If you are just about to take up running or have just started running – I believe that there are some things you should know. Running is quite demanding on the body – there can be forces of 7 to 10 times your body weight moving through your ankles, knees and low back. So if you wish to run well – pain and injury free it is important that you take some time to look after your equipment (that means your body).
It might sound weird I know – but let’s look at it this way if you were cycling and your bike had a buckled wheel you are not going to be as effective (and have a higher risk of stacking = injury) than if your wheel was not buckled. Posture and alignment is really important and often overlooked by many people starting out – but if you have poor posture the force generated while running (your weight x 7 to 10) moving through misaligned joints increasing wear and tear as well as increasing your risk of injury. You may have already experienced this – as a rolled ankle or sore knee.
Now I don’t want you to think OMG I can never run – all I want to do is make you aware of your body and ensure that you look after it. I call it “Prehab” – fix things before you get injured as opposed to rehab – once you are broken. Your running program should be complemented by some strength / stability training exercises and some stretching – which is specific to your bodies needs. It is important to remember that everyone is different but there a few things that almost everyone who runs – or wants to run – needs.
Core stability – having a functioning, strong core is really important to everyone, but especially if you are running. This does not mean 100’s of situps, plank (prone hold), or sucking your belly button right in to touch your spine. Core stability for a runner means the lower abdominals can stabilise the low back against the pull of the hip flexors. There is a range of Lower Ab coordination exercises that you can perform.
Glute Strength / Stability – there are 3 glute muscles but only really 2 we need to worry about here. Gluteus Med – is the major stabiliser of the pelvis and femur (thigh bone). Weak glute med allows the femur to internally rotate and shift load out of muscles and into the knee joint. Side lying bent knee turnouts (I call them Jane Fonda exercises) are really easy and effective – but a tube walk seems to be the best.
Glute Max – is the strongest muscle in the entire body but it is often weak in a lot of runners. Now glute max doesn’t really do a lot when running long distances – but if you are looking for a little more speed and power you definitely want to train this bad boy. Squats, Lunges, deadlifts are the best – but bridges (supine hip extensions) are also easy and super effective.
VMO (Vastus Medialis Oblique) – is the tear drop shaped major stabilisers muscle on the inside of the knee. So many people have a really small weak almost no existent VMO’s therefore providing no stabilisation which spells bad news for the knee. VMO Squats are a modified squat that targets the VMO specifically, also strengthening the adductor muscles can also help.
Stretching and (SMR) Foam Rolling – your posture really dictates which stretches you need to perform – but gentle stretching of all muscles involved probably won’t hurt too much. Stretching quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves can increasing the range of motion in these muscles increasing stride length and improve your efficiency. Foam rolling your tight muscles as well as those normally really tight and not to mention painful ITB’s will also ease resting tension on the knee.
Getting to some actual running training now – I believe it is really important to build your running up over time. Starting out with some short intervals like 1 minute on 1 minute off – is one of the best ways to begin – do this for a few weeks. You can then look at increasing time / distance intervals before building up to longer runs. Allow time to recover from your runs – I don’t think you should run on back to back days. Now it is also important to change your running like you do any of your training – try focusing on specific type of running each month. Sprints, stairs, intervals and distance work just to name a few.
Let me catch my breath – and get back to you soon with some more running tips. Good luck!
Ps you may want to check out these 2 previous blog entries: