2 Things Every Runner Needs For Success

Two things every runner needs for success:

Running Formula.png

1️⃣ Cardiovascular Economy (VO2 Max)

This is the max amount of oxygen your body can take in, transport and use during running.

Gifted athletes have a high VO2 max that means they can sustain high work loads over a longer period of time, before getting fatigued.

The rest of us have to rely on consistent training over the years to improve. Ultimately you have a set limit that relates to your genes (and your age).

If you have a high VO2 max, but your tissues aren't ready to cope with the high loads of running, often that can lead to overload and injury (a common scenario among triathletes).

2️⃣ Biomechanical Efficiency

This is where we can have the most impact, preparing our bodies for running, through optimal:

✅ flexibility in the right places (ankles, hips, upper back),
✅ core and gluteal stability
✅ strength and capacity in the muscles, tendons and bones
✅ efficient running form
✅ a sensible load management plan

This is what we 💯 focus on in The Resilient Runner Workshop.

Building you up from the inside out so you have the capacity to unlock your potential as a runner.

One of the reasons I love running is because it a barometer of your physical foundation. You can learn so much from listening to what your body is telling you, getting stronger and healthier than ever before.

The next workshop is coming up Murray Bridge March 9th (limited places left). Also excited to be heading to Clare Crossfit 5451 in May, check out the website for all the details.

Increasing Motivation For Exercise

Completing a personalised exercise program is a critical part of getting the best outcome from your Physiotherapy treatment program.

At your Initial Assessment, we perform a thorough movement screening, and thoughtfully design a program to help you re-build your foundation and address the underlying root cause of your symptoms.

Ideally, you’ll find the exercises fun, interesting, challenging (and possibly even enjoyable).

The best results will involve us collaborating together to add / modify the exercises as we go.

With your feedback, we'll be able to fine-tune them so you are getting the most positive impact and making real progress towards your goal.

Realistically, it's natural to have trouble finding the motivation or time to get the exercises done (especially as you start to feel better), so here's:

3 tips to help improve your exercise adherence:

1. Keep in mind your purpose and your 'why'

Think about the types of activities that you want to be able to do again, pain-free.

Tell yourself, every set of exercises you do are getting you one step closer to reaching your goal.

'The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step'.

2. Set aside a regular time and place to do the exercises

Perhaps you could tie the exercises onto an already established daily routine such as after brushing your teeth, or straight after a walk/run).

Using the in-built reminder in the app can also really help.

3. Aim for 'progress not perfection'

We don't expect you to be 100% compliant with these exercises every day, (but we'll be incredibly impressed if you do!).

We've heard every excuse in the book about why you couldn't complete your exercises, so no need to aim for perfection, we all have days where other priorities must take precedence.

But remember that your health is important.

'Those who think they have no time for exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness'.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns to help make your journey a good one.

PRE-hab is the new rehab

When it comes to building your running capacity, putting together consistent training weeks / months is how you reach your potential.

Sounds simple in theory, but the most common set-back is niggling injuries that force you slow down or take time off all together.


You can find yourself in the the land of 'boom-bust' where you reach a plateau of performance that can be frustrating, dis-heartening and confusing.

And it's easy to blame the running, saying that you're not meant to run.

The truth is, running is one of the most challenging, high level activities you can ask of your body.

Running efficiently and pain free comes on top of a foundation of adequate flexibility, core strength and movement efficiency.

After 20 years of studying human movement, I can say very few of us have the natural foundation to run efficiently.

In the modern age, due to pain, injury, stress and too much time sitting and driving, we are losing touch with our bodies and what it means to have a good physical foundation. Movement compensations and imbalances have become the norm.

The thing is, in the short term you can still get by with a less than ideal foundation.

You will be able to run because your amazing body works out a way to get the job done. The problem is, the compensations have a limited time span before they burn out and pack it in. Then you are really stuffed - you're in pain and you can't keep running anymore.

Now you have 2 choices:

(1) Accept that "running is not good for you" and avoid it the rest of your life; or

(2) Learn about how your body works and set a plan to achieve your goals.

