Now that the weather is improving, its time to hit the outdoors for training! As runners, we are constantly working on training regimes and trying to prevent injury. Many runners only focus on time goals, distance goals, and speed goals. However, we very seldom focus on fitness goals. Since running only primarily works the muscles in the sagittal plane of the body, we rarely get proper training of other important muscles. Try these 5 exercises to prevent very common running injuries like IT Band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and lower back pain.
1. Soleus Calf Raise: The soleus is the endurance muscle of the calf. It constantly fires during running and is the primary muscle in preveningt torsional forces on the shin bone. When it fatigues or doesn’t work properly, you can develop shin splints. To prevent this injury, try this exercise. Standing on one leg with the knee bent, slowly lift your heel up and down. Complete 2x20
2. Side Planks with Leg Lifts: The hip abductor (gluteus medius) is solely responsible for keeping our hips level during running. When it fails, we can have increased forces in the back, hip, knees, and ankles. These increased forces can lead to many kinds of injuries including low back pain, stress fractures, knee pain and ankle sprains. To prevent injury, try this exercise. Lay on your side, propped on your elbow, forearm and knees. Lift your hips up and then lift the top leg up and down. Maintain a stable trunk. Complete 2x10 each side.
3. Foam Rolling the ITBand and Calf: Many times we overlook stretching our muscles during running. But stretching is just as important as running itself. Using a foam roll can stretch your muscles and also help reduce adhesions ("knots") that lead to friction injuries or pain. Improving the flexibility of both the ITBand and Gastroc (calf muscles) helps maintain proper alignment through your knee and ankle joints. When one of these muscles are tight, we can develop "runner's knee" or plantar fasciitis. To prevent injury, try this exercise. Laying on your side on the foam roller, slowly walk the side of your leg down the foam roller to just above your knee. Repeat for 5 mins. Then move to your calf muscle. Slowly roll the foam roller up and down the back of the calf, rotating the leg to get different aspects of the muscle.
4. Single Leg Squat: The thigh muscle is often quite strong in runners. However, many times the inner part of the thigh is weaker than the outer part. As a result, the hip, knee, and ankle can all take on abnormal forces. These abnormal forces can lead to tendonitis, stress fractures, and sprains. To prevent injury, try this exercise. Standing on one leg with proper posture, slowly bend the knee. Keep the knee in-line with the hip and ankle, not letting it roll inward. Keep the pressure on your heel. Repeat 2x20 on each side.
5. Hip 5x5: The hip extensors and abductors are major stabilizers of the trunk, hips and knees. Without them functioning properly, we can develop many chronic injuries. To exercise the hip and to develop "core" stability, try this exercise. Starting on all 4s, pull in your abs and slowly pull your knee to your chest. Then bring your leg out to the side, keeping your spine stable. Then extend your leg back and repeat. The leg should be the only thing moving. Repeat 2x5 on each side.