As a runner, it is very important to supplement with strength training in order to continue to improve your running while avoiding injury. Even if you do just a few movements each day, or a few times a week to strengthen weak muscles – this can help immensely in your performance as well as allowing you to run pain free.
It is important to recognize your weak areas in order to determine which exercises are best for you. In some cases, there may be something going on in an area other than that of which your pain deriving, and working on that area of weakness can, in turn, relieve pain in the other area. For example (and in my case), I tend to have achy knees and have found that it is due to weak hips. By strengthening my hips, I relieve the pain in my knees and have better overall stability.
These exercises will be geared towards strengthening your hips and glutes as it seems that painful knees are a continuous “runner problem.” I think our hips and muscles around them are something we forget about. We forget to stretch and strengthen them. If you think about it – our hips and glutes are where all the movement in the leg starts. If we have a happy, healthy starting point; everything else will follow! So, let’s get in to the exercises.
Lay on your side with your head comfortable (you can place it on a pillow if you want).
Bend your knees at about a 30 degree angle with them stacked on top of each other.
Place other hand (not on floor) on your hip.
Keep your feet together but open your knees. You will feel your glutes working and your hips stretching.
Repeat 20 reps on each side, 2-3 times.
2. 90/90 Hip Rotations
Lay on your back again with your legs up at a 90 degree angle.
Place a pillow, small ball, or yoga block in between your legs.
Slowly bring both legs (still at a 90 degree angle) to your right side.
Only go as far as you can while keeping back and shoulders on the ground.
Slowly go back to center.
Repeat 5 reps on each side, 2-3 times. Build up to 10 reps.
3. Banded Hip Flexor Pulls
Attach a band of medium resistance to something ground-level (table leg, for example).
Stand with legs hip-width apart (not a very wide stance) with one leg with the band round it without much resistance while standing.
Keep legs straight with a soft bend in both knees.
kick leg with band around it out just enough to feel the resistance in your hip flexor.
Keep the work in the hip flexor. Do these fairly quickly and continuously.
Repeat 6-8 reps on each side, 2-3 times. Build up to 10 reps.
4. Single-Leg Bridge Raises
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Riase your right leg just level with the thigh of your left leg.
Raise your glutes with your left (grounded) leg. Then back down.
Repeat 10 reps each side, build to 15 reps.
Of course, everyone has different needs and goals – but these 4 workouts are wonderful for strengthening the runner’s power house, the hips and glutes. I believe that taking the time 2-3 days a week to preform some or all of these workouts has the capability to relieve and prevent injury while improving PR’s.