon)

You runners are SO bad at this……having a decent warm up strategy is not just a little extra that you do when you have time in your training session, it SHAPES the whole training session by affecting your performance so profoundly that it can make the difference between an hour of POWER……..or, looking and feeling like C3P0 out for a run…………

3. Keep your bum in the picture with regular functional strength work

Achilles tendinitis, calf pain, heel pain and other assorted pains in that area are often the result of that part of your body just getting highly beaten up and peed off enough to start complaining “we’re not gonna take it!” This overwork is often due to a lack of assistance from the biggest muscles in the body – the GLUTES!!! They  can get sleepy and you need to poke them with a stick to wake them up! Ok, no, don’t really do that, but you do need to wake them up with some focused and dynamic strength work. Box jumps, squats, hip extensions, walking around with your bum cheeks squeezed together (it’s a good look! Honest!)


4. Roadrunner was a very small and light bird………

Vary your running surface – pounding the tarmac is repetitive stress syndrome for the WHOLE body (hence the need for a strength component in your training), so give yourself a break and include some trail and beach runs in your schedule. Get some nice views in too and make sure to wear cool sunglasses while you’re out there…….pink lycra optional.


5. Get a deep tissue or sports massage regularly.

Recovery and performance can be positively affected by a decent treatment. It’s so much easier to keep injuries at bay than to spend time and money getting over them, so find an amazing therapist (ahem!) and book in for some regular TLC and energising for the body you’re expecting to do all this work!

Training for a marathon Part 2: Running through the pain DOES NOT WORK

February 1st, 2019 by Phil Brown

In Part 1 of this series, aimed at the would-be marathon entrant or novice runner, I described the experience I believe many people have in their initial attempts at training. They run, literally, into pain. Aches and niggles soon become a part of the training experience and this obviously decreases pleasure and motivation, but more importantly, are signs that training attempts are having a seriously detrimental effect on your body!

In Part 1, I suggested, fairly strongly, that the strategy at this point should be to STOP training and take stock of what is happening.

Pain in the body is a clear sign that something is not how it should be. But what then? Well, you could give up and not fulfil your dream of completing a marathon. Find something else to do that isn’t so hard on your body. There are plenty of activities that will get you crazy fit and don’t make you feel like your joints are full of steel marbles.


You could learn from what is happening and how to put it right. Because there is a right way to go about this running thing and by right I mean without the gradually worsening pain.

So, let’s look at how you got to the pain zone in the first place. Well that’s pretty simple. Running is really really hard on the body. Running long distance even harder! But, you protest, what about Bob and Mags down the road? They are fit as butcher’s dogs and go running all the time! You never see them with a face like a bulldog sniffing piss off a thistle because their achilles feels like a goblin is strumming it with his teeth! How can running be so hard on the bod??

The simple answer is that Bob and Mags are stronger and fitter than you. They have put their time in and built up a fitness for purpose that allows them to put the miles in smoothly and efficiently. Make no mistake – we have two legs on a body that is able to run miles and miles very well indeed…….it’s just that most of us stopped doing anything like that around the age of 10……..and we adapted to a certain type of lifestyle that is mainly sedentary. Basically, from school onwards we have spend about a billion hours sitting on our bums and getting short and tight in all the muscles that we were given for running about with.

It’s right here that – once you’ve stopped training because of the pain – you need to start. This is where reality can be allowed to step in and inform.

You’re in pain because you are in no shape to be running lots. YET.


You’re in pain because the repetitive impact of pounding the pavement has made your muscles tight and sore and your connective tissue feels bruised by the constant battering.

You’re in pain because your muscles are not yet ready to take the volume of impact you have been subjecting them to and your ligaments are having a hard time keeping your ankles and knees together because they are still in shock from the first time you unpacked your brand new trainers and then went out and smashed them again and again and again into the ground.

You’re in pain because your normal range of movement means that after about ten minutes of jogging you resemble a rusty farm gate out for a jaunt.

You’re in pain because you didn’t realise you need to get your body READY TO RUN and you cannot do that by running!  Sounds weird eh? Well if I said that you can’t get your body ready for eating glass by eating glass……….never mind, let’s just look at how these aches and pains built up in the first place:

Repetitive impact is traumatic on the body. Muscles can dissipate the shock of the impact of foot strike through the skeleton, but they need time to adapt and become efficient at this. If you are just starting out, you are UNFIT FOR PURPOSE and this will become clear pretty quickly in the form of calf and ankle pain, sore thigh muscles and cruel and unusual pains in your knees.

A lack of flexibility in the average body used to a relatively if not extremely sedentary lifestyle, means that the range of movement that allows for graceful and relaxed running is not there. Flexibility – or mobility really – is also a profound buffer zone against injury as there is less chance of muscles becoming tight and thus stressed and overused by the movements involved in running.

Basically, in order to not become disabled by the very training you are trying to get fit by doing, you need to IMPROVE TWO THINGS:

Mobility and strength.

Mobility to improve fluidity and range in your movement, strength to cope with the impact of running by improving muscle tone and function.


Longer term, running involves the development of FOUR THINGS:




Cardiovascular capacity


In my own opinion,  that list of four things is a loose priority that can change as training progresses.

And progress is the aim with training. The ONLY aim.

There are endless ways to go about a training programme that addresses these FOUR THINGS and it really depends where you are at the time you start training. However, I am here addressing that poor unfortunate, who started out with the best will in the world and then, within a few weeks or even less, found that they were no longer able to do what they called “running” and that the activity they were now doing felt more like trying to get down the street as gracefully as possible while in a full body cast…..

