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Strength Training: Running Injury Prevention Exercises

Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., Amy Wunsch, M.S.P.T. /
Photo by MYUNIONHOUSE Photography


Pain free is the way to be!  These seven easy exercises stop running injuries before they start.

PICTURE THIS: You’re out running on a beautiful morning, the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, endorphins fl owing through your body. All feels right with the world until a pain shoots up your ankle, knee, foot or hip and threatens to take away your favorite pastime. Nearly eight out of ten runners (79 percent!) experience a similar scenario every single year. Injury strikes, forcing them off the road and onto the couch.

So how can you remain a lucky 21-percenter? Believe it or not, running itself isn’t to blame for all your aches and pains. A sedentary job, for example, can decrease the range of motion in your ankles, hips and back, making your body ill-prepared to get up and run. Women are also prone to a weaker posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings and calves), leading to–you guessed it–injury.

The key to injury prevention is to address the major culprits: muscle imbalances, mobility impairments and weakness in the core. A routine of corrective and strengthening exercises can prevent these issues to keep your body strong enough to go for miles.

Aim for one to three sets of each exercise. Rest for as long as you need between each set and use enough weight to challenge your muscles while still allowing you to maintain good form.

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ANKLE MOBILIZATION

Stiff ankles lead to overcompensation by your knees or hips. Increasing ankle flexibility encourages a full range of motion with every step.

Kneel on your left leg. Grab your right heel with your left hand, and place your right hand on the inside of your right knee. Push your right knee over your pinky toe, pause for one second and return to the start position. That’s one rep. Perform 10 reps, then switch legs.

HIP FLEXOR STRETCH

Over time, regular running can cause hip flexors to shorten, leading to lower back pain. 

Kneel on your right leg with your left foot  at on the floor in front of you, hands behind your head. Squeeze your right glute and bend your upper body to the left until you feel a stretch in your right hip. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then return to the start position. Repeat on the opposite leg.

HALF-KNEELING CLAM

Strong hip rotators support a powerful, efficient running form.

Kneel on your left leg beside an exercise bench that’s secured to the ground. Loop a resistance band around the bench and also around your right thigh, just above the knee. Push your right knee outward, keeping your right foot  at on the ground, and hold for 5 seconds. That’s one rep. Perform 5 reps, then switch legs.

PLANK WITH HIP EXTENSION

A stable core encourages good posture, which is crucial to injury prevention.

Lower into a plank position, with your weight evenly distributed between your forearms and toes. Keeping your body perfectly parallel to the floor, lift your right foot a few inches off the ground. Pause for one second. Lower your right leg to the floor, then repeat on your left leg. That’s one rep. Perform 8 reps total.

ONE-POINT ROW

Strengthening your upper back will reduce the risk of neck and shoulder injuries.

Stand on your left leg, holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Keeping your back straight, bend forward slightly and extend your right leg toward the back wall. Engage your right shoulder to row the weight toward your torso. That’s one rep. Perform 8 reps, then switch sides.

LUNGE TO BUTT KICK

Single-leg exercises will teach your body to maintain proper knee position while running.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your left foot and step backward into a reverse lunch. The left knee should almost graze the  oor. Push through your right heel to return to a standing position, then kick your butt with your left heel. Pause and return to the start position. That’s one rep. Perform 8 reps, then switch sides.

PRONE ANGELS

Strengthening your back and shoulders helps you maintain balance as you run.

Lie on your stomach with arms at your sides, palms facing the ground. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your arms three inches off the ground. Rotate your thumbs toward the ceiling as you move your arms into a “T,” then a “Y” position. Slowly return to start position. That’s one rep. Repeat 8 times.

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