Swing Those Hips

swing those hips

It’s all in the hips my friends. I know you’ve heard that it’s all about the base, and there is no doubt that having a strong base before building miles is essential, but if your hips are weak you will end up injured once your body reaches its threshold.

What types of injuries am I talking about? Shin splints, IT band issues, and runner’s knee for starters, and these can lead to additional problems if you don’t address them including stress fractures.

Your hips are a part of your core, but most people focus on the abs when doing core exercises and leave out their hips entirely. So what do I mean by hips?

Vastus Lateralis muscle: this connects the side of your thigh to your knee and then runs down the front of your leg attaching to tendons at the knee, which attach to tendons on the tibia.

Satorius Muscle: this is the longest muscle in the body. It goes from the outside of your hip down to your knee and attaches to your tibia. It helps with hip rotation, and flexing. It also helps with knee flexing.

Iliopsoas muscle this is actually two muscles but they work together. They are your major hip flexors. You can’t run without them, or walk. They help you sit up while lying on your back too. They also control hip rotation in order to keep the knee aligned properly.

The Pectineus and Adductor Longus muscles (inside of your thigh at the hip) help pull the hip toward the center of your body and help flex).

Rectus Femoris is a part of a group of four muscles that make up your quadriceps. They are the primary extenders of the knee and connect to tendons at the knee and the tibia.

Gluteus medius and gluteus minimus these are on the outside of your hip and a little toward the back. They help with rotation of the hip away from the center.

I knot this may come as a surprise to some, but your body is all connected. When you have an injury at one point along the kinetic chain, it is most likely caused by a weakness in the muscles above and/or below the point of injury.

Just reading these very simple descriptions of these muscles (Disclosure: I’m not a medical doctor or a physical therapist) shows you all the connections between your hip, knee, and down to your ankle (by way of the tibia). If you have extra rotation in the hip, it tweeks your knee and tibia the wrong way. Basically, if your hips are not working properly, everything below the hip is screwed up too. This is why you need to strengthen your hips. If your hips are strong and stable (no extra rotation toward or away from the center) you are going to enjoy injury free running a lot longer and be at a lower risk for injuries.

How do you strengthen your hips? Here is a simple workout you can do three days a week it takes about twenty minute.

3 x 20 donkey kicks

3 x 20 fire hydrants

1:30 of clams holding up for five seconds then drop and come back up to hold for five seconds. Repeat for the full one minute thirty.

One minute single leg glute bridge (do each leg)

One minute bent leg plank, this is a single leg exercise. It’s done in the same position as a plank but one leg is bent underneath you and the other is up and extended no ground contact.

3 x 10 single leg squats

3 x 20 lateral leg extensions (this can be done standing with a band or lying down Jane Fonda Style)

3 x 10 squats

Happy Running!

Building and Rest Go Hand in Hand

I’m going stir crazy as I taper for Salt Flats 100. All my extra energy, which usually gets spent during my runs is building. My miles will continue to come down until I’m taking three full days off of running before my race. My strength training will stop ten days before the race because it takes about ten days to see benefits from any strength training. Taking time to rest is just as important as building your miles. Without the rest, building strength does not happen. As we push our bodies to go farther and father distances building up to that goal race, our muscles, ligaments, and tendons get micro tears in them. These tears are not necessarily a bad thing, because as they heal we become stronger. But, we have to let them heal.

There are some basic golden rules about building miles, which all runners should know and look for when they are deciding on a training program. The first is never build more than 10% a week. So for example if you’re running three five mile runs a week, you can safely add 1.5 miles the next week. The second golden rule is to reduce your miles by 20-25% every fourth week. If you’re a more injury prone runner, you can change that down week to an elliptical week or a pool-running week.

Pool running is great for maintaining your fitness when you are injured and for letting your body really rest from the impact of running. Pool running is as difficult as you want make it. You get into the deep end of the pool with a floatation belt (you can do it without one, but it is much harder). Most pools have floatation belts you can borrow. Once you’re in the water, you want to maintain an upright position as you move your arms and legs as you would if you were running out on the road. Even when you are running hard in the pool, you should not be moving forward much. If you are, you are leaning too far forward. On a rest week, you just want to take things kinda easy and run for the time it would take you to run your reduced mileage for the day.

Overtraining is an issue many runners struggle with. How do you know if you are overtraining? You feel sluggish, your legs feel like lead even after an easy run, you heart rate is elevated when you are at rest, and your friends and family tell you that you’re being grumpy all the time. Overtraining means you are not respecting your body’s limits, you’re not listening to your body, and you are dancing with the injury demon, who is waiting for the most inconvenient time to strike. If you find yourself in this situation, take two to three days off totally and then see how you feel. If you are okay, start with a reduced week back to running and then make sure you are following all the rules.

Your taper is an extended rest period before a race. It needs to be long enough to allow your body to fully recover, but short enough that you will not lose any aerobic fitness. For a marathon, your taper is generally two weeks long. You can use the same type of taper for a 50k. For a 50 or 100 mile race, your taper is three weeks. Many runners get antsy with the extra energy, but it is important kill the urge to go out and run or do some other physically taxing activity. The idea is for you to be at 100% on race day, so nothing will stand in the way of that metal being hung around your neck or the belt buckle being placed in your hand as you scorch across the finish line.

Enjoy a new book, lay in the hammock for a little longer, take the bubble bath you haven’t had time for, or go to the movie and eat a whole tub of popcorn!