August 14 2018
Getting strong doesn’t happen overnight. Start doing these five exercises to bring a little bit of strength training into every workout.
Resistance bands aren’t just something you turn to when there aren’t any “real” weights around. Used the smart way, they could actually stretch your running potential.
Often when you ask runners if they do strength training, they say, “‘Yeah, I do ab exercises, so I’m covered there,’” says Colleen Brough, D.P.T., director of the Columbia RunLab in New York City. But that leaves out some key muscles that could really get your running somewhere new—ones that can be very effectively trained with those versatile stretchy bands. “If healthy runners do these three exercises and add in the Running Homework [see below], the vast majority would show improvement in their performance,” she says. Here’s what resistance bands can do for you:
How: They teach you to keep your pelvis stable. It’s not uncommon to see runners drop their pelvis to one side when they’re on one leg. They switch to the other leg, and the pelvis drops again. “The more you drop the pelvis when you’re on one leg, the more energy you lose from your run,” Brough says.
What to do: Lateral Jumps
These strengthen the gluteus medius and the lower abs, which keep you stable.
How: By strengthening your knee drive so you move forward more powerfully
What to do: Knee Lifts
How: By building your ability to keep your body from sagging anywhere when it’s shifting through a variety of positions
What to do: Trace a Y
“Now that you’ve done the band exercises, go out for a run and really think about the muscles you’ve worked,” Brough says. “Really think about pushing off and squeezing that glute muscle for a section of about 100 feet.” Cue your left glute every time your foot hits the ground. Then do it with your right. “This helps you incorporate the strength you just worked on—and it’s what really brings biomechanical changes to your running,” she says. In other words, it’s nice to be strong, but if you don’t use that newfound strength in your running, you don’t get its benefits.
In addition to their ability to make you a better runner, resistance bands are great because they’re portable and inexpensive. Use these tips to choose and use them better.
The various colors in a box of bands aren’t just to coordinate with your outfit; different colors have different stretchiness. The trouble: Each brand is a little different, so you can’t always assume that red means hard. Choose the band that allows you to do the exercise and maintain good alignment, says Brough. Too much resistance will pull you off-kilter.
Circle up (or not). Some bands are pre-made into a circle. These can be handy for lateral jumps. You might even want some of each so you don’t have to keep tying and untying them (it gets a little trickier once the powder on them wears off).
Make them more comfy. Bare skin plus resistance band can be pinch-o-rama sometimes. If you’re not wearing capris or long tights, fold up a towel and place it between the band and you in the hot spots.