As the beautiful Kiwi summer starts to get into gear, so to do many of our city’s runners, kick-starting their summer fitness drive. Unfortunately, as we begin to increase our training load, we also expose ourselves to greater risk of injury. Quite often at this time of year our physiotherapists start to see more and more running-related injuries coming to our clinics for treatment. Some of the most common include Achilles tendinopathy, anterior knee pain, and glute/low back issues.
Following on from our blog post in early September on running injuries and how to prevent them, today we wanted to talk about some of the specific injury-prevention exercises that we feel runners can include in their training regime to help keep their summer fitness plans running smoothly.
First up, the ever-trusty clam. An exercise that most people who have had exposure to physiotherapy or Pilates will be well-versed in, the clam shell is an exercise designed to recruit and strengthen our Gluteus Medius, a small muscle (it’s not the size of the muscle, it’s how you use it!) located on the outside of our hips. A well-trained Glute Med is pivotal to healthy hip, knee and foot function, and as such, should be a focus area for runners of all abilities. Aim to keep your shoulders and hips stacked, heels glued together and squeeze your glutes as you lift your top knee, before returning to your starting position
Speaking of glut strength, next up on our list of hottest running exercises is the bridge, a wonderfully functional exercise which focuses on the biggest muscle in our bodies, the Gluteus Maximus, the primary extender of our hip, pivotal to generating and controlling force when running. Lying on your back with your heels in line with you hips, making sure your chin isn’t poking out. Pushing through your heels, squeeze your glutes to lift your hips and back, making sure not to arch your lower back. Slowly return your spine and hips to the floor.
Our favourite love-to-hate core exercise, next up on our list is the delightfully dreaded Plank. A fantastic full-body exercise, the plank particularly focuses on abdominal and trunk strength, incredibly important for giving us a stable core from which to exercise. Have your elbows underneath your shoulders, neck long and spine and legs held in a straight line. Watch points for this exercise include a stable shoulder posture, engaged glutes and abdominals, all the while maintaining a neutral low back position and not forgetting to breathe!
Last but not least, at the bottom of our kinetic chain, let’s focus on calf and Achilles strength. Achilles tendon injuries are one of the most common running injuries, but a great way to prevent these is with the simple but effective heel drop. Standing with your toes on the edge of a step, slowly lower your heels over the edge, then, squeezing your gluts, lift your heels by pushing through the balls of your feet. Start small and slowly build up rep number, progressing further by completing the exercise with just one leg on the step.
The above exercises are a nice starting point for injury prevention, but as with any musculoskeletal issue, should the above exercises cause you any problems, or should your running training be causing you aches or pains, please get in touch with your physiotherapist to discuss how best to address these issues. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you out there pounding the pavements with the rest of us!