All you have to do to train for a race is run, right? Wrong.
Wait a minute, my legs are really strong. I mean check out these calves, quads and glutes. I used to think the same thing. The number one reason to incorporate strength training into your running training is injury prevention. The other reasons are increasing your speed during your long runs.
Running beats up your body, if you haven’t noticed. If you don’t have a lot of time to add in strength training, and who does, work on your hips. Strong hips are essential to preventing injuries. There is tons of research that supports this. You can prevent some of the most common running injuries such as runners knee, shin splints, and ITband issues.
Your hips stabilize your upper and lower body. The muscles surrounding the hips are recruited when other muscles become tired which can cause overuse injuries and compensation injuries. Weak hips throw off your gait, causing your knee and ankles to be unstable, in addition to your hips. You can develop mid-line crossover of your arms and feet. Cross over is an over rotation of your upper body during running. This twisting action wastes energy and can cause you to fall if you’re running on an technical surface.
You don’t need to do strength training every day, three days a week is best, more is not better. Your body needs a chance to build after you work the muscles. It doesn’t take a long time to add in some hip strengthening either, you can throw in 20 minutes after a run or on your cross training days. Let’s eliminate one more excuse too, you don’t need any equipment or a gym.
Here are some exercises that will get you started:
Fire hydrants: Get down on all fours. Lift your right leg out keeping the knee bent at a 90 degree angle. Lift slow for four counts and then lower for two counts. Repeat this for 10-20 times and three sets. Repeat on your left side.
Side Leg Raises: Lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of one another. Lift your top leg to about 45 degrees and then lower it back down. Repeat 15 to 20 times per leg.
Bird Dog: Get on all fours on the ground. Focusing on balance, lift your right arm and extend it straight out in front of your body. Simultaneously, lift your left leg and extend it out behind your body. Bring your extended arm and bent knee back to center under your body, and then extend them both out again. Repeat 15 to 20 times on each side.
Hip Hikes: Standing on one foot, drop the right side of your pelvis a few inches downwards while keeping the left side in a neutral position. Activate your left hip muscles and lift your right side back to the starting position. Repeat 15 to 20 times on each side.
Single-Leg Bridge: Lie on your back with both legs bent and your feet flat on the ground. Lift your left leg off the ground and extend it while you raise your lower back and butt. Hold the position for two seconds and lower back downwards in a controlled manner. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each leg.
Donkey Kicks: Get on all fours again, but this time you will only be lifting and extending your legs, keeping your hands on the ground. Instead of extending the leg backwards like you did during Bird Dogs, keep the knee slightly bent and kick upwards, with the bottom of your shoe facing the sky. Repeat 15 to 20 times on each side.