If I run so much, why do I have a muscle imbalance? Why are my hips weak? Why is my balance poor? Why am I lacking flexibility?
We spend miles upon miles attempting to lead a healthy lifestyle and for all intents and purposes it works. Our resting heart rate drops, we gain energy and feel fit. As the momentum builds, we add more mileage, more speed, more everything. The running community is overwhelming convinced that if 35 miles is good, 50 miles is even better. Damn those type-A’s! We often brush off the notion that we are housing a muscle imbalance. After all, you run, right? Shouldn’t your muscles be strong?
As our experience, speed, and mileage builds, so do the our muscle imbalances. When we run, our body moves through the sagittal plane (forward and back motion). The other two motions, frontal plane and transverse plane, are utilized, but in a much smaller dose. Specific muscle groups are geared towards certain planes. For example, your quads and calfs are fantastic sagittal plane movers, while your glutes and shin mucles are more suited for the frontal and transverse plane.
So we have this dominant sagittal plane movement, a direction of movement that is primarily completed via your quad and calf. Sure, the glutes and other muscles are used, but certainly not at the same intensity. So as we run week after week, race after race, we bias ourselves to stronger sagittal plane movers. Our calfs and quads grow stronger and much faster rate than the muscles associated with other planes of movements (read glutes).
Think of it this way. When you bench press you’re utilizing your pectoralis major (chest) muscles and your triceps. The bench press is known to be a strength exercise for your chest, certainly not your triceps. Your triceps play a much smaller role. Sure they will gain strength, but not nearly at the rate of your pecs. Thus, most weight lifters will hit up triceps pull downs or skull crushers to focus in on the back of their arm.
We observe this in clinical practice every day. High functioning athletes who can’t balance on one foot, all awhile having a poor grade during hip strength testing. The frontal plane and transverse plane movers (hips and shin/foot muscles) are important for stabilization, injury prevention, and balance. Without a fair balance between these muscle groups, our joints, tendons, and muscles are dragged through excessive motion—a recipe for “I’m never going to run again Pie”.
What can I do about it?
You want to try to bridge the gap. Like the meat head trying to get buff in the gym, he will target muscle groups with specific exercises. Now, being runners were smarter than said meat heads. We don’t want to work on specific muscle groups, but rather MOVEMENTS that target our neglected muscles. Doing so will encourage a healthy balance of speed and durability.
Here’s a specific movement that will help you in the battle. For full workouts and 40+ other exercises and drills, become a member (Sign Up Here for $1)