Spring Running Tune-Up
As the snow is finally starting to melt and the weather is warming, if you are a runner you are probably getting anxious to get outside and start your running training. Whether you are training for general fitness, a 5Km race, your first marathon, or your 15th marathon, strength training to ensure muscle balance is important, as this will help reduce the chance of injury.
As a runner, these are the following muscles that tend to get a lot of use (1):
-Gastrocnemius/Soleus (Calf Muscles)
Because of the running stride, it should be no surprise that these muscles are the ones doing the bulk of the work. However, this can lead to muscle imbalances and weakness in the following musclesv(1):
-Hip Flexors (Psoas/Iliopsoas)
-Abdominal Musculature (Core)
By training these under-worked muscle groups, it can not only improve running performance by improving coordination and movement efficiency, but it can work to reduce risk of overuse injury and sprains/strains (1).
Here are a few exercises that will help prevent muscle imbalances:
Perform this exercise laying down, with knees bent. With a neutral spine, think of squeezing your abdominal muscles while keeping the muscles in the same spot. It may help to think as though you are contracting these muscles are hard as you can, so if somebody were to punch your gut, you wouldn't feel much of anything! (2)
Perform: 2 sets daily of 10 repetitions, holding the abdominal brace for 2 seconds
Start this exercise by performing an abdominal brace (as described above). Then, squeeze the glutes together (squeeze the butt cheeks) as you lift your hips off the floor. Hold the elevated position (while breathing!) for 2 seconds.
Perform: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, holding elevated position for 2 seconds
Prone Plank (Front Plank):
Start this exercise by assuming the position as above. Once in this position, maintain a neutral spine and abdominal brace. Remember to BREATHE through this exercise (no holding your breath!) If doing this exercise is too difficult from the toes, it may be performed from the knees to begin with. Your ankle bone, hips, low back, and shoulders should be in one straight line here. Your low back should not be arched.
Perform: 2 sets of 30 second holds.
Start this exercise by laying on your side, with your elbow stacked under your shoulder, and elbow bent to 90 degrees. Stack your feet. Brace your core, then lift your hips up off the floor, so that there is a straight line from your ankle to knee-hip-spine-shoulder. Remember to breathe through this exercise. If this is too difficult to perform from the feet, may perform this from a sidelying kneel.
Perform: 2 sets of 30 second holds/side.
Standing Hip Flexion:
Start this exercise standing feet hip width apart. Start with the leg you are working slightly behind the other. Brace your core, and raise your knee to hip height. You may perform this exercise either with a band (as indicated above), or with an ankle weight.
Perform: 2 sets of 10 repetitions each side.
Hip Hike (on step):
Start this exercise by standing on a step (a stair will work!). If your right foot is standing on the step (as it is above), drop your left leg down, so that your right hip pushes out to the side just slightly. Then, using JUST your right side hip muscles, drive your hip up so that your left foot is now above your right. We want to feel the muscle in the side of the hip working (if you have a seam in your pants, the muscle we should feel doing the bulk of the work here is the muscle just behind the pant seam) (3).
Perform: 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
This entire routine as listed above should take you 15 minutes or less to perform. For best results, this should be done daily (especially if you are a serious runner!) Of course, consult a health care practitioner if you are currently experiencing pain while running to provide you with an accurate diagnosis, and a customized treatment and rehabilitation plan.
1. Fredericson, M., MD, & T. M., PT. (2005). Muscular Balance, Core Stability, and Injury Prevention for Middle- and long- distance runners. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 16, 669-689. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
2. Vera-Garcia, J., Elvira, J., & McGill, S. (2007). Effects of abdominal stabilization manoeuvres on the control of spine motion and stability against sudden trunk perturbations. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology,17, 556-567. Retrieved April 12, 2018.