Running races are back! Spring races are a great opportunity to set goals, try new distances and achieve personal records. Each year many of us renew our gym memberships, commit to yoga classes and strength and conditioning programs in an effort to prepare for the upcoming running season. However, as the race season approaches, our focus tends to shift from cross training to running volumes. With this shift away from cross training and the increase in training distances, speeds and days, comes an increase in the potential for injuries.
This year, maintain a consistent injury prevention program with exercises that focus on ankle and hip mobility, lower extremity strength and trunk stability. Keep consistent and incorporate these 5 exercises into your daily routine twice a week to help avoid injury this year. Each plays a role in ensuring your body is tuned up and ready to go the distance, during training and on race day!
The downward dog stretch is a classic yoga exercise that covers several muscle groups. It especially stretches the hamstring and hip muscles that shorten with prolonged seated work. Keep your back flat and hold the stretch for 3-5 slow breaths.
To address more running muscles than any other exercise, perform a single leg squat. To decrease the stress to your knees, try lightly holding onto a doorknob or TRX Suspension system to keep your knee behind your ankle joint. Make sure to maintain good alignment of the kneecap with your second toe and bend your knee until your thigh is parallel with the ground. Start with 3 sets of 5 reps and build to 3 sets of 15 reps.
The front plank, side plank and resistance-band sidestepping are three exercises that keep a runner’s trunk solid. A stronger core improves shock absorption and provides a stable foundation for our extremities to propel us forward.
Hold each plank position for 10 seconds and switch positions without taking a break for three sets.
Follow the planks with resistance-band sidestepping. Wrap a band around your ankles, slightly bend your knees, keeping the kneecap aligned over your second toe, and sidestep for 20 yards one direction and then switch directions. Start with 3 sets in each direction and increase over time.
In addition to an exercise program, it’s important to check that you are running efficiently. At least once per week take the time to check your running cadence. Count your strides on one foot for 30 seconds and multiply by 4. Try to keep your RPM’s at 170-180 strides per minute for more efficient running technique and less knee stress. If running causes you pain around the kneecap, you may have patellofemoral pain syndrome and should seek the advice of your physical therapist. If you have never run before, but decided this is the year you want to start, your physical therapist is an excellent resource for starting a running program.
Are you ready for running season?
If you have any questions, have pain preventing you from enjoying your running, or you are interested in more personal and specific programs, your local Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy expert can help. Our passion is to help every patient reach their goals on their journey to recovery and optimal performance.