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Faith and Running – A blog by Traverse City Physical Therapist Mike Swinger

How do faith and running interact? When we choose to sign up for a race, be it a 1/2 mile fun run or a marathon, we have faith that our training regimen will make it successful. This oftentimes goes against our momentary desires, or what the world would consider to be sensible. Who, in their right mind, would get up early on a cold, snowy, Saturday morning to go out for a run, when staying in a warm bed is so much more appealing? But yet, we do crazy things like this because we trust that it will pay off in the end. It’s during these moments, where we look past our own impulses, and put our trust in something bigger, that we learn more about faith. In the same way, when we trust Christ, we are asked to do things we may not want to do and not do things that we may want to do. As part of our Christian journey, we are constantly discerning whether or not our actions, words, and thoughts are in line with the training laid out for us in God’s Word.

As a Physical Therapist, I have the privilege of working with runners of all levels. When someone has pain, that’s a dead giveaway that something’s gone wrong. As part of their time with me, I ask them to do certain things that may seem counterintuitive. When I ask someone to do drills or change their running form, it typically feels awkward and unnatural at first. And other times, when someone has been ‘faithfully doing core exercises’ and I have to break the bad news that weakness in the core is still part of the problem, some changes to their core routine are in order. Again, changing your form or routine is part of keeping in line with a training regimen that will help you accomplish your running goals, just like making changes to your daily habits are required to take steps of faith in your Christian journey!

I can’t stop there without giving some practical thoughts on core strengthening! When considering how to strengthen your core in the context of running, it’s best to ask the question, what does your core actually do while running? Then let this guide what you do for exercises. Unfortunately for many of us, this rules out crunches and many other traditional abdominal exercises that don’t translate to running. While running, our muscles are most needed at the transition point from loading to unloading. Without getting too technical, how well do our muscles absorb the landing then transition to push-off? Quite often, I recommend that runners perform core exercises while balancing on one leg, with trunk and arm movements that simulate what you actually do while running. This helps develop proprioception between your feet, hips, and core, which is more authentic to running. This allows for some creativity. Let me know what you come up with!

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your training, both with running and with life!


Michael G. Swinger

Physical Therapist, Superior Physical Therapy

Traverse City, MI

To reach Mike, email him at

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