In Part 3, we shall look at how to progress from the discouraging  stage of inhibiting aches and pains (basically starting again properly) brought on by initial attempts at running training, by addressing these FOUR THINGS with an effective training approach for the novice or beginner.



Non’s Great North Adventure

October 17th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Non Gwyn is a 27 year old teacher from Anglesey who this year has begun competing in half  marathons. She began with a little race in the North called The Great North Run and is  absolutely loving her new passion. Muscle and Movement Health took the time to ask her  about her running, her training and how she has worked with the clinic and training studio  to help her with her sport.

Hi Non, tell us a how you got into running in the first place… was actually by walking first wasn’t it? I’d always wanted to run and had done a few Race for Life’s but always gave up afterwards.

This year I signed myself up to do the Moonwalk with a group of girls from work. For those who don’t know the Moonwalk is a 26.2 mile power walk that’s done over night. I completed that in 5:33:37 in May and realized that with a little effort I could turn the power walking into running, and decided to sign up for the Great North Run & Royal Parks Half Marathons in September and October.
What led you to contact Phil Brown at Muscle and Movement Health?

Whilst training for the Moonwalk I found myself with pain in my left knee, my legs ached and felt heavy and my feet where really sore from blisters. I spoke to a friend who’d done a lot of training over the years and she recommended I go for a sports massage straight after the event. That’s when I came across Phil Brown at Muscle and Movement and Health.
Did you find the treatment you were given helped your training and competing?

I walked into the treatment room after the Moonwalk not being able to bend my left knee and could hardly put any weight on my feet as they were stiff and sore. I walked out ready for my first run.
Had you ever received any sports massage or soft tissue therapy before?

I had never received any sports massage or soft tissue therapy before and realized there and then how beneficial it was going to be to my training.

You and Phil Brown have started developing some complementary training strategies to improve your running times and keep you fit for running. Can you tell us what you were doing and how you feel this training made a difference?

I have stuck to three runs a week since starting training with Phil and have been doing some strength and stability work which includes………as well as explosive training which includes squats, running a 100 meters and then lunges.  When I added the Strength and Stability work into my routine I found within a couple of weeks I could utilize certain muscle groups like the hamstrings and glutes to power myself up hills much quicker.  Then after introducing the explosive training I found I had that extra bit of energy at the end of a run to finish strong or to push to the top of the hill stronger.
So – The Great North Run! How was it?? An exciting day yes?

Yes! Amazing! One of the best experiences of my life. The whole event was just fantastic and I’m definitely going back next year! The course itself took you from Gateshead in the City of Newcatsle all the way to South Sheilds, I didn’t see a part of road or flyover with out people cheering and showing their support. The atmosphere was fantastic and being part of such an event with proper athletes starting the race off and 54,000 runners all up for the same challenge was over whelming and by the end of the race I was an emotional wreck finishing in 1:53:35. 

How did the run turn out for you…? Was the experience similar to what you had discussed with Phil at the studio? Did you have an idea of what to expect or was it all a big surprise?

The run was fun, hard, easy and challenging all at the same time.  From discussing the race with Phil I went there with a plan of starting off slow and gradually picking up pace but I got lost in the atmosphere and completed the first mile at the fastest pace I’d ever ran a mile and as a result was tired by the end. Also in Newcastle I had a drop in energy levels and was so glad to come across the Bupa boost zone at 10 miles. Top tip always carry something like jelly babies with you during a race – I had never needed anything during training but you naturally push harder during a race and need to keep your sugar levels high to perform better. I was also quite shocked during the race to see people collapse around me and need proper medical attention because they were de-hydrated or had just pushed themselves to hard. I got quite un-nerved by this during the race and kept thinking is it going to happen to me? You just have to think about all the training you’ve done, that you are hydrated and that you can finish. Keep focused on your race and no one else is. Someone once told me “pain disappears with time but achievements last forever”. That’s one thing I tell myself when I hit a hard/dark patch when running and it always gets me through as it’s so true!

Do you have any advice for people training for their first competitive event?

Put in the hard work before the event so you can enjoy the day, don’t train too much 3 runs a week has been more than sufficient for me even though at times I would have loved to go out more. Your muscles need time to repair between runs and you’ll perform much better because of it. Also think of investing some money in a sports massage / soft tissue therapy during training, before and after a race. I can’t emphasize how much it’s helped me and I’m not just saying this because it’s an interview for Phil it really has! You walk into the studio with heavy tired legs and walk out feeling like you’ve been on a two week holiday to somewhere nice and hot. Think of it as an investment – you would never run in an old pair of trainers that have holes in them or in a ripped t-shirt would you?

How do you fit your training around the rest of your life? You are a teacher on Anglesey, so obviously really busy! Does training take up loads of time?

When I decided to start running I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t make up stupid excuses like “having no time to train” – I’ve made myself find time to train. If I know I can’t fit a run in after school I get up an hour earlier in the morning to do it then. No matter how tired you are going out you come back feeling 100% better, plus you then know your on track and don’t get fed up and angry as you’ve missed one of your training runs. Plus as I’ve only been doing three runs a week it hasn’t been taking up too much time, the more you run the faster you get so the good news is it takes up even less time unless you start contemplating a marathon like me! On average I spend an hour twice during the week training and then a long run at the weekend which I tend to do between 10-14 miles so two hours at the most. Obviously when I started my long run was 5 miles and it’s built up over time.

I believe you have just finished another half marathon in London? How do you feel your performance compared to The Great North Run?

