The past two weeks I’ve explained what a pattern of frequent postrun quad soreness indicates about your running technique, and I’ve explained why a lot of the popular solutions both to manage the discomfort and try to solve the underlying problem don’t work. Now let’s look at what will.
The fundamental problem underlying frequent quad soreness is that your pelvis is behind your support foot in midstance. To fix this problem you need to tap into your body’s system for regulating flexion/extension: namely, your core action.
This turning of your pelvis and your upper body in opposite directions, which also includes a kind of seesaw movement of your pelvis, makes your flexors and extensors work in harmony, with neither one predominating.
It keeps the flexors from being overactive and pulling the body into a flexed position, as if sitting in a chair (or, at the extreme, curled into a fetal position) which is not a place you want to be for running! The proper amount of flexor activity helps you swing your leg forward, but excessive flexor activity swings it too far forward and keeps you a bit too curled so that you’re in that sitting position, with your pelvis behind your foot in mid stance, overworking your quads.
Your core action also keeps the extensors from holding your body in an arched position, tightening up your back and making it hard to move your legs forward. This isn’t too common but I have seen runners who do it — squeezing your glutes while running gets you partway there.
A healthy core action balances the two sides of your body and flexion/extension activity. One side of you is flexing, bringing your leg forward, while the other is extending, pushing off the ground.
This is the yin and yang of running technique. Flexion and extension need to be kept in balance but they never stay still, so you have to find a movement that does the job rather than trying to hold a position. The core action does it.
There’s a second factor, which is your calves. If they’re tight and don’t flex enough, they won’t let you move far enough past your stance foot and you’ll end up with your legs too far in front of you for the whole gait cycle even with a good core action going on. If this is a chronic problem for you:
I’ve put my best Feldenkrais lessons for learning the core action and aligning your pelvis with your support foot in midstance–along with a video of my active calf/achilles warmup–together in a resource called the Quads and Calves Solution. Get yours here:
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Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.