Photography by Bev Childress of Fort Worth, Texas
Running involves more than just the legs and in fact, doing it regularly can lead to many injuries. These injuries may happen because of biomechanical irregularities, specifically, imbalanced hips, weak or tight muscles, or inactive glutes. Incorporating exercises to prevent injury is necessary for all runners.
When running, muscles in the hips, the glutes, and the core are used. When these areas are weak, then the runner’s form is also off. Some runners tend to favor one side of the body more than the other, while some use other muscles in order to make up for weak muscles. Both of these ways will lead to injuries due to overuse. Thus, doing exercises that strengthen weak muscles and stabilize any imbalance will lead to less injury.
Beyond that, those who incorporate injury prevention exercises in their routines perform better, running faster than those who do not exercise. This is because, according to experts with physiotherapy and exercises, the form is improved and they are running more effectively, meaning farther and faster.
Best Injury Prevention Exercises For Runners
These exercises can be done 2-3 times weekly to get the most out of them but to simply reduce injury risk, once a week is also enough. These exercises also do not require a gym membership, as you will simply use your body weight.
However, others looking to build their strength can add weights or resistance bands after they master these exercises.
1. Reverse Lunge
This exercise will make your core, glutes, quads, and calves stronger. As opposed to a squat, lunges will work your legs separately, so that it will also work on your stability.
First, you need to stand with the feet hip-wide apart. Take a step back with the right foot and go down into a lunge while keeping the left knee bent at a 90-degree angle and above the left ankle. It is important to also engage the core and keep the back flat with an upright posture. Take a step back to complete the rep, and then repeat with the left leg. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps with each leg. To make the exercise harder, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand.
2. Single Leg Deadlift
This is one of the most valuable exercises runners can do. The hinging motion in this exercise will make the back, hips, glutes, and hamstrings stronger. Doing this single leg exercise will improve stability and remove any imbalance in the glutes and hips.
Stand with the feet hip-wide apart. Raise the left leg out backward and shift the weight to the right leg. Hinge at your hips in order to bend forward while stretching the leg behind you, until your body almost looks like a T. Make sure your back is flat and the abs are engaged. Pause and then go back to the starting position. Complete all the reps on one leg before switching legs. Aim for 2-3 sets or 10-12 reps each leg. For more complexity, hold a medicine ball or a kettlebell.
3. Bird Dog
This exercise improves balance while strengthening the core, back, and glutes. Go down on all fours, keeping in mind that your back should always be flat and the core should be engaged. Extend your right arm and the left leg straight out until they are parallel to the floor. Pause, then go back. Repeat with the left arm and right leg for one rep. Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps.
4. Side Plank
This variation of the plank will engage the glutes, core, hips, and back. Make sure you engage the abs by pulling in the navel towards the spine.
Lie on the right side then raise yourself up on the right forearm, keeping the elbow directly below the shoulder. Raise your hips up until only the feet and forearm are on the ground. Make sure your body is in a straight line from head to toe. Hold the position for 30 to 45 seconds and do 2-3 repetitions.
This exercise works out your adductor muscles, glutes, and hips.
Lie on one side with bent knees and the elbows, knees, hips, and feet stacked. You may prop the head in your hand or let it rest on your arm. Raise your knee up by rotating it and making sure to keep the feet together. Pause, then lower the knee back down to complete the rep. Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps each side, finishing one side before switching.
Ensure Your Running Vitality
Running can be a taxing exercise for the body, which is why it is vital to ensure the body is conditioned enough for it. Doing these exercises will keep the important muscles strong and stable so that you will be able to run faster than before and at the same time, avoid any common running-related injury.