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  • Writer's pictureKristi Campanella

Evaluate Your Running Body From Head to Toe

Evaluate Your Running Body

Whether you are just beginning to run, have been running for a long time or are just returning to running you should give yourself the once over from head to toe to check for imbalances and deficits.

It is a good idea to assess where you have tightness and weakness, especially if one side is tighter or weaker than the other. Any imbalance from side to side or front to back around joints can lead to injury over time. It is better to address it early before it can become an injury. You also want to take notice if you have pain.

Range of Motion

Starting with your neck, turn side to side, then tilt the head side to side and look up/down. If one side feels tighter than the other for any of these motions then it may need some gentle stretching. Next check your shoulders. Can you raise both equally in front of you and over your head and can you put your hands behind your head with elbows back without feeling significant tightness?

If you stand and exaggerate your running arm swing does each arm feel the same? Can you raise one arm and lean to the opposite side and then repeat on the other? Do they feel the same?

In the seated position, keeping your knees forward while sitting somewhat on the edge of the chair, can you turn side to side equally? When seated, do you feel that you are sitting equally on each butt cheek? Can you put one leg on the other as in a figure 4 position? Do both sides feel equal?

In standing, can you raise your thigh like a marching movement? Can the other one raise as high and with the same ease of movement? Can you swing each leg out to the side and each leg behind you equally? Can you bend each knee fully without pain? Does each ankle move up/down and in/out the same and without pain?

If you can do all of the above equally on each side and without pain then it is likely that each joint is moving without significant restrictions. If you found some restrictions then you may want to try some stretches on each side and then see if they feel equal. If you find significant differences side to side or have pain it may be a good idea to see a professional who can assess these deficits and assess for biomechanical issues causing the restrictions.


To check some of your flexibility try the following stretches: (Do not try any of the stretches if you get pain when trying to get into the position for the stretch.) The links provide a picture with some instructions for performing the stretch correctly.

**If any of those stretches feel tight for you and especially if it is tighter on one side then you should probably add these to your routine.

Strength and Muscular Endurance

Testing your own strength for some of the major running muscles can be challenging. In the clinic we take clients through a manual muscle test to assess for weaknesses and imbalances. It is not good to have weakness in everyday life, but it can really be detrimental to have strength deficits and imbalances with a repetitive activity like running as it can easily turn into an injury.

I am not going to give you a strength test for all muscle groups but for several that have to do with running. Some indirectly have to do with running, such as your upper trapezius muscle. Some runners report that they get tight and they feel burning in these muscles when they run longer distances. Frequently this is just a sign of fatigue of these muscles, possibly poor breathing dynamics, or holding the shoulders up rather than relaxed. There are other reasons these muscles can hurt but that is more in depth than this testing will involve.

Before you start any strength testing please use good judgment about your own body. If you know you have an injury in a body part then please do not test it by these means and seek a professional who can assist you with your injury. If you have pain when you run and you have not been able to resolve it with your usual methods or with rest then you should seek the assistance of a professional.

Self-Testing for Strength/Muscular Endurance

The following tests are some that I use for my own testing to assess my weaknesses and imbalances.

1. Lie either over the end of your bed or over a therapy (Swiss) ball; take your arms up in front of you like you are a capital Y and raise and lower 15 times; then take the arms out to the sides (3:00 and 9:00) and raise and lower them (no higher than the plane of your body) 15 times. These should not be difficult to do. If they are then you likely have some weakness or decreased muscular endurance in these muscles. You should not have pain with either of these. If you have pain you may need to be checked for shoulder issues.

2. Lie on your stomach on the floor; raise all 4 limbs up and hold for 10 seconds (superman); repeat 10 times; again, this should not be hard for you.

3. Lying on your stomach, squeeze your glutes (butt cheek) on one side only, then on the other; they should fire when you tell them to and with the same intensity and coordination. If either glute is harder to contract there is probably weakness.

4. Flip over to your back and bend your knees; perform 20 crunches with good form-keep a fist distance between chin and chest; you should be able to do this without difficulty.

5. In the same position, raise one leg up in the air; then raise and lower your buttocks 20 times on each side; they should feel equal; if they do not feel equal or you cannot accomplish 20 reps you probably have some weakness.

6. Turn over to one side and get in side plank position ( ); raise and lower 15 times on each side. If you cannot raise and lower from full side plank position then do it from your elbows and knees instead. Note, you are likely weak if you cannot do from full side plank position. Assess whether one side is more difficult to do than the other.

7. From the side lying position, line up your top leg with the plane of your body. Raise and lower the leg about 1.5 feet for 20 reps; then turn the foot up rotating the leg up and raise and lower again 20 reps; then turn the foot down, rotating the leg down and raise and lower 20 times. You should be able to do all 3 positions without much difficulty on each side.

8. In standing: hold onto something for balance and perform 10 single leg squats from 0 to about 60 or 70 degrees of knee bend with your best form possible. Take note as to whether one side is more difficult than the other and whether or not you can control the positioning of your knee. Your knee should not go inward when you perform these. Your kneecap should go towards the 3rd or 4th toes. You should be able to do 10 repetitions without pain, with good form and without fatigue.

9. In standing: hold onto something for balance then raise one foot off the ground. Raise yourself onto your toes then lower 25 repetitions on one leg then repeat on the other. You should be able to perform this without significant difficulty on each leg.

10. Stand with your back against a wall and your feet out from the wall about 8 inches. Raise and lower the toes and front half of foot off the ground. You should easily be able to do 30 reps. You can do both legs at the same time.

  • Take notes on where you find weaknesses or tightness based on the testing you have done. In the next post we will go over some beginning exercises to start when there are deficits found with self-testing.


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