Call us crazy, but we love running. At Resilience RX, we work with runners of various levels – from the person who is just getting off the couch to the seasoned ultra runner. In this post we are going to let you in on some tips and tricks we use to help runners stay bulletproof and avoid injury!
The majority of running injuries we see revolve around not having enough strength to undertake the demands of running. Runners love running (usually) and typically do not enjoy strength training. Hence, they usually don’t lift weights. (No surprise there, most people do not seek out doing things they dislike!) However, strength training is a necessary adjunct to recover from most running-related injuries. And, whether or not you are injured, strength training is a great tool to improve performance.
Here are three exercises to bulletproof your running and improve your performance!
Single Leg Heel Touchdown
Strength in a single leg position is a foundational element to running since running is essentially a series of single leg squats. Every time you land on your foot, you do a single leg mini squat before pushing off and landing on your opposite foot. Because of this, it’s essential to improve strength in this exact position.
This exercise is more challenging than it looks! You will stand on one leg on the side of the box or stair, place both hands on your hips to ensure they are level, and slowly lower your other foot down until it touches the floor or you are unable to go further. Then, pause in this bottom position a second or two before standing back up. Remember to keep your hips level. If you let the hip of the leg that is touching the floor drop, you are not getting the full benefit of the exercise.
Side Lying Hip Abduction in Modified Plank
Targeting the muscles on the sides of your hips is key for good running performance. It helps prevent the arch of your foot from collapsing and putting too much stress on your knee. The stronger those muscles are, the better running technique and performance you will have.
For this exercise, you will start in a side plank position. However, instead of using your foot to support your weight, you will use the side of your knee. With your knee supporting your weight, lift the upper leg towards the ceiling. Common mistakes to avoid include rolling your top shoulder forward, lifting your leg forward instead of directly upward, and letting your top hip roll backward. For easier and harder variations of this exercise, watch this video.
Single Leg Deadlift
The single leg deadlift is a great way to work on the strength of the muscles on the back of your thighs and butt. During a run, these muscles are utilized right before your foot hits the ground. They act to slow the acceleration of your leg so that it stops moving forward. Lacking strength in these muscles can cause someone to overstride, causing hamstring strains.
To do this exercise correctly, stand on one foot and hinge at the hip until the back of your thigh gets tight. At this point, squeeze your butt and the back of your thigh and then stand back up. Once the back of your thigh is taut, you won’t get any additional leg strength gains by rounding your back or reaching your hand closer to the floor. We suggest using a mirror the first few times you perform this exercise to check your technique, as mistakes are common. If you are not sure if you are doing it right, check out this video. To maximally challenge your hip, hold the weight in the opposite hand of the leg that is doing the work.
A Few Extra Tidbits
When performing each of these exercises, aim for a repetition number that targets strength or endurance. If your goal is strength, stick to 4-8 reps and load up the weight. If your goal is endurance, shoot for 20+ reps and keep the weight lighter. Either way, make sure you are fatigued when you finish each set!
Lastly, remember consistency is key. If you give these exercises a try periodically, you are not likely to see benefits. For best results, shoot for three sets a week, progressively increasing your weight and/or reps as the weeks go by.