At this time of year, as many runners come off spring races and gear up for fall half and full marathons, I wanted to write about the importance of strength training, including visualizations of key exercises to consider incorporating into your routine and build that strong foundation.
It's easy to get caught up with multiple runs per week and ignore strengthening the muscle groups you use the most when training. Stretching is not considered strengthening. Neither is cycling nor swimming which I would classify instead as cross-training. Strength work corrects muscle imbalances and reduces the risk of injuries, enabling you to maintain good form when you run. Good form lets you manage your energy better and run faster for longer.
Below are my top 10 exercises and what common running injuries each of them can help prevent. The exercises may not make you sweat or produce that runner's high. They also won't immediately cure you of any ache or injury you may be dealing with. However, doing them consistently, two to three times a week, will make you a stronger runner in the long run!
1. Monster Walks
Activate muscles in hips and glutes, especially hip extensors and abductors; helps prevent runner's knee and IT band syndrome
2. Clamshell Side Plank
Incorporates spine and core mobility as well as hip stability; helps prevent knee, hip, and IT band injuries
3. Lateral Lunge
Works gluteus medius, hip adductors/abductors, and hip flexors; helps prevent hip tendonitis and groin strains
4. Lunge to "A" Stance
Improves balance, core stability, and quad strength; helps prevent runner's knee
5. Single Leg Squat
Strengthens and stabilizes lower body muscle groups; helps prevent runner's knee, IT band syndrome, shin splints
6. Sumo Squat
Emphasizes balance, glutes and inner thigh adductors; helps prevent hip strains and pirformis syndrome
7. Bridge & Hamstring Curl
Targets glutes and hamstrings; helps prevent sciatica, high hamstring tendinopathy, pirformis syndrome
8. Wall Runner
Activates hips, quads, and glutes; helps prevent runner's knee and hip injuries
9. Ankle Eversion
Strengthens fibularis muscles and stabilizes ankles; helps prevent foot/ankle pain, peroneal tendonitis, shin splints
10. Ankle Inversion
Strengthens tibialis muscles and stabilizes ankles; helps prevent foot/ankle pain, tibial tendonitis, shin splints