Have you been thinking about taking up running? Are you dreaming about zipping through the Edmonton River Valley, taking in all the gorgeous scenery while getting into great physical shape? What better way to spend a sunny day than that!

Running is one of the most popular activities, likely because of its simplicity and accessibility. It’s a sport almost anyone can pick up and do anywhere in the world. Grab a pair of runners, and you’ll be set to begin improving your cardio health, increasing your strength, and improving your overall mental and physical health.

The truth about starting a new running practice is that despite the beautiful nature you’ll see and all of the excellent health benefits you’ll get, it’s hard—like, really hard. Physically, you’re challenging your muscles and joints to do things they aren’t used to doing. Mentally, you’ll battle whether you tie up your laces, take that more challenging trail, or push on for another kilometre. 

These realities often discourage many from trying or keeping up with running but trust us, the benefits far outweigh these challenges. In this blog, we’re exploring some ways to help you become the runner you want to be. Whether you want to just go out casually for a run or you’re dreaming of doing a marathon in the future, you can use these tips to help.


Running is a repetitive sport, putting stress and strain on muscles, bones, and joints. For this reason, it’s essential to have diversity in your activities. Running without doing other activities like strength training or mobility work is not sustainable. 

It can be hard to see the relation between strength, mobility, and going for a jog, but incorporating supplemental strength and mobility work is your best bet to maximize performance and minimize the risk of injury.


When we start thinking about how best to support the body during running, we look at what’s happening overall in the body. There is so much going on during a run, so let’s start at the feet and work our way up to understand the toll we’re putting on the body. 

Your feet take a beating during a run. You pound them on pavement or hard ground for a few thousand steps at a time, jostling the joints and bones. One step at a time, your feet feel it all. Your toes, the ball of your foot, your arches and heels—the entire foot—take the impact of your tour around the river valley. 

Of course, the feet don’t go anywhere without the lower leg muscles. These muscles are key in walking, running, and jumping. They also help you move your foot side to side, stand on your toes, and flex your feet—all extremely important functions for any runner!

Working our way up from the lower leg, we get to the upper leg muscles: the quad, hamstring, and glute muscles. These muscles are essential to creating a robust and efficient stride. 

So, before you lace up your sharp new runners to sashay from Riverside to Government Centre, let’s look at how we can support these crucial areas of the body to help get you safely and confidently on your way. 

The Foot

There are two simple movements that you can do to keep the feet in their best shape:

  1. Golf Ball Massage: Place a golf ball on the plantar fascia (a band of tissue that connects your heel to the ball of your foot) and gently massage the area. The plantar fascia absorbs shock when walking or running, so this massage will help release tension or stress in the area. Using a golf ball to put pressure on the plantar fascia, we keep it pliable and resilient. This massage is excellent for rehab if you’ve torn the fascia, but it’s also great maintenance work when things feel good. 
  2. Towel Scrunches: Place a light towel under your foot and scrunch up your toes. Yep, that simple movement gets into the muscles surrounding the plantar fascia, which controls the foot joints. While scrunching your toes, you’re strengthening the muscles that stabilize the joints in your foot. Again, this movement can be used for rehab or to maintain joint health. 

The Lower Leg

As we move up from the foot, there are two key muscles that we focus on when it comes to running: the Calf and the Tibialis anterior.

  1. Tibialis Anterior (Tib Ant) Raises: This lesser-known muscle of the lower leg is a bulky muscle that runs alongside your Tibia. The Tib Ant is a crucial muscle in your running stride, stabilizing the ankle joint as it hits the ground and ensuring the foot clears the ground in every step. To keep this muscle strong, start against a wall and walk your feet about 10-12 inches while keeping your hips on the wall. Flex your feet, bringing the toes up while bending at the waist at about a 45-degree angle. You should feel a nice stretch along the sides of your lower legs.
  2. Single Calf Raises: The repetition of running requires an abundance of muscular endurance through the Calf. To strengthen these muscles, start on a step and slowly bring one leg onto the toes. Repeat 8-10 times, then do the other side. You can also do both legs at the same time. The advantage of isolating one leg at a time is that it can tease out asymmetry from one leg to the other. 
  3. Calf Stretching: We’re leaving no stone unturned here. With increases in workload, we often see increases in muscle tension. Strength work will undoubtedly help this, but added mobility work can put you a step ahead (pun intended). It should be noted that there are two primary calf muscles – one that crosses the knee and one that doesn’t. To target both effectively, we should perform some calf stretches with a straight leg and some with the knee bent. To stretch the Calf, start close to the wall. Place your hands on the wall and take one large step back with your right leg, bending the left knee. Step your foot back and repeat on the other side. 
  4. Calf Foam Rolling: To roll out the calf muscle with a foam roller (every runner’s bestie), sit on the floor and extend one leg. Place the foam roller under your extended leg. Lift your hips slightly off the floor and shift your body forward and back as you roll the leg over the roller.

Upper Leg

The upper leg muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, all contribute to a solid and efficient running stride. 

  1. Split Squats: Like a traditional squat, Split Squats target the quad muscles. Strong quads are essential in keeping your knees resilient as you increase the load you put through them. Split Squats isolate one leg at a time, challenging stabilizers from the ankle through the hips to maintain your position. Fun? Well, maybe not, but just like the Single Leg Calf work, Split Squats tease out asymmetry and force each quad to do equal work.  
  2. Deadlifts: This is a more complex movement, so we encourage you to get assistance from a trainer or us in your next appointment. When Deadlifts are done correctly, there may not be a more effective exercise. They work the hamstrings heavily while also challenging numerous core muscles to hold you in position.
  3. Banded Walks and Squats (or Monster Walks): Running can be hard on the hips, especially when your hips lack stability. An unstable hip means energy is lost, and you’ll have less consistent movement. When hips are stable, you’ll have a proper, supported motion through the ball and socket joints. Monster Walks are one of our favourites for forcing glutes to control movement. To do these, place a band a few inches above your knees and squat down. Step to the side, walking a few steps to the right, then a few steps to the left, keeping the band in place. Tip: choose a band with enough resistance to challenge you but not gas you out too quickly. 

All of these exercises can help build strength and stability if you are thinking about starting to run, restarting your practice, or planning on a 5K, 10K, or marathon this year. 

A visit to your physiotherapist is also a great idea so you can get an individualized assessment and recommendations to help you achieve your goals in a safe and efficient way.