With the Boston Marathon right around the corner, many of us here in Massachusetts have running on the brain. If not training for this prestigious event, maybe you are thinking about a different spring or summer race (such as the Emerson Hospital 5k Run~Walk for Cancer on June 4!). However, if the sometimes inclement New England weather makes you hesitant to run in the cold or rain, why not try some strength training in the comfort of your home?
As a runner, I know that most of us think of running as the most important aspect of our training. However, appropriate strength in the specific muscles used repetitively while running can help you avoid injury and perform better in those upcoming races.
So what are some important muscle groups for runners to focus a strength training routine on?
Running is a single limb sport, requiring us to balance all of our body weight on one leg many times throughout the cycle. The lower-extremity stability that holds us up and pushes us through those runs comes from the small muscles surrounding our hip joint.
One way to strengthen those specific muscles is do side-lying clamshells. Lying on your side with your knees bent, abdominals tight, and heels together, squeeze your glute muscles and rotate your top thigh outward WITHOUT rotating your trunk back. Make sure to keep your feet together. Hold for two seconds then relax. Repeat this 10-15 times on each side for two or three sets.
The demand of running requires adequate postural stability. A strong core will translate all the way down to the ground, aiding in your lower-extremity stability by allowing you to use your muscles to their greatest advantage.
The prone plank is a great exercise to build core strength. Lying on your stomach, perform an abdominal brace and raise your body up using your forearms. Maintain a tight stomach throughout the exercise. Make sure you do not raise your hips above your head and do not let your lower back sink. Hold as long as you can maintain proper form.
You can also do a few modifications of this exercise if necessary. One method is to do the plank with your knees bent. Lying on your stomach, perform an abdominal brace and raise your body up onto your forearms and knees, as shown in the below right photo. Another option is to raise yourself up onto your hands as if you were going to do a push-up, as shown in the below left photo. Maintain a tight stomach throughout both of these exercises and hold for as long as you can maintain proper form.
If you are interested in learning more about strength training tailored specifically to runners, we are hosting a Running Conditioning Clinic at the Emerson Center for Rehabilitative and Sport Therapies in Westford. The next series will run from April 12 to May 5 on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Registration is limited, so please visit emersonwellness.org to sign up!