Jake Stout: Make Your Wheels Resilient

Posted on May 7, 2017 | 3 comments

A friend of mine recently became the proud father of a healthy, baby boy, and we were marveling at the intricacy of the human body. Like a brand new car, with a clean odometer, his newly minted son was ready to take on the world. But for those of us operating a slightly older model, our bodies may feel less shiny Ferrari and more rusted jalopy. To ensure your wheels stay road-worthy as you age, here are five simple maintenance activities.

Improve Single-leg Balance

If you’ve ever experienced an ankle injury, odds are you may have either functional or mechanical deficits. Deficits that affect posture, gait, range of motion, or overall stability can be addressed with improving your single leg balance. Try this assessment trick to establish a baseline: Stand on one leg in a doorway and count the number of times you require correction or have to touch the doorframe in a minute. To improve your balance, repeat this activity. To progress, try it with eyes closed. To progress further, close your eyes, put in your earbuds, and jam out.

Embrace Surface Variability

There is a substantial amount of clinical evidence that shows trail runners have fewer injuries than the road warriors. Running on variable surfaces soups up the neural circuitry wired from your brain to your foot and improves overall ankle and foot stability. Hit the trails. You don’t have to go far; your local park can suffice.

Pop a Squat Daily

The mechanical advantage of a deep squat has been thoroughly researched, but our culture has adopted a sitting posture for many of life’s activities. Our postural alignment, pelvic position, and ability to recruit powerful muscles have been adversely affected as a result. The solution is to spend at least 10 minutes a day in a deep squat position (and, of course, spend less time sitting!).

Attempt to keep your toes facing forward, and use the kitchen sink or couch to hold onto if you need help with balance.

Roll Out

Massage, bodywork, soft tissue mobilization…whatever you want to call it, your body needs it. As runners, you send two-and-a-half times your body weight through your tissues and bones with every step. The cumulative trauma leaves your lower legs as gnarled up as an old piece of beef jerky. Plantar fascia problems, tibial and Achilles tendonopathies, and dreaded shin splints can all be remedied with routine soft tissue work. Even the most brilliant engineering sometimes needs some maintenance.

Work On Stability in All Three Planes

To ensure the most economical and healthy gait pattern, we need stability in the three major planes of movement (frontal, sagittal, and transverse). Due to the repetitive nature of running in a line, runners often have overdeveloped hip flexors and knee extensors, and strength deficits in hip abductors and external rotators. Ultimately, this can lead to poor lumbo-pelvic stability and secondary injuries such as iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome (“runner’s knee”), and sacral-iliac pain.

Try this trick: Spend 90 seconds swinging your leg forward and backward, side to side, and in a rotational pattern around your standing leg (30 seconds in each position). It’s a great way to strengthen stability muscles around your hip and you can do it anywhere!




Jake Stout earned All America honors in track and cross-country at Willamette University. He has a masters from Boise State and a doctorate in physical therapy from Washington. He lives with his family in north Portland, where he coaches runners at Roosevelt High School. He works as a PT at Physio PDX.




  1. Thanks for this. I think you wrote this line about me: “If you’ve ever experienced an ankle injury, odds are you may have either functional or mechanical deficits.” (Proud owner of a 4x severely sprained right ankle.) But I digress… For the deep squat, am I correct in assuming your recommendation is a cumulative total of 10 minutes a day, not 10 consecutive minutes?

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    • Hi Theia! Sorry to hear about your battle with ankle sprains, and hopefully the squatting motion doesn’t provoke any pinching symptoms in your tibiotalar joint (front of the ankle). 10 minutes total throughout the day is something to work towards…but may take some time to build up to. Definitely keep up with your single balance work, and let me know how everything goes!

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      • Thanks! Right now I’m squatting with a resistance band just above my knees because we’ve learned (the hard way) that my left knee drops in when I squat, lunge, walk up stairs, etc. With the band forcing me to keep my knee in better alignment, I will have no trouble with the deep squat. Many thanks! And yes, I’ll keep up with my single leg balance and core work. 🙂 Have a great day.

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