My mission in London was to get a sub 1:50:00 time as the course was flat in comparison to Newcastle and I’d learnt from my mistakes in the first half. I set off on a 8:20 minute mile pace in London and kept a close eye on my Garmin watch all the way round to make sure I wasn’t picking up too much pace and also wasn’t slowing down. I carried jelly babies with me during the Royal Parks half and had one before each water stop so at approximately 5, 7.5, 9, 10.5 and 11. I also ditched the water bottle I’d carried round with me during all my training and the Great North Run as I felt it was weighing me down. It was my comfort blanket if you like during the first half but having let go of it now I’m so glad. If you go into the race fully hydrated you have plenty of adequate water stops on the way round. The combination of no water bottle and jelly babies helped me to no end during the second half. Keeping my sugar levels high meant I was more focused on the race, could push harder and felt stronger during the run itself. Also starting off steady and pushing towards the end was much better than crossing that line with nothing left in the tank. I completed the Royal Parks in 1:49:51 and felt fantastic! 

What are your plans for the next few months? How are you shaping your training?

I have another half in November and then one in March. Over the winter I’m going to keep my running to three times a week trying to increase the pace slowly and steadily. I’m also going to be working with Phil on building muscle so I have more power during longer runs and tweaking my diet so I get more sustainable energy for running from my food.

Many thanks for your time Non and good luck with your running!!

Barefoot for beginners: The beauty of soft knees and “literate” feet.

August 15th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Today I took a barefoot road run. It was the furthest I have been on road barefoot and the difference since the previous session a week ago was marked. I felt like a different runner.  The springiness that more experienced barefooters talk about was something I actually began to experience rather than desire.

Running on tarmac and concrete has as much pleasure as running on grass. The firmness of the surface means that you can really “wind up” as your forefoot falls followed by the light touchdown of the heel. The feedback from the surface – particularly on a sunny day like today – is warm and smooth and allows your feet to spread evenly. I found this even easier than running on the field, since the ground was not unstable and I could concentrate on enjoying the run without the added challenge of uneven ground for my lower leg muscles and ankles (although that uneven ground is essential training not to be missed).

Road running barefoot would not have been anything like as fulfilling and certainly not as pain free if I had not been practicing what is a central technique in this lighter, less impact-heavy running style: running with bent knees.

With a heel to toe running gait, most runners land on their leading heel with the knee almost fully extended. The shock from that impact through the heel travels without much interruption straight through a relatively unstable, “open” knee and into the hips and lower back.

The running shoe – clad, heel-striking foot seems not to be able to “read” the impact of a strike as effectively as a soft, sometimes even gingerly-placed , bare footfall can (at least in my experience so far). In naked, the incredibly sensitive plantar surface of the feet feel everything on a road. The response from the body is to automatically look for ways to run in a lighter, pain free, easier way. Our natural response is to avoid pain: running barefoot seems to have a fantastic effect on the way we instinctively deal with movement and impact: we make it easy on ourselves: we bend our knees and when our feet plant, they do so at the end of soft, shock absorbing, bent knees. It. Feels. Good!!

Have you ever stood on something hard with sharp corners on it in bare feet? If you have children, you will know exactly what I mean: a midnight visit to the loo and suddenly the whole left side of your body is collapsing as if it has been shut down, as you stand on a die-cast car or the plug from some eletrical toy. It is amazing how the nerves in your feet can cause such a tidal wave of response all the way through the body. It may hurt like heck, but in actual fact, our feet are saving us from worse pain or damage. Telling our body to give way immediately lets us fall “around” the object rather than keep pressing down onto it without any give……barefoot running, once we adapt to it, is like that:  it is back to instinct, back to our interface with the ground we walk on, with nothing in between except our feet, which are learning how to read for us like they did when we ran barefoot as children.

How to learn to run with soft knees

Think about how you run up stairs. If you can, do it. What are your knees doing? Are they ever straight?

Now run up and down on the spot. Bring your knees up to your belt line as you do it. What are you doing? You are forefoot striking and landing with bent knees. You are doing this to make the process comfortable. Nobody has taught you this. You just do it.

Now, go outside and start running on the spot on hard ground. Do it gently and try to make every footfall as silent and as light as you can. Focus on LIFTING the knees AS SOON as your heel has touched the ground (the order should be ball of foot first, then toes and heel at the same time). Keep the cadence high and the footfalls light. (When you run or walk up stairs, the focus is on the lift of your knees).

Once you have tried this for a couple of minutes, break into a gentle run and keep the footfalls as soft as you were just doing. In order to do this you will have to keep your knees bent and keep lifting almost at the same time as each foot strike. Imagine being a ninja, moving so lightly that you aren’t leaving footprints! Keep the cadence light and moderately fast, but don’t try to run fast. Try to find a feeling of light,bouncy ease and just enjoy.

If things start to tighten up and you feel pain in the calf area or the knees, stop and try getting back your form by running on the spot as you started again: focusing on light bounces and lifting the knees and landing softly. I find the running on the spot technique great for getting back “in the groove” before carrying on again. Any pain apart from some direct contact sole soreness from the road means you are tightening up and that you need to adjust something. Watch your stride length too – keep it short and easy.

A word about pain: your calves and knees should not hurt when you run. If they do, it is most likely because you are trying to run too fast when you have not yet found your specific form (it takes practice and patience), or you have been running for too long when your body is not yet ready for it.  Go for short, gentle runs to begin with.  Learn the easy and light first, then the duration and speed will come naturally with time.

The value of true barefoot training:a lesson from pain.

August 9th, 2011 by Phil Brown

A few days ago I read  a review and summary of the book Barefoot Running Step by Step by Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton and Roy M. Wallack. One of the things that they recommend, according to the summary I read, is not to use minimalist shoes at all at first. This is based on the reasoning that any barrier between your feet and the ground will encourage a lazy approach to form, that, however slight, will result in a non – optimal and possibly harmful running gait.

