We can’t all win every running race but you know what race we can all win? We can all win the injury prevention race.
A typical next question would be “HOW DO WE WIN THE INJURY PREVENTION RACE?” Well the truth is that there is no magic trick to prevent injuries. Injury prevention is comprehensive and multifaceted. A history of an old injury, your biomechanics, an anatomical issue, a training error and/or wrong shoes can all contribute. Since there are so many factors, it can sometimes take quite a bit of work to find out what the main culprit is contributing to the injury. Today, however, we are going to just focus on one key component of injury prevention so you can stay healthy for training and races ahead. The main focus: DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR HIP AND CORE STRENGTH ROUTINE!
All of us runners know how it goes- we have our run workout written out, but only a short time frame to fit it into the day. So what do we do? We put our shoes on and RUN! The problem is, we have forgotten to address some weaknesses that we know have been present in the past or maybe we avoid continuing our strength routine when our training mileage has increased. If we start increasing our training without our hips and core being strong, then we’re at a higher risk of injury. Instead of the right muscles working to propel your running, other muscles will compensate or “cheat”, leading to a potential injury.
A lot of runners don’t realize that good running form starts with the pelvis and the glutes! Believe it or not, running stride mechanics actually begin at the hip. As runners, we need to utilize our glutes and hamstrings for “use and power” throughout our stride. In an article in Runner’s World, David McHenry states “More often I see the foot strike as simply being the end result of so many things that are happening farther up the kinetic chain. The foot is really just the end of the big kinetic chain- the leg. Core and hips are where every runner should be starting if they are really concerned with optimizing their form, maximizing their speed and minimizing injury potential.”
A phrase we use often at Rebound is “Don’t get dead butt syndrome.” We see a lot of lazy butts among all levels of runners and athletes from highschool and college, to professional runners. It’s important to have awareness of what is going on in your hips, how to hold your pelvis, and the muscles that are firing around it. Experts agree that glutes are the most powerful and efficient movers for running, and failing to use them creates serious problems. “A strong butt is the key to a happy life”, Dr. Metzl, Sports Med Physician at Hospital for Special Surgery in NY.
The hip strength work requires focus and frequency. After learning what it feels like for your hip muscles to contract, start noticing if they’re working with running. “Running from the butt” is using the glute to pull the thigh and knee back while your pelvis and hips remain stable. A lot of runners will learn how to use their glutes in strength exercises, but then instantly they will revert to old patterns when they start running or increasing their speed. That’s why hip and core exercises take commitment and practice in order to create new muscle movement patterns.
Heading to the gym to attack these weakness areas of the hips and core alone, often does not correct them. Strengthening exercises (deadlifts, squats, bridges, etc.) can do little good without changing how we move and recruit our muscles. “Research has shown that strengthening alone- without retraining movement patterns- does not alter mechanics. The individual must own the new pattern or it will not be durable.”
Every runner wants to win the injury prevention race, regardless if they are a casual or a competitive runner. Remember that injury prevention is comprehensive and takes work, but we encourage all runners to start by training their hip and core muscles in the appropriate ways.
If you are looking for a strength training routine for injury prevention and maximizing performance then we encourage you to check out our Runners Strength Program at Rebound. These strength classes are designed and led by a Physical Therapist who is an avid runner.
If you have any questions or if you are interested in the Runners Strength Program then please email An[email protected] or call 663.6142.