Pound the Pavement

Physical therapy for faster, injury-free running


A few years ago on the recommendation of my brother, I began seeing Mike Silva, president and founder of FOUNDATIONperformance Sports Medicine, for physical therapy. The many miles I had put in training for my first marathon brought on some aches and pains in my shins and my foot, and I took my brother’s word when he told me, “Mike’s a miracle worker.” And he was right. It was rough at times, but I got through my PT sessions, learned how to strengthen some of my weaker spots, and was back to running pain-free in a few weeks.

Mike is a sought-after physical therapist to amateur and world-class athletes alike, and over the years he says he discovered that regardless of the injury, he was educating his patients – particularly runners – on the same exercises: those designed to target common areas of muscle imbalance. Realizing that these exercises could benefit all runners looking to become stronger and less injured – not just those seeking physical therapy – Mike developed a class series called RUNstrong. At the urging of his physical therapist wife, Carla, he began offering the series at FOUNDATIONperformance, but as demand grew, he needed a new space. Fortunately, Rhode Runner, a running store down the street from FOUNDATIONperformance, housed a community room that was the perfect size for the class.

On a recent Tuesday evening I made my way to Rhode Runner for the first RUNstrong class in a six-week series. Pre-registration for the class was filled to the max, which wasn’t surprising; this was a class designed to help runners become faster and less prone to injury, and to runners, that’s like an opportunity to strike gold. Along with exercise physiologist Jesse Cloutier, Mike led us 20 or so participants through the three phases of the class: foam rolling, dynamic warmup and strengthening.

Foam rolling is done on a cylindrical foam log, and it can be a bit uncomfortable. (Mike told us, “This will probably be the worst part of the class” as we groaned through it.) But it’s very effective in getting the knots and adhesions out of the legs, improving circulation and increasing flexibility. The dynamic warmup, which included walking on our toes and heels, as well as lunge walks, got our heart rates up and prepared us for the workout. Finally, the strengthening portion of the class consisted of core, back, leg and foot exercises proven to help minimize muscle imbalances in runners. The only piece of equipment used for RUNstrong’s strengthening exercises is an elastic resistance band. Mike says the foam roller and the band are all that’s necessary to wake up and work all the major muscles needed for running.

Most runners, myself included, want two things: to run faster and to prevent injury. As someone who has had her fair share of running ailments, I’m looking forward to seeing how RUNstrong continues to help my training. Spring is just around the corner and the open road awaits – and who knows, maybe some of my fastest racing times do, too.