I bought the book. It arrived today and looks wonderful. Nicely designed and full of useful tips and anecdotes from 2 people who have years of experience in honing their form. I haven’t really opened it yet, but something happened this morning (see the post on the barefoot running drill posted yesterday) that seems to prove the point about minimalist shoes in an uncannily accurate manner!

This morning I got out of bed with a localised pain in the ball of my left foot. It felt like a bruise. As the day wore on it got worse, to the point of me caving in and putting on sandals. My Vibram Fivefingers felt really uncomfortable too. Ice helped a little and I was able to to find some relief from soft sandals. I began, typically, to worry if I was facing weeks of plantar fascia pain. So, during a break between clients, I thought I would get out there on the grass and try a gentle pat around to see what it felt like……… and actually, it felt ok. Barefoot running didn’t make the pain worse. If anything, after a couple of laps around the field, things felt a bit better!   Hmmmm… I began to think and eventually thought about that recommendation of not using minimalist shoes to begin with.

This is my theory as to why I developed ball of foot pain and why it felt better when I went back to barefooting in the grass:

1. Since starting to change my running style, I have done all my running in Vibram Fivefinger shoes. They have felt great and I have enjoyed wearing them at work and play all day.

2. Two days ago, I ran a gentle, hilly tarmac route with no problems at all.

3. One day ago, I ran for the FIRST TIME barefoot. ON GRASS. The day after I had my first real pain since becoming interested in the barefoot running culture.

4. On hard ground, I ran in shoes, which, however minimal, protected the balls of my feet as I planted them. As a result, I planted them harder than I would have in bare feet. Over 4 weeks, I developed a HABIT doing this.

5. On soft, fluffy grass, I ran for the first time in bare feet. I used the style I had developed on the road in shoes. The ground was uneven. This challenged my feet as all the muscles that control the fine movements and “grasping” in my feet were working much harder than on the flat, stable surface of the road. That extra challenge on my feet and ankles, plus the habit I had developed of planting my forefoot harder than necessary put enough strain and impact on the underside of my feet to cause strain and some bruising.

6. When I decided to try out running today on grass despite the pain, I instinctively started with smaller strides and a lighter forefoot plant. The result was hardly any, if any, pain. My body was instinctively using pain as a signal to change its interface with the ground.

7. Running in bare feet has taught me, through this experience, how our shoes give us a false sense of security and don’t allow us to learn how to use our bodies properly. I took my shoes off and tried to carry on as usual. Pain was the result. I tried again, with pain….I adjusted without really thinking about it.

From now on, I will include barefoot running periods every week – on grass, on sand and on hard road. It is fascinating to think how much I have yet to learn about stepping lightly and easily in contact with the earth. And how much my body has yet to teach me if I allow it!


Here’s a good barefoot running drill for beginners

August 8th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Chris Mcdougall is mentioned as talking to a crossfit group in this interesting snippet. What caught my eye was how he mentions wanting to do away with his intellectualising of the process of running; wishing he could simply go back and just learn to listen to the feedback from his body as he runs in barefeet; letting instinct take over.

This morning I worked on a running drill that felt, for the first time, like running can indeed be effortless, fluid and joyful. To say the drill is “designed” would be complete tosh: I just went out on a field of grass and ran barefoot, but on reflection, there are perhaps some useful things to share here for beginners:

On a field or beach/soft surface

Start out in a slow run with small, light steps. Your body should be upright but relaxed, your elbows mid-trunk by your sides and gently moving back and forth with the cadence. Imagine that you are trying to run as noiselessly and lightly as possible. Pay NO ATTENTION AT ALL to the voice that tells you you are running to slow or that it is not a taxing enough workout. This drill is all about loosening up and enjoying the movement.

Run for 5 minutes at this light pace, focusing on the bounce from your feet and the feedback from the ground. Practice adjusting your body as you go; trying to feel your way through to a light, bouncy, effortless rhythm. Your head at this pace will be over your body.

After you have found a that nice, easy groove (it may take more than 5 minutes, but who’s counting really….), up your cadence and speed up a little. Not with longer strides but with more frequent, lighter forefoot strikes. You may find as you speed up that your body leans a little more forward and your head begins to lead a little more. Go with this and you will find that you are a little more up on your forefeet as they “pat” down on the ground. Ease off as soon as things seem to lose their smoothness and ease: any time that happens, the rule is to slow up and find the easy cadence you started with.

Keep on with this: changing speed for a while and then easing back when you lose the rhythm and ease. Push a little faster and you will find your head and body lean even more forward and your foot striking is even lighter and quicker and more “up” on the forefoot. If you are more up towards your toes, your foot strikes should be quicker and briefer. As you ease down, your body will ease back and become more upright again; your foot striking will ease back and more of the mid foot will perhaps become involved. Play around with it, but ALWAYS stick with the rule that as soon as you lose ease and rhythm, come back down to a slow pace and find it again. As you gradually improve, you’ll find you can stay in that easy groove for longer at faster speeds.

Just remember, whatever pace you find your groove, ease and fluidity at, that is the perfect pace for you right now. Slowly play with opening that up, but above all ENJOY WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW! For me, this is the whole spirit of running – almost resting in the pace that is right for you and finding that smile crack on your face….

Keep the drill up as long as you want, but listen to your legs and don’t keep going if things start to tighten up.

