By Admin / February 01, 2023

Get Faster, Faster: How Physical Therapy Can Quickly Improve Your Running Performance

Are you looking to become a better runner, faster? Are you looking to run a faster mile or a faster 5k, or run faster and longer without injury or without getting tired? It turns out that physical therapy isn't just for injured runners: regular physical therapy can also boost your speed and performance, optimize your recovery, and aid in injury prevention, helping you reach the goals you set for yourself even faster. Our guide will cover how physical therapy works to make you a faster runner and how it can help you avoid injury.

A Physical Therapist Will Help Identify & Correct Your Problem Areas.

Did you know that if you work proactively with a physical therapist - meaning, you work regularly with one even when you are NOT injured - you can greatly reduce your likelihood of injury down the road? While most athletes only think about visiting a physical therapist when they are injured, it is actually a much better idea to visit a sport physical therapist regularly. We recommend, at the very least, setting up appointments at the beginning of each training block, to reduce your risk of injury as your training ramps up.

Here’s why: an expert sport physical therapist will evaluate you physically from top to bottom, and historically from childhood to present, in order to get a comprehensive assessment of your body, your biomechanics, your injury history, and any potential problem areas.  An experienced sport physical therapist will also assess your running form and range of motion. They’ll examine your gait, alignment and strength to pinpoint any issues that could be causing poor performance or increasing your risk of injury. From there, a physical therapist can work with you to create a comprehensive plan to help you get stronger and faster, and reduce injury risk.

Note: if a physical therapist sees you for less than half an hour, find another PT. You need to work with a physical therapist who spends close to a full hour with you, especially during your first visit. The time is necessary for them to comprehensively assess you and start creating you a customized plan based on your unique needs.

A Physical Therapist Will Help You Increase Your Strength and Balance.

Here is a tip: work with a physical therapist who can create for you a comprehensive strength and mobility plan. Strength and mobility are important components of run training, not only for power and speed, but also for injury prevention, balance, and stability. A good physical therapist can create individualized strength plans with specific exercises to target areas that need strengthening and stabilization. 

Common strengthening exercises for runners may include a mix of heavier weight exercises like squats and deadlifts, single-leg exercises like lunges, single leg hip thrusts, and bulgarian split squats, and plyometric drills like agility ladders, hops, and box jumps. Incorporating a custom program into your routine can improve coordination, strengthen muscles and joints, improve posture and movement efficiency, and reduce the risk of injury.

Incorporating these strength and mobility exercises regularly into your training is a quick way to improve power and speed. So whether you are looking to run a faster mile, or run a faster marathon, following a strength and mobility plan created by a sport physical therapist is a surefire way to achieve that result! 

These are great, general strength plans created by expert physical therapists:

Strength Training for Runners - by Dr. Fix at Physio Room

Sample Strength Plan for Runners - by Dr. Morrison at Red Hammer Rehab


A Physical Therapist Will Help You Recover Faster.
Becoming a faster runner often means you need to be a runner who can recover faster after each long run or workout. Luckily, sport physical therapists have a variety of modalities in their arsenals to help you recover faster. Many physical therapists provide manual therapy, meaning they manually work on you with their hands for soft tissue work and joint mobilization. This can definitely springboard recovery. Also, many offer other modalities like cupping, ASTYM, and dry needling, which can all speed up the recovery process. 

What Is Cupping?
Cupping is an eastern form of medicine where a therapist puts cups on your skin and creates suction that causes your skin to rise and your blood vessels to expand. The cups are then often moved across specific areas of your body - often your back, your quads, your calves, or even your abdominals - to help with tissue release, blood flow circulation, and release of trigger points. Cupping is a fantastic modality for decreasing pain and injury symptoms, decreasing inflammation, and improving blood flow, range of motion, and oxygen circulation throughout the body. 

This is a great video by the expert physical therapists at Alpine Fit Physical Therapy, all about cupping! 

What Is ASTYM?

ASTYM is a method by which a physical therapist utilizes a metal tool to scrape affected areas of your body, to break down problematic and/or restrictive tissues, eliminate scar tissues, and regenerate healthy tissues in the body. It is fantastic for reducing pain, increasing recovery, and restoring normal movement patterns. It usually takes about 10 - 15 minutes for a full ASTYM session, and effects are immediate. 

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a process by which a physical therapist inserts thin needles into an affected area of a runner’s body. Effective dry needling can release trigger points and relieve pain, but can also be utilized to wake up underused muscles as well. Like cupping and ASTYM, dry needling can relieve pain, improve range of motion, relax muscles, and increase blood flow. 

This article by Physio, Yoga & Wellness (who provides great in person AND virtual physical therapy!) explains more about dry needling.

Also, this video from the experts at Alpine Fit Physical Therapy provides a helpful explanation as to the benefits of dry needling too.


A Physical Therapist Can Keep the Injuries and “Niggles” at Bay.

Part of becoming a faster runner involves intentially reducing discomforts that naturally arise during training, which helps you regularly train harder without increasing injury risk. Depending on your unique biomechanics, imbalances, and overall training load, you may not need traditional physical therapy, but you may need regular care to keep small discomforts and “niggles” from turning into bigger issues. Not only can manual therapy, cupping, ASTYM, and dry needling promote recovery and get you back into your training at full force, but they can also help keep these discomforts from becoming a full blown injury. 

Conclusion: Physical Therapy Is A Key Component To Becoming A Faster Runner

Physical therapy is truly an amazing resource for runners. While many runners don’t think about physical therapy at all until they are injured, it is actually great to work with a physical therapist periodically, year-round, to fortify your body during intense training, jumpstart recovery, and ensure you can remain injury-free. This helps you become a faster runner, whether you are looking to run a faster mile, or a faster 5k, or even a faster marathon. 

Find a physical therapist near you, right here on Training Block.  Working with a physical therapist you find on Training Block guarantees you will work with someone who understands athletes and can truly help you take your training - and your speed! - to the next level.