RUNNING Away From Injury: Strength Part I
View previous post in this series, RUNNING Away From Injury.
Running pounds your body. The repetitive impact that strengthens your bones can wreak havoc on your joints. When you run, you simply run. There are no moves or strategic plays like most sports. Fast or slow, you put one foot in front of the other and propel yourself forward. That is, until something hurts.
Don’t ignore strength training if you want to run injury free. The previous post in this series focused on stretching those areas that tighten up when you run. Now I’m sharing exercises that strengthen those parts of your body most susceptible to injury.
Prevention is key. Cross training is highly recommended. Any sport or movement that has you move laterally (side to side). Not only will you be stronger in general but you’ll prevent burnout.
Today I’ll be focusing on your hips, hip flexors, glutes, and outer thigh. Next week I’ll hone in on lateral movement exercises with a couple running simulation strength moves.
Strength Exercises: Part I
For me personally, these exercises are critical to my running health and enjoyment. When I neglect my hips, my hip joint and groin muscles will ache miserably on longer runs. Until someone invents WD-40 for the body, I’ll stick with these to keep myself prime for the pavement.
- Targets entire hip joint, outer thigh and glute muscles.
- Lift knee parallel to the floor, kick straight out to the side and hold. Bend knee back in and down.
- Variation: Add a kick straight back before bringing back to start position.
- Variation: If holding leg out straight is too difficult, modify by doing leg circles with knee bent.
- Keeping your shoulders as square as possible, swing leg by crossing over in front of over leg and thrusting it out to the side.
- This exercise really loosens up the groin area and it works the inner and outer thigh as well.
- Recommend 2 sets of 25 swings on each leg.
- Lunge in 4 different directions. Think of a clock and lunge at 10:00, 2:00, 3:00, 9:00.
- The leg on the ground should be bent at an approximately 90 degree angle. Knee does not come out over the toe.
Hip Circle Scales (One of my favorites!)
- Advanced exercise because it incorporates strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. Balance on one leg and lift the other bent knee out in front. Try and keep your quad parallel to the floor as you rotate bent leg to the side (no twisting your core). Continue the rotation until your leg is straight behind you. Lower your upper body and reach straight out with your arms and hold. Reverse the move exactly until knee is out front and then straighten the leg and hold.
- This exercise will work your hips, glutes, shoulders, core, calves, quads, and feet. It takes practice but is the single best exercise I do to improve my hip flexibility and strengthen my feet and ankles.
- Variation: hold a 5 to 7.5 pound weight.
- Very advanced: place a barrier, such as a chair, requiring you to lift leg up and over it before extending the leg back. I use the back of a weight bench.
- Trying to maintain balance, especially in a crossover move, is challenging. Balancing on one leg requires your calves and your feet to recruit all sorts of new tendons and muscles—those tiny ones that can give you lots of pain when running!
- While balancing on one leg, stretch 1 arm forward and across your body then slightly down as if trying to touch the seat of a child size chair just out of reach.
- Try and keep your hips parallel to the ground and your shoulders even. Back should be flat prior to the twist.
Standing Hip Circles
- Using balance with movement, this exercise opens up your hips while working the entire joint.
- Advanced: To work your core at the same time, add 5 or 10 repetitive side knee lifts while circling.
- What makes these unique from standard gluteal lifts is how high your feet are elevated. Place the back of your heals on an elevated step or bench. When you lift up you want your entire body from your feet to your chest to be like a straight ramp.
- Do sets of 15 to 25 lifts, tightening your bottom as you lift, while pressing your hips upward. You should feel a stretch in your hip flexor as well as a burn in your behind.
- Variation: Lift each leg without lowering your hip.
The reason yoga is so good for runners is because many of the poses engage the hip flexors. Yoga improves flexibility, balance and strength. Runners often dislike yoga because they are stiff and tight in these areas of the body. I am much less flexible in yoga now than before I started running. More proof of its value.
As you can see, you don’t need fancy equipment or even a gym to do these exercises. All you need is determination to stay healthy and running strong. Even just 20 minutes 2 or 3 times a week can make a difference.
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