Thoughts on barefoot running #1

August 7th, 2011 by Phil Brown

I have been experimenting with forefoot running over the last few weeks. Having read Chris Mcdougall’s inspiring book Born to Run, I became curious as to the possibilities he suggests regarding developing a running style that is innately suited to our human nature. The idea of treating running like a joyous game rather than a chore really appealed to me. Mcdougall’s message, among other things, is to suggest that we have lost an innate ability to use our bodies in a freer, easier way. He suggests that we have become accustomed to pounding the pavements in gel-filled running shoes, that, far from helping us to run, actually hinder us from developing the kind of strengths needed to run without injury.

Reading Born to Run and chatting with an associate chiropractor, who runs using minimalist shoes Vibram Fivefingers got me interested enough to begin trying it out for myself. Below are my thoughts, based on what I have tried out thus far:

Walk around barefoot alot!

Get used to feeling your feet and toes again!  Walk around the garden or on the beach. Let your feet out of the confines of your shoes and let them “spread”. Many of us have rigid feet that have forgotten how to mould and give in response the ground we are in contact with. Our toes are designed to spread out and dissipate weight and force as we “toe off” in walking and running.  our shoes have alot to answer for – many shoes simply don’t allow our toes to fulfil the role they were designed for.

Try this – in barefeet, raise yourself up as high as you can on your toes. Try to keep your balance and as you do feel all the fine movements and tensions that areactivated in your toes as they work to support and balance your whole body! That’s how influential and important they are to us.


Ease into it. If you think you are taking it easy on your first month or two, then think again and GO EVEN EASIER.

My opinion? Most runners injure themselves because they are too consumed with running for time. Our whole being is conditioned to timetables and deadlines at work and play: personal bests, sub-four hour marathons, fitting in a training session during our lunch break, making that deadline or meeting, fitting in time with the family, etc, etc. This nervous conditioning feeds into our running training. Try as we might, that little panicky voice in our heads is constantly reminding us that we need to beat our last training run time otherwise we aren’t progressing…………we need to focus on our FORM more, particularly when attempting a new running style that asks muscles that have been dormant to start working in ways they never have.

A tip – if you have a race coming up in the next six months and you are thinking of making a good time AND changing your style to barefoot or forefoot running……DON’T!  Either run the race and don’t change up, or skip the race and take time to discover a new way of running.

Another tip – a good indicator of whether you are going easy enough to begin with is this: you should be running at a pace that allows you to breathe at times through your nose with no problems. Focusing on form to begin with is all about not getting out of breath.

Yet another tip – Think about slowly increasing the duration of your run rather than the distance. As your muscles adapt, distance and speed will slowly come as your form improves.

Practice running barefoot on the spot

Barefoot or forefoot running is similar in movement to running on the spot. When you run on the spot, you naturally bounce lightly up and down on the balls of your feet. There is no real effort. Practice this as a drill without any shoes before and after your runs.


Run with shorter strides

Learn to run with shorter strides and increase your cadence as you get more skilled at forefoot running. Padded running shoes allow us to take huge strides as we slam down on our heels; a half inch of padding between us and the pavement. When you run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, running in this way will cause pain.  The idea with barefoot, forefoot striking is to develop a faster, lighter rythym, where your feet “skip” across the surface of the ground, rather than thump down in the traditional heel – to – toe manner. Shorter, lighter strides will feel easier and less impactful on your body.

Try this – run along for a few metres in a heel striking style. Stick your fingers in your ears as you do so and listen to the sound the vibrations make in your head as you land. Then switch to a light, forefoot style and do the same thing. The difference in the quality of the sound is profound and informative!

Try to vary the surface you run on.

If you live out in the country or near the sea, then try to go out barefoot and run on the beach or on grass. Road running will probably involve shoes of some sort to protect your feet from bits of glass and sharp stones. If you have no soft ground nearby, then running on the spot on carpet will help your feet get acclimatised to forefoot striking and get you used to reading feedback and making adjustments in your foot strike.

For road running, there are loads of minimalist shoes available now. I have been using the Vibram Fivefingers shoes for my daily work as well as road running and find them superb.

Stretch and massage your feet and ankles

If you are new to barefoot running, then getting to know your feet intimately is a must. Self massage is a great way to find and free up the restrictions in the soles of your feet and your lower leg.  Getting a sports therapist or soft tissue therapist to work into the connective tissue and muscles of your feet and lower leg can be a wonderfully educational experience: you will be stunned at how rigid your feet have become over years of wearing shoes and trainers. Treatment to the sole of the feet can have profound effects all the way up the body.

If you have no access to a therapist, use a tennis ball, stand on it and roll it around the sole of your foot as deeply and slowly as you can without too much pain: after five minutes, your foot will be softer and freer than it has been in a while!

Have fun!

Play with the whole thing: I have been out running in short trips over the last 4 weeks. I have no aim other than to learn to run in a way that is pleasurable and pain free. Any other aims such as racing would have to come out of that and that alone. I have only been out running twice a week and only for around 30 minutes until the last couple of runs, which were around 45 minutes. Today I went out with my little boy. He rode his bike and I was able to chat to him the whole way, which pleased me no end as it meant I wasn’t pushing myself too hard and also getting quality time with my son!

I am thinking of posting more as I continue practising forefoot (and barefoot where possible) running, so get in touch if you have any thoughts and tips of your own!  You can find us at


Knee pain in my bottom: A guide to the Iliotibial Band.

May 4th, 2011 by Phil Brown

The iliotibial band. No, it’s not some turn of the century musical outfit. It is a part of the body whose name is often banded about by runners, cyclists and triathletes as the reason for their niggling aches and pains…..”Oh, yeah….got a bit of ITB tightness…….yeah, it was all ok until I got ITB Syndrome…”  However, I get the feeling that  that the iliotibial band remains something of an enigma to many, even those who claim it as the culprit in their pain….