The good news is that you can learn to fine tune your body to prepare it for running. You need to be smart and listen to your body - and have patience and dedication. You can overcome your weaknesses and actually turn them into strengths.

The idea behind The Resilient Runner Workshop is to teach you the strategies and skills you need to safely build your capacity, BEFORE injuries and niggles set your training back.

Full disclosure:

This process does take an investment in time and energy. You may not see improvement straight away. But with discipline and dedication, all a sudden you start seeing results that may surprise you.

The hardest part is getting to base-camp.

It can be a steep learning curve.

But once you've got there, you have a rock solid foundation, that nobody take away from you and will set you up for a lifetime of pain-free and enjoyable running.


Are you interested in attending The Resilient Runner Workshop...

Currently we have 3 spots left in Fullarton (next Saturday 9th Feb) and 5 spots left for the Murray Bridge (March 9th).

Hope to see you there & if you have any questions please let me know :-)


The Power Of Plasticity - Helping You Move Better - Part 2

The Power Of Plasticity - Helping You Move Better - Part 2

In Part 1 we talked about the power of neuro-plasticity and how it can work positively or negatively to affect your movement.

To summarize what we have learnt so far:

Dysfunctional Pain / Injury Cycle:

Injury _ Inactivity _Pain(3).png

Ideal Pain / Rehab Cycle:

Copy of Injury _ Inactivity _Pain.png

Pain changes the way we move

Research has clearly shown that people who are in pain change the way they move.

We see that people who are in pain (especially as it becomes more chronic):

  • move with less range of movement

  • move more slowly

  • have less variety of movement patterns available

  • show higher levels of muscle activity compared to people without pain

Muscle memory forms around these patterns and even though the injury often has healed (3 months average), you are left with changes in the way your body functions.

While these changes are obvious from a physical perspective, in order to get a full and accurate picture about what is going on, we need to take a broader view and see the bigger picture.

A shift in focus

The relationship between pain and the tissues becomes less clear the longer pain goes on (see picture below).

Credit: Explain Pain (Butler & Mosely)

Credit: Explain Pain (Butler & Mosely)

As pain persists, we must consider the nervous system, and the plasticity that occurs around it.

When you have chronic musculo-skeletal pain, the two main issues from a nervous system perspective are:

  • altered body representation in the body maps in the brain (smudging)

  • reduced movement pattern availability (due to protection systems / fear of movement causing more damage).

Getting Personal

The best outcome will be when the clinician can spend a decent amount of time with someone in the beginning (at least one hour) to individually assess and determine an appropriate plan of attack to help the neuro-muscular system return to state of harmony.

One way to describe this approach is incorporating a top down (neurological based) and a bottom-up (local tissue) approach.

If you’ve been struggling with an ongoing pain issue, there is good news. A large body of research shows the more you can understand about the nervous system and why you’re in pain, the more likely you’re going to make a full recovery. I’d highly encourage you to talk to your local Physio or GP about some specific resources that can help you in your journey.

In Part 2 of the blog, we go into depth about how to optimise your lifestyle to enhance the effects of neuro-plasticity and reach your movement potential.

I hope you find it useful, (and I welcome your questions in the comments below).

1. Aerobic Exercise


I like to think of changing our neuro-muscular habits as similar to the process of creating glass.

Sand is heated up to very high temperature, and then molded and then left to set in a certain desired shape.

The most important part of this process is the heating, where the sand becomes malleable, pliable and able to be worked into a particular shape.

Without the heat, there is a stiff, solid structure with no ability to change.

Our brains and bodies work in a similar way.

In terms of changing our neuro-muscular patterns, aerobic exercise is what creates a similar heat-like environment for creating brain/movement plasticity.

Aerobic exercise (especially running) has shown to strongly increase blood flow to the brain, decreasing inflammation and even stimulating new brain cell growth through the expression of neurotrophic factors (such as BDNF and IGF-1).

Physical exercise facilitates neuroplasticity

An article by Hottling and Roder in Neuroscience and Behavioural Reviews explains the benefits of physical exercise on neuroplasticity.

The authors conclude that increase in cardiovascular fitness has significant neurocognitive benefits.

The hardest part is to begin

If you haven’t moved much for months or years due to pain or general inactivity, your ability to re-wire your movement becomes much more limited.

If you’re already in pain and find movement difficult, a downward spiral can quickly unravel (see picture above).

Getting moving can be tough, but just remember, 90% of the fuel is to get the rocket off the ground is used in the first 2 minutes.

Breaking through movement inertia is hard work, but once you get going, things get much easier and you have made the most important first step in feeling better again.

Guidelines for aerobic exercise if you’re in pain:.

  • Find something you enjoy and that you could maybe do with a friend to keep you accountable

  • Start with an easy level (less than 5/10 intensity) You should be able to talk to a friend at your easy pace

  • Pace yourself. Take short breaks as you need to before you get fatigued

  • Monitor your 24 hour response and progress gradually as you can

  • Set up a positive reward immediately following - a nice healthy meal or watch your TV show

  • Make it fun and playful

  • Listen to your favourite music or podcast

I would recommend, if you are trying to improve your neuro-muscular patterns, that you spend at least 30-60 minutes per day engaged in low-moderate intensity exercise.

Running stimulates neuro-plasticity

Running deserves a special mention here because I think the process of learning to run can be one of the best things you can invest your time in, in terms of building your foundation through neuro-plasticity.

One of the great things about running, (providing you can learn to listen to your body), is that it gives you ongoing feedback to where your weak links are.

For example, you might be out running and you feel your hip getting tight. After your run, you focus on some specific hip stretching and release exercises. The next you run, your hip feels great.

And then you get a bit quicker and can longer, but then your hamstring starts playing up. Once again you go back and do some hamstring strengthening and once again return to running more resilient and stronger than before.


This process can take weeks, months or years, so patience is required. But always keep in mind where you started from and seeing the progress you are making should be enough motivation to fuel your onward progress.

One of the other great thing about running is the concrete goals you can set and build towards such as 5k Park runs, 10km community events or marathons in exotic locations around the world.

There is an amazing running community that can help support you also.

2. Food

The four most outstanding foods for increasing neuro-plasticity are blueberries (high in flavinoids and anti-oxidants), omega-3 fatty acids, green tea and curcumin (found in turmeric). It’s worth considering making these a part of your regular diet.

An abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits

The best vegetables are those that are non-starchy (low carbohydrate content) with high amounts of fiber. Fiber gives us a “full” feeling and keeps the intestinal tract moving. Low glycemic fresh fruits, fresh vegetables in salads and cooked vegetables should provide the bulk of the food in an optimal neuro-plasticity diet.



Re-building neuro-muscular patterns requires additional protein, compared with a sedentary person.

The timing of the protein is also critical, with research showing that evenly spreading your protein over 3 or 4 meals during the day creates the best environment for recovery and re-building.


High quality fats
Healthy fats make up a critical part of a good neuro-plasticity diet (the brain consists of nearly 60% fat).

These include:

  • omega-3s (from high quality fish high in omega-3s, flaxseed, grass-fed beef, eggs)

  • monosaturated fats (from extra virgin olive oil, avocadoes, nuts, and seeds)

  • medium chain triglycerides (from extra virgin coconut oil)

  • saturated fat from (grass-fed meat, eggs and milk, yogurt, cheese)

Coconut oil excels as cooking oil, for it doesn’t oxidize at high temperatures. Cooking with butter, or even better with clarified butter (called ghee in India) is another safe alternative to vegetable oils that go off at even low heat.

Reducing unhealthy fats especially trans fats and most vegetable oils except extra virgin olive oil is important.

Low sugar and carbohydrate intake
Fruits with a high fructose content are best eaten sparingly in a healthy neuro-plasticity diet.

These include:

  • mangoes, peaches, pineapple, plums and grapes.

  • fruit juice is equal to soft drink in sugar content so should be avoided if possible

3. Sleep

Getting enough sleep is a critical part of creating optimal neuro-plasticity.

Research shows adequate, quality sleep and synaptic plasticity are strongly related.

Your brain needs sleep to reset brain connections that are important for memory and learning.

