When it comes to mental toughness in the fitness world, runners and endurance athletes rank up at the top. Physical strain is one thing, but the ability to find that metal cave to endure movement for hours is unique. Even with that mental reliance, when nagging pain sets in it can really break us down. Strength training for runners is a great way to combat these injuries from occurring and build longevity on the road.
Why Do Injuries Occur, And What Do We Do About It?
Many times, pain and injury in endurance sports are linked to a combination of lacking stability or poor mechanics. These faults can lead to stress of our joints and soft tissues, and with thousands of strides the pain is inevitable. I tell these athletes we need to look at everything from trunk to toes. To really understand the cause of their pain or injury having this full picture is where the money is at! We need to watch and analyze the gait of the athlete and piece things together from there. We can’t just chase the pain. If the knee is the primary issue the likelihood is it is stemming from faults at the hip or foot. If we get lost looking just at the knee, we likely will miss the root cause.
When pain happens quitting running or moving should not be the first option, nobody wants to hear that. We need to spend extra time building the strength and integrity of the tissues around our hips, knees, and ankles. Building strength will allow us to work through these painful times and get back on track. This combined with working on the mechanics of running is the key to running pain-free down the road. Let’s stick to strengthening for runners, for today.
Strength Training For Runners: So How Do I get Strong?
It’s well understood that strength training or cross-training is beneficial with runners and endurance athletes. It allows for building increased resilience to our muscles and tendons which can diminish injury and eliminate pain. Truthfully though, time is often a limiting factor and many of us only have an hour or so in a day to devote to our fitness. Maybe there is a goal of competing in a marathon in a few months and sacrificing running training days for strength work isn’t always feasible.
What this means is we need to be efficient and effective with our strengthening approach. It’s always best when dealing with pain to see an expert and get a very specific and individualized program to help with your specific issue. Nonetheless, using this “Runner Strength Trio” is a great all-around start! If you’re looking for more head to our running evaluation page and set up a running assessment or evaluation. We can take the time to dive into you as your own individual runner and create the best program to get you (and keep you) running pain-free!
Try These For Strong Hips, Knees, and Ankles!
Banded Monster Walks: Different bands can be used, but in the video below a large continual loop band is placed around the feet. The farther the band is toward the feet the longer the lever and more resistance (harder) this exercise will be. Designed to fatigue and build endurance to the outer hip musculature that is essential for providing stability to the hips, lower back, and legs during running. KEEP THE TOES FORWARD, WIDE SHORT CHOPPY STEPS, ALLOWING FOR CONSTANT TENSION ON THE BAND. (Shoot for 30-60 seconds each way, or a total of 1-2 minutes)
Single-Leg Box Step Ups: These are a game changer! Performing them as seen in the video without the support of the upper body can be very challenging. Often I will have runners start their strength program with these using support on one side (ie. wall) to help control and stabilize the movement. Essentially you should be thinking about performing a powerful lunge step up onto the box. and then reversing the motion back down placing the body weight emphasis on the leg still on the box. SLOW AND CONTROLLED. (4-6 sets, 6-8 reps ea)
Soleus Heel Raise: The soleus is an important part of the calf muscle group. This muscle is exposed commonly to runners who have foot and ankle issues. Rarely is this muscle group isolated or trained. These walls sit heel raises are a great way to target this muscle. Make sure the knees are always bent while performing the heel raise to be as specific in targeting this muscle group. (3-4 sets, 10-15 reps)