It is common for me to treat runners at  Muscle and Movement Health who are suffering from pain involving the ITB, but who are completely unaware of the existence of this part of their anatomy and how influential it can be in the progress of their training…..

Where is it?

Down the outside of your thigh. It’s the slightly flatter bit on the outside of your thigh. It  runs from the side of your hip to the side of your knee, tapering as it descends.

What is it?

The iliotibial band is a strip of something called fascia. Fascia is a network of connective tissue that invests all the muscles and organs of your body and wraps them all up in the shape of a human being. Among many other things, the job of fascia is to transmit the movement and force created by muscles through the joints of the skeleton. This particular job is important to remember when we are discussing problems connected with the ITB.

What does it do?

The iliotibial band maintains what we can call a dynamic tension between the hip joint and the knee joint. It is constantly tight, but sometimes gets even tighter. The iliotibial band is actually part of a longer band of fascia that runs from the base of the feet through the outside of the leg, spiralling up into the oblique abdominals, upper trunk and back and into the back of the neck.

When we walk or run, movement at the hip joint is translated through the thigh and into the knee and then ankle and foot. And back again! This happens all the time very quickly when we are walking. When we are running it happens very VERY quickly. ALOT of shock and movement is transmitted through the ITB by the muscles that it merges with at either end…..

How does it go wrong?

The muscles that merge with the ITB at the hip can get very tight and tired from training or overuse, or sometimes simply by the way we walk or our choice of shoes.

When the iliotibial band is too tight, it stops moving so freely over the tissues and structures that lie underneath it. This can cause friction and inflammation at  the knee end or the hip end, or both. A tight ITB can also pull on the structures around the knee joint and cause pain.

How does it get too tight?

The  powerful gluteus maximus (buttock) muscles that take such a powerful role in running merge with the iliotibial band at the side of the hip.  A smaller muscle at the front of the hip called Tensor fasciae latae also merges with the band.  When these muscles become too tight, this tension is communicated to and through the band.

Below the knee, the front and outside of the shin can also become tight and sore from overuse. This tension can also translate into the ITB, which we must remember is part of a longer, continuous band of longitudinal fascia.

Strenuous exercise, such as training  can cause overtightness and overuse in these muscles, as can injury to the hip, knee or ankle in the form of strains or sprains.

What does it feel like?

Tension problems in the iliotibial band can cause different sensations. Most of these can make you feel like you have an injury or problem in the knee or hip and sometimes the ankle or foot.

A common symptom of an overtight iliotibial band is pain on the outside of the knee and just below the kneecap. It is not uncommon for a client to attend the clinic at Muscle and Movement Health complaining of knee pain and a little worried that they have a problem in the joint itself.  This is totally understandable. ITB pain at the knee can literally stop you in your tracks.  The distal (bottom) end of the band merges with the lateral part of the patellar retinaculum, which is an area of retaining and supportive connective tissue at the knee.  Tension from a tight gluteus maximus (or bum muscle) will translate through the ITB and cause pulling and pain here at the knee.

Resulting pain can feel sharp and local at the side of the knee, front of the hip or side of the hip and bottom. Sometimes this pain transfers as an ache or pulling at the side of the knee and into the outside of the shin.


How can I get rid of it??????


Using  stretches for the gluteus maximus and the tensor fasciae latae muscles can be effective to release tension here as well as prevent recurrence in the longer term. General stretches to maintain healthy hip, knee and ankle mobility are obviously crucial for runners. Tightness and imbalance in these areas can result in movement patterns that encourage ITB tightness to develop.

The right footwear

Make sure you have made the right choice of running shoe for the shape of your feet and the way you run. ITB pain resulting from your gait (the way your body moves and your feet strike the ground as you run) is very common.  Go to a running shoe shop that offers gait analysis from experienced staff.  A change of shoes can sometimes completely cure an ITB related pain problem.

Don’t overtrain

A sensible training programme does not result in overtraining. Proper rest periods between training sessions and race events, plus some creative cross-training can ensure safety from injury and overuse.

Sports massage

Regular deep tissue massage can not only release you from the sometimes chronic cycle of  ITB problems, but also enhance your training progress and performance by speeding recovery between sessions and preventing build up of the tension in muscle fibres that leads to pain and injury.

Self – treatment

If you are suffering from tightness and pain in the areas discussed, there are some small and simple things you can do which may ease and sometimes clear up the problem. Try massaging deeply and slowly using a tennis ball or the heel of your hand into the outside of your buttock near your hip bone. You can also work in the same way into the “pocket muscle” tensor fasciae latae, which sits just below the crest of your hip at the top and outside of your thigh.

Foam rollers can also be effective if you use them slowly up and down the ITB from hip to knee.

Both these techniques can often clear up low level ITB gripes very quickly.

Strength and stability training

A very common factor in the development of ITB related pain is weakness in the gluteus maximus muscle. A weak bottom can ruin a good runner!

When these big buttock muscles are not firing in an optimum sequence, the stability of the hip is compromised. This results in a tightening of the muscles that stabilise the hip during dynamic movement. Also, weaker muscles tire and tighten quicker than trained and strong ones.

Many runners suffer from iliotibial band pain as a result of weak gluteus maximus muscles. Using isolation exercises to get them contributing more effectively to the movement of running can address a root cause of many running-related aches and pains.

For more information on how to address iliotibial band issues or if you have a chronic problem that is stopping you progressing in your training, contact us at Muscle and Movement Health to discuss how we can help!



Training for the London marathon without killing yourself Part One: The bit where you give up near the start.

February 12th, 2011 by Phil Brown

So, you’ve been training for the London marathon. You decided a few months ago that this was going to be your mission. Actually getting into the race was a sign: your calling to make something of yourself and raise some wonga for your favourite charity in the process. You felt good. You felt energised and excited about training schedules, new trainers and losing that stubborn spare tyre.

That was four months ago and things have definitely changed. You can run 8 miles without feeling that your lungs are going to collapse. You are able to get into those jeans that had been lying hidden in the bottom drawer. You’ve chalked up some serious mileage using a training schedule you found in a running magazine. You’re feeling satisfied you’ve come this far, but there is a new feeling too: one of being completely KNACKERED. You are plateauing, which means you are not making the progress that you were in your training. You have aches and pains that won’t go away. You are not enjoying your mission as much as you thought and the sense of purpose you had on each running day is not as keen……

What is happening? You should be getting better, faster, stronger…’re doing loads of running, surely you should be getting fitter. You try upping your mileage on your weekend long run and increasing your times on the faster short runs, but that just makes things worse. Then one day, you find that you can’t complete  the 12 miler you have been aiming for because the pain in the side of your knee simply stops you in your tracks. You are suddenly way off your targets and feeling like you aren’t going to make this race after all………

What on earth has happened? You were doing so well. You were warming up and stretching afterwards. You had a decent pair of brand new running shoes you had fitted at a shop where they made you run on one of those treadmill thingies. You aren’t doing too badly at eating, but are probably not eating enough…. You’ve been training dammit and now you can’t even run half a mile without pain!

You made a basic mistake. You thought – quite understandably – that getting better at running meant running lots and lots. You did that, but you didn’t realise one thing:

running lots and lots is bad for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I run a sports and remedial massage clinic. I treat runners and other people who love their sports and their training. I like sport. I believe in keeping fit and in healthy competition. But any extreme form of physical exercise has a negative, destructive effect on the body. That’s the truth. In fact, the process of a  well-planned training programme is to cause adaptation in the body by subjecting it to  cycles of stress and recovery; damage and repair. Each time the body is damaged, it repairs itself and strengthens itself to cope more efficiently with the next challenge. At least, that is the theory. Indeed, when you started out on your mission, you probably found yourself making great progress, adding distance each week and increasing your times quite swiftly. After a while,your body stopped adapting to the stresses you were placing on it and started getting worn down by them.  When this happened, progress was hampered and even stopped, motivation took a plunge and without understanding what was happening, you made the mistake of trying to force more progress by increasing the stress on your body – basically, you tried to train harder. The results were pain and a complete cessation of progress. Argh. Pants. What do you do now?

Firstly, you need to understand what has happened and to ACCEPT your present situation. Your body is tired. YOU are tired. You feel like you never want to run another yard. Start here; being honest. From here, there is a way to recover and restart and even excel in your training, but you HAVE to acknowledge your fatigue and your pain and – for a short time – stop.

In the next instalment of my marathon training series we shall look at how overtraining and injury in the novice runner happens.

In the wake of another London Marathon

April 30th, 2009 by Phil Brown

The clinic here on Anglesey was busy last week. I got to look at a lot of legs! Phone calls came in from various places in the locality as brave individuals from North Wales prepared to take themselves South to attempt a marathon. Most of the people I treated before last Sunday were attempting a marathon for the first time. Most of them were booking in for sports massage treatment at the last minute, to relieve aches and pains that had cropped up as a result of their training.

This got me thinking that for many who are training and entering a long distance race for the first time, it is not so easy to get the balancing act right between a training schedule, their family and work and actually making progress and avoiding injury. As I mentioned, most of the people I treated before the London Marathon had never run one before and a regular training schedule was something new to them. The aches and pains they were feeling were not only a result of the load they were placing on their bodies, but also a result of the overall stress that occurs when trying to fit such a schedule into a normal, daily living routine.

So, if you are considering training for a half or full marathon read on for some simple effective tips to keep you injury free and making progress in your training.


The type of shoes you wear when running is crucial. Running is not easy on the body. Good running shoes help absorb the repetitive shock of heel strike, particularly on hard concrete and tarmac. But thats not all. The shape of your foot is completely individual. The way the force from heel striking travels up your legs and through the knees, hips, spine, shoulders, neck and head is different depending on the shape of your foot as it hits the deck. Some people have a tendency to run on the inside edge of their feet. This tendency is known as pronating. Other runners tend to load weight on the outside edge. This is known as supinating. Still others have a neutral foot strike and others may strike the ground more with the ball of their foot.

Whatever type you are, FIND OUT! Go to a good sports store and get advice on the best type of shoe for you. By ‘a good sports store’ I mean one where there are assistants who actually run themselves. People who can watch you walking and running and are well practiced in analysing different gaits. Some stores have treadmills that the staff will get you running on, but what matters most is the experience and knowledge of the staff themselves.They should be able to recommend a good shoe with the right insoles if needed.

If you have an excessive tendency in your gait, you will need insoles to effectively change the shape of your foot in its contact with the ground. Sometimes, a referral to an orthotics clinic is needed, so that specialised insoles can be made to match your specific needs – for your everyday shoes as well as your running shoes. Your doctor should be able to provide a referral should you find you fit into this category.

If you are doing your training in a pair of shoes that are not right for your feet, you WILL EVENTUALLY GET INJURED!!!! There are no two ways about this. The problem can be that the build-up to injury can be slow and subtle. For example, a pronator in the wrong shoes will be continually overloading their flexor tendons as they ‘toe-off’ with each stride. This continual loading will eventually lead to the tendons becoming inflamed, tight and painful. This condition, which is known as tendinopathy, is chronic and takes time to get rid off. It can sometimes hamper training to the point where you have to stop altogether while the condition clears up. it is so much wiser, at the start of your training adventure, to get proper advice and find the right type of shoes for you.