If sleep is an issue for you, SA Health have a useful guidebook you can download here

4. Positivity and Self-Belief

“Beliefs create biology” - Norman Cousins

When you’re find yourself in pain, one thing you have to commit to is not allowing yourself to entertain negativity in your life.


Repeating a few key positive words or mantras to yourself can help you work through a rough patch.

Some of my favourites include:

“My spine is strong and resilient'“

“This is like a storm, it will pass, I’ve just got to get take some extra care of myself until it passes”

“Wounded but not conquered”

“Motion is lotion”

Part of being positive is to have realistic expectations and to expect set backs and a non-linear recovery.


5. Variety of Movement Wins

People who are in pain, often describe they feel like they are moving like a robot.

They get ‘stuck’ in a certain pattern and can have a tough time breaking free, as well as adapting to their environment.

Creating new movement patterns is like learning new chords on a guitar.

The more chords you know, the better your music will sound.

How do we develop Movement Programs?

If you ever saw the movie, The Matrix, you may remember when Neo ‘learns’ how to do kung-fu in a matter of seconds via an upload to his brain.

While science fiction now, the principles are the same. We need to upload the appropriate movement patterns and skills that are going to give us the best chance of achieving success.

The difference is that motor learning and skill formation takes a little longer in real life compared with a few seconds in the movies!

The initial process of learning and practicing a skill can be very mentally taxing.

Author Malcolm Gladwell stated around 10,000 hours was needed to develop high level of skill and used the example of the Beatles, in the early 1960’s, played in Hamburg where they played 5 hours per night for 270 nights over a couple of years. That intense level of practice turned them into the success they were.


If 10,000 hours seems a bit far-fetched, there is good news.

Researches believe, to install a new pattern or habit, you simply must practice it sixty times every day for 21 days in a row.

In terms of movement, this sounds very achievable.

For example if you’ve got a sore your back, you may have lost the movement patterns of:

  • pelvic tilting

  • hip hinge

  • squatting

If I get you to practice these movements everyday, you will start to re-groove these patterns back into your body/mind, and soon they will be stored sub-consciously, ready to use during the day when needed.

The more variety of movement patterns you have available and online ready to use, the more the load is spread evenly through the body, not always relying on the same pathway to get the job done.

6. Dry Needling / Massage

We know dry needling works by increasing blood flow and directly improving the flexibility of the muscles.

However, some new research is coming out showing dry needling improves kinesthetic sense and effects helps to sharpen the sensory homunculus, leading to improved awareness, flexibility and joint range of motion.

This study showed how needling can re-wire the somato-sensory cortex (body maps) in the brain with people with carpal tunnel syndrome. The research suggest that improvements in primary somatosensory cortex sharpness can predict long-term clinical outcomes for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Studies have shown that dry needling also increases the release of nerve growth factor, which aids in rewiring the brain for improved motor patterning and decreasing the loss of brain smudging to areas of chronic pain.

There is a lot of research still to be done and it must be stressed this is still in the speculative stage. However, to me this line of thinking is very plausible and opens up an exciting frontier for the all rehabilitation professionals.

The ability for the needle to get in the deep parts of the muscle provides a significant sensory stimulation that can help create improved movement efficiency and awareness.

Massage and foam rolling can also have a similar effect, although more superficially.

7. Relaxation / Recovery

Stress is one of the main factors that decreases neuro-plasticity in the adult brain.

Cortisol is one of the chemicals that chronic stress can produce and makes forming new synaptic connections very difficult.

When you’ve had a pain or injury, our default mode is often fear and anxiety and this can lead to being constantly on the look out for potential threats (real or perceived) that could disturb our safety.

Going through a traumatic event, (or repeated mental, physical or emotional trauma over many years) can create a deep neural pattern of self-protection.

This can look like constant muscle tension / guarding and severe physical de-conditioning over many years.


Everyone is different, but learning to get your body back into a relaxed state (para-sympathetic) is a really important part of your healing.

It could involve things like:

  • relaxing warm bath

  • hike in nature

  • going for a swim or surf

  • restorative yoga class

  • getting a massage

  • deep breathing exercises

  • talking with a friend

  • going to the movies

  • knowledge can be empowering and educating yourself about your body and the pain process can be a liberating experience

Try and make a list of things that relax you and schedule them into your week ahead of time.

