HAVE A MARATHON ON THE HORIZON FOR 2017?
Before you start training its a great time to make a plan to injury-proof your body and address weak areas that may predispose you to injury. Read on for five exercises to help avoid running injuries during marathon training…
We all have asymmetries in our bodies, it’s part of being a human being. They exist for many of reasons and often do not surface as symptoms until we challenge our body. The gradual increase in distance required during training for a marathon is one such challenge and as physiotherapists we often see clients appearing with complaints of knee and hip pain just when their long-runs are ramping up or peaking in distance.
One of the most common issues, especially in women, is weakness of the muscles that stabilize the hip joint. Research has suggested that weakness in the muscles stabilizing the hip can be a key factor in the development of knee injuries.1
You don’t necessarily need to spend on hour in the gym strength training to adequately avoid injury, a small group of 4-6 specific exercises aimed at their weak areas can be effective for many of us. Keep in mind, simple exercises are often the most effective as more difficult exercises can be harder to master and more prone to poor technique.
Here are a few exercises for increasing hip control and core strength for runners.
1. SINGLE LEG SQUATS
These can be done using equipment such as a ball or a TRX but can also be done without any equipment.
INSTRUCTIONS: (described using a ball as per illustration) Begin with your back to a ball at the wall and shift to standing on one leg, lifting the opposite leg up to 90 degrees flexion of the knee and hip. On the standing leg, pay close attention to suctioning the hip into the joint and keeping the hips level. Slowly lower into a squat with that leg. Sink your hips back behind you and reach your arms forward to allow you to maintain balance with your center of gravity.Return slowly to a standing position. Repeat 6-12 repetitions (the last repetition should be difficult to maintain good technique) and do 2-3 sets per side.
2. SINGLE LEG BRIDGES
INSTRUCTIONS: Begin lying on your back with your knees bent. Lift one leg up, keeping the knee bent. Keep your deep core muscles on, begin to tuck your tail and lift your hips up off the floor. Lift up to the point where your hips are at neutral (flat) and avoid extending into your lower back. Lower your hips back down to the floor with control and making sure to keep your hips level. Do 8-15 repetitions each side and repeat 2-3 sets per side.
3. SIDEWAYS SHUFFLE WITH BAND ON LOWER THIGHS
INSTRUCTIONS: Take a 2-foot loop of banding and place it above your knees. Come into an athletic stance (like a defensive stance in basketball). Push your knees out into the band so that your knees are out over your ankles. Bring your hands forward in front of you and take 10-12 controlled shuffle steps one direction. Then return the other direction. Repeat 2-3 times each direction.
4. CONTROLLED STEP-UPS AND STEP-DOWNS ONTO STEP OR BENCH
INSTRUCTIONS: Step slowly up onto a step or low bench. Pay special attention to staying connected to your deep core muscles and keeping your hips level. Alternate legs, repeating 8-10 times per leg and repeat 2-3 sets per side
5. WALK-OUTS INTO PLANK WITH LOWER DOWN ONTO FOREARMS
INSTRUCTIONS: Come into a squat position. Keep your deep core muscles on and your back in a neutral position. Tip forward and walk your fingers our into a full plank position. Hold for three breaths. Keep your hips and shoulders level and slowly lower down onto your forearms one at a time, then push back up into a plank position one arm at a time. Shift your weight to one side keeping your shoulders and hips level and tap one shoulder with the other hand. Lower that hand back down and repeat on the other side. Walk back up into a squat position and return to standing. Repeat 6-10 times.
Keep in mind that no exercise program is a good fit for everyone and the above exercises were developed from my experience in treating runners for the past decade as well as during my own training for marathons.
The best way to manage your strength and areas of weakness is to have a team to help you with this. A registered physiotherapist that works with runners will be able to fully assess areas of weakness and risk or injury and guide you on which exercises would benefit your body specifically.
Some final advice: listen to the “whispers” your body sends you during your training and get the right help early for any pain that begins to develop. Good luck and enjoy the process!
- Souza RB, CM Powers. Differences in hip kinematics, muscle strength, and muscle activation between subjects with and without patellofemoral pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009: 39(1): 12-19.
About the author: Katrina Sovio is a registered physiotherapist, runner and former Ironman triathlete. She has been treating runners in private practice for over 13 years and has personally worked through countless running injuries during her own adventures in marathon training.
Have questions or comments? You can email her at the clinic: firstname.lastname@example.org