The aches and pains that the people I worked with before the marathon were suffering from were the result of training. This is normal. You cannot train for a long distance race without some niggles. Particularly if, as many of the entrants in this year’s London Marathon, fitness has never been a priority in your lifestyle.

Training takes its toll on your body. But when done right, this toll is the thing that causes changes to occur in your body. Changes that make it fit for the purpose you are pursuing. But you have to be smart and learn to listen to your body. This is difficult for many, particularly those for whom physical training is a new thing.

Many of us have an idea of training that comes from watching too many training montages in Rocky movies. We think that if we are not tired and not in pain and anguish, we aren’t training hard enough. This is a wrong, destructive view of training. Although training should be difficult at times, for many of us as newbie runners, consistency is the key.

Aim to build up gradually. Focus on building your ability to run well over distance without worrying about time. If you are training for your first distance run, make your aim to finish in good FORM, rather than time and the time will take care of itself.  Your form is the level of control, poise and balance with which you are able to run over distance. When new to training, try to keep within a level of effort that allows you to remain feeling strong and stable for the large part of each training session. Once you have spent a couple of months building a strong foundation of good form and some endurance, you can start to push a bit harder at times in your schedule. Remember, if you have not made regualr training of any sort part of your life before, you need to focus on this foundation primarily. In your first distance race, to finish well is to finish running.

In my experience, we men are the worst at getting our training right. We overtrain. We do too much over a long period of time and then BAM!, we call up a sports injury therapist a week before the race because suddenly we cannot walk straight let alone run.

Here’s a good test to see if you are the type to overtrain: If you are worried you are not training hard enough, you are probably training too much!

There are loads and loads of different schedules and plans out here on the internet and in various books and magazines. Read around and find a few that look suitable for you. Once you start your training, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!!! JUST BECAUSE SOME SO-CALLED EXPERT IS TELLING YOU THAT THIS SCHEDULE IS THE WINNER, IT DOESN’T MEAN IT IS RIGHT FOR YOU!!! Mix and match and try different approaches, but whatever you do, keep focusing on building distance gradually and running well. If your are new to running, forget your time. Concentrate on CONSISTENCY and QUALITY.


You will suffer from aches and pains. You are asking your body to do alot more than it is used to. It will get used to it, but it will complain too. These niggles are because you are actually getting injured! Not the kind of injuries that mean you have to stop training, but tiny injuries in the muscle tissues that occur as you put slight and repetitive overload on them. This overload is part of what causes your muscles, joints and ligaments to adapt to the added jobs being asked of them. Muscles respond to stress by getting stronger! They will adapt to the job at hand by increasing in size and changing shape and density in response to the overload. But this change will only occur effectively if you allow the tissues to REST. During rest, the muscles recover and grow to meet the demands of the next session. Any minor aches and pains will have a chance to heal and then you will be ready for the next training run. Overtraining and chronic fatigue syndromes are a common thing hampering progress. Remember that progress is made while RESTING as well as training.

Some of you will need much more rest between sessions than others. The 40 year old man with 3 children, a full time job and limited spare time will need to have more rest since his energy is already being spent in the normal demands of life! The 22 year old single woman with a part time waitress job may have more energy and more time on her hands. She may find she can train more often and get results. Whatever your situation, be realistic and tailor your training accordingly.

If your aches and pains are not going away before the next training session, its sure sign you are not resting long enough and you are on the way to a more serious, chronic injury.

If you find you are feeling tired and down and not looking forward to the next run, you are not getting enough rest.

If you are getting colds and feeling below par more often, you are not getting enough rest.

If you find your progress has stopped and you are not performing in your training as well as you were, you need more rest.


A number of people phoned Phil Brown Massage within 3 or 4 days of the London Marathon last week. Some were complaining of calf pain or knee pain at this very late stage in their training. It was a pleasure to provide useful treatment for each, but I also felt how useful I could have been for them if I had met them earlier. Regular massage and soft tissue therapy has a dramatic effect on recovery time between training sessions. The aches and pains we often carry with us into the next session can be caused by tight overworked tissues adhering to each other and hampering movement in a joint such as the knee or the ankle. Deep tissue massage and specialised stretching techniques can free these tissues and restore freedom of movement and relief tightness and pain. Professional athletes are benefitting from regular sports massage that keeps them free from injury and performing to the best of their ability. Massage has a great effect. If you are trying to maintain a progressive training schedule, then find a good bodyworker or sports masseur and invest in the body you are using!


There is nothing that beats sharing your training with someone else. Having someone next to you who can encourage you and point things out to you that you may miss otherwise is priceless. And you can do the same for them. Training for distance can be lonely and at times boring. Having a training ‘buddy’ to work with can push you further and make the whole experience more enjoyable. Find someone who has similar aims for the event as you and someone who is not too far from your level of fitness.

When you start out, another good option is to find a good personal trainer to get you going and provide you with a start-up schedule and come running with you. A good trainer will be able to recognise your strengths and weaknesses both physically and mentally and help you develop a tailor-made training programme that will enable you to achieve your goals and not wear you out doing it.

Please call Phil Brown for more advice about smart training. If you are considering a new training schedule and are new to the sport you are considering, we have plenty of advice and treatment available here at Phil Brown Massage. There are also loads of tips and advice here at the website. Feel free to browse.

Happy training!!

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