8. Tips to Improve Body Maps

  • Movements that are most likely to lead to changes in the quality of the maps are movements that are different, interesting, rich in sensory input, slow, gentle, mindful and non-painful.

  • Walk barefoot on the grass and feel your foot moving on the ground

  • Roll a spikey ball under your foot

  • Watch your favourite athlete move

  • Tai chi, Pilates, Feldenkrais, Somatic therapy, Alexander therapy and yoga are all recommended

Mirror Neurons

Have you ever wondered why your tennis game suddenly improves after you’ve watched two weeks straight of the Australian Open?

Welcome to the world of mirror neurons.

When we watch someone else doing something – swimming, picking up a newspaper, eating – we also simulate with the body maps in our brains what it might feel like for us to be doing those same things.

Personally, I find the night before a run, watching some youtube clips of elite runners helps get in the zone.

For runners, I’d highly recommend:

For tennis players:

For footy lovers:

Take Home Messages:

  • The body grows best when it is challenged and stressed at the right rate with the right conditions (exercise, diet, sleep, recovery).

  • Change takes time and to build and re-wire new movement patterns takes, at minimum 3 months, on average 12 months.

  • Considering a top-down (neurologically brain-based) and a bottom-up approach (local muscular level) can bring about some dramatic shifts in how we go out understanding how to move better.

  • Patients must be treated on an individual basis, and clinicians should target both mechanical and neurological deficits as they are indicated for a particular person.

  • If you can harness the power of your mind, you can achieve things you may never though possible and surpass limitations that have been holding you back.

  • Hopefully this blog post will help you think beyond the muscles, joints, and ligaments to what is happening in the nervous system to improve your movement.

If you’ve made it this far into the blog post, a big congratulations!

I know it’s been a long haul and I apologise for not being more articulate in my message.

The fact is I think about these things a lot, and trying to communicate this information in a brief 1:1 Physio consultation just isn’t possible.

Please let me know if you’ve found any of this useful in the comments below.

Recommended Reading:

Introducing, KIN Foundation (Physio Group Class):

KIN Foundation Pilates is designed to truly encompass a top down (neuroplastic) and a bottom up (physical movement) based approach to therapy.

KIN is an acronym for:

  • Kinesthetic (optimising sensory input to sharpen body maps in the brain)

  • Integrative (having uniting and positive effect on all systems of the body)

  • Neuro-muscular (fine tuning the muscle-brain connection for optimal movement efficiency)

Build strength, stability and the foundation to promote vibrant health. 

LINK for all the details

Quick Tip To Ease Shin Pain

In a recent study, runners with a slower step rate (i.e. lower cadence) were found to be more likely to experience shin injuries than runners with a higher cadence.

The researchers studied 68 high school cross-country runners through the season, monitoring their cadence as well as their injury rates.

They found the runners with the lowest step rate (≤164 steps per minute) were more likely to experience a shin injury compared with runners with the highest step rate (≥174 steps per minute).

Running with a higher cadence may help reduce the peak load of force going through the leg.

Combined with a sensible training plan and good recovery strategies, making this small shift in your running style may well pay dividends and help keep shin pain away.

If you’ve been getting shin pain, next time you run, try increasing your cadence to 175-180 steps per minute and see how you respond during your run and the 24 hours following.

Most GPS watches track your cadence, but you may need to fiddle around with your settings so you can view it in real time.

Another option is to download a free metronome app on your phone and try and match your step to the beat.

Other quick tips for shin pain would be: buying a new and supportive pair of shoes, work on your glutes/core strength and having dry needling done to your calf and tibialis posterior muscles that re-set the tension.

If you would like some more personalised support for your shin pain and you wish to get relief right away, use our simple online booking system to make an appointment.  If you would prefer to speak to us directly,  call us 1300 657 813


Influence of Step Rate on Shin Injury and Anterior Knee Pain in High School Runners.

Luedke LE, Heiderscheit BC, Williams DS, Rauh MJ.