Adding a little strength
training to your running and walking program will help you prevent injury and
increase running efficiency.
building a strong foundation when building a house," said
, B.C., certified strength and conditioning specialist, Michelle Roots of Core
"You need to
start from the bottom. If all your stabilizer muscles are strong, youíre
creating a stronger foundation, which means youíre going to be more efficient
in your running."
will also help your body withstand the impact forces of running on hard
surfaces, Roots said.
Start with just a few
simple exercises. Try to do them two to three times a week on your non-long-run
training days. When youíre starting out, the first thing to focus on is proper
form. Try to do the exercises perfectly.
Runners and walkers
are prone to overuse injuries often caused by muscle imbalances. One of your
goals is to even out some of those imbalances to help prevent injury and improve
When out for your
training runs and walks, remember to warm up your muscles before starting. Warm
muscles work more efficiently.
Strengthen your lower body, particularly the front and back of your thighs, to
decrease strain on your ankles, knees and hips.
Wall squats. Stand with your back against the wall, feet about a foot and a half
away from the wall. Keeping your back flat against the wall, slide your back
down the wall until your knees reach a 90-degree angle and your thighs are
horizontal to the floor. Hold for three to five seconds, slide back up. Repeat.
Strengthen core. When youíre tired or have a weak core, you tend to collapse
forward, your head goes down, shoulders roll forward and the spine curves in,
creating lower back pain and decreased breathing efficiency.
To strengthen your core muscles, lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the
floor. Notice the gap between your lower back and the floor. Imagine someone is
pulling a string from your belly button into the floor. Squeeze your abdominal
muscles until you feel your back flat against the floor and the gap has
disappeared. Hold this position for five seconds. Repeat nine more times.
Focus on hip strength. The stronger your hips are, the more stable your pelvis
will be. If your hip is unstable, your pelvis can become misaligned or unstable,
which can lead to problems with your knees and ankles. Every time your foot hits
the ground in a run, if your left hip isnít strong enough to hold your pelvis
stable, that hip will sway outward and other body parts will need to compensate
for that weakness.
A common injury among
people with weak hips is iliotibial band friction syndrome. Weak hips cause
strain on the IT band, which is a fibrous band that runs from the hip, down the
side of the leg, to just below the knee. When this band is irritated from
overuse, you may feel pain on the outside of the knee.
the gluteus medius to create hip stability. Stand facing a mirror. Raise one
foot off the ground. Watch the opposite hip. You donít want it to pop or sway
outward. Squeeze your butt and hip to keep the hip in. Hold five to 10 seconds.
If this becomes too easy, stand on an unstable surface such as a pillow.
Work on each side of your body independently, so each side is pulling its own
weight. You might be surprised to find how your right side, for instance, might
be covering for a weaker left side. Focus on increasing core strength.
Try a side plank that works your shoulders, core and hips, one side at a time.
Lie on your right side with your right elbow on the ground. Lift yourself up
into a plank so your body is in a straight line and your weight is resting on
your elbows and feet. Squeeze your abdominals and butt. Hold 20 seconds, then
switch sides. If this is easy, you can balance your elbow on a ball or another
You could also do
some one-legged squats to increase single leg strength, and lunges instead of
squats so you can focus on hip and knee alignment, one leg at a time.