Avoiding and preventing running injuries is fairly difficult, if not impossible. Strength and balance deficits are unavoidable. Neglecting these foundational principles only appears to be a catalyst to missing serious training time. Being Reactive, not proactive, is our mentality. We are a society of kicking the can down the road until we are forced to react. We know we should work on strength, flexibility, and balance, but usually throw it a ‘half assed’ attempt between hitting the stop button and going inside to shower. Don’t get me wrong, most runners are the most dedicated and hardworking members of society, but there’s a “I’ll do it tomorrow” mentality when pressed with fitting it all in.
If you’re wondering if you have any weaknesses or imbalances, let me answer it for you… YOU DO. No athlete, slow or fast, pro or amateur, will ever be free of imbalance. Dedication to strength and balance will help you build a strong boat for weathering your training storm; however, failure to build a strong foundation for your ship (your body), and you’ll find yourself at the bottom the ocean, grasping at over the counter and online remedies that promise you the world. The true investment is in yourself. No one cares until their hurt. What’s even worse? Few of us learn from our mistakes. As the saying goes, “pain is temporary.” With the passing pain, so does that of how awful and helpless it felt to be injured. Again, no one cares until they’re hurt and even then, we typically fall back into a ‘I’ll to it tomorrow’ lifestyle.
No runner or triathlete loves to strength train. I get it. It’s even a chore for me and I teach it! Finding the time between this and that can be difficult, but it’s just another ‘kick the can down the road’ scenario. If you deem it important and valuable, you will find the time. By no means is this an indication that you should spend 2-3 hours a week at the gym toning this and strengthening that. It’s unrealistic. We want to spend our time running, not pumping iron.
How often and how much
In my clinical experience I have found that as little as 2, 30 minute strength and balance sessions can effectively build you the anatomy you need to run. The key is to have specific functional movement that ties in multiple muscles. Tying in multiple muscle groups into a single movement decreases your time commitment. No more strengthening for muscle A, B, C independently. Instead, let’s do a movement that works muscle A, B, C all at once.
Where do I start?
You shouldn’t try to target anything specifically from the get go. Treat yourself as if everything was broken. Performing selective balance and strength exercises on one side and then another is usually enough to determine if you have an impairment on one or both sides.
Can you put on your shoes and tie them without sitting down? I don’t mean bending from the waste either. Bring the leg to you, don the shoe, and tie it. This simple balance exercise can tell you a lot of how good (or bad) you are at balancing. It can also be used a metric for improvement.
This video highlights a few runners who are running PAIN FREE. They have movement compensations for weakness, tightness, and imbalance. Remember, you don’t have to have pain to have an injury gaining momentum.