Updated: Nov 9, 2022
What is the best treatment for running injuries? Prevention.
As sad as it is, many runners out on the path are ticking time bombs because they've neglected proper strengthening of the muscles needed to create good running form. Allow some of these exercises to slip, and so will your running form - and eventually, so will your hips, knees or even vertebrae.
Ouch.That makes for a few painful surgeries.
Instead, train these tiny little muscles you may have never thought about to support a correct stride, now. Your 50-yr-old self, who's running thousands of miles a year will thank you.
Please excuse the non-ASICS apparel - this video is pre-professional contract.
Exercise 1 - Beach Model
So you think your groin isn't connected to the pain in your lower back? Think again! While running, your groin is central to proper movement forward. Your groin muscles keep your pelvis from wobbling with laterally each step as it passes over the planted foot.
It's also important in activating the push you get from your back leg during your stride. If you let your groin become weak, your stride will be, too, which can lead to knee pain, hip pain, and yes, even back pain. That's not to even mention a hugely common beginner injury: the pulled groin. Strap on your polka-dot bikinis, it's time to model.
Exercise 2 - 80's Leg Press
On the flip side of your groin are the piriformis and hip flexors. Imagine your pelvis is a bowl. Each step you take tilts that bowl, and it is your groin's job in tandem with these muscles to get the bowl back to level. That keeps your hips from swaying side to side, but also has bigger repercussions. If your hips are wobbling, imagine what your knees are doing below them compensate. Messy.
Your goal with these first two exercises is to align everything at the source, in your hips. You may be experiencing pain in your patella that actually has everything to do with a weak hip flexor. The less imbalance you have in your hips, the less injury you'll have down the road.
Exercise 3 - Seatbelts
You don't need a six pack to run, but to prevent injury in your lower back, you'll need more trunk strength than the average Jill. Correct running posture will not only lighten the load on your spine with each pounding step, but will make the mechanics of the entire movement more efficient. If you're a runner, make sure you're a runner with a strong core.
Exercise 4 - Planks
The high school PE teacher told you to do them. Your brother who thinks he's some kind of M.D tells you to do them. The 87-yr-old woman who finished her workout at 4 am this morning told you to do them. They're all right. Planks are so universal, and so genius. Stabilization to the max. Do them for the reasons listed in Exercise 3. For variance on planks, alternate bringing one knee at a time to your chest and hold for one second, or rotate your body 90 degrees to one arm, and hold.
Exercise 5 - Superman
This may not save you from a burning building, but it will save you from a hunched back on that last hill at the end of your long run, and sometimes terrible back pain. Just as the groin and outer hip muscles acted in tandem to stabilize, so will the abs and back muscles. For proper running posture that doesn't result in weeks off or debilitating back spasms, do Superman's or a variation of them. In addition to preventing injury, a strong lower back will encourage the right body position for running flats and hills - especially hills.
Because of pelvic position, women in particular have the tendency to drop their shoulders forward while climbing a hill, and pop their butts like it's a Friday night. Not only will that actually get you up the hill slower, but it will cause pretty severe strain on your lower back over time. Rescue yourself from the pain early with the Superman.
Exercise 6 - Sock Flops
Do I even need to say how much these help with stabilization? In this exercise, almost every stabilization muscle from the ball of your foot to the top of your spine is working to you keep you balanced. Ankles, knees, hips, back, abs, even shoulders and neck muscles. You might not feel the burn during this exercise, but I assure you, the right muscles are being worked to keep your body well aligned, forward facing, and ready to do the same on the road.
The above exercises are to be done with regular consistency on active recovery days (see your SMOLDER plan). Doing so will give you the power you need in the muscles that need it. It will save you from countless injuries many beginning and experienced runners deal with unnecessarily, and it will ultimately lead to a more powerful and efficient running form today, and many years into the future.