A popular trend in the past few years has been couch to 5k. Many “unfit” people have been successfully motivated to begin a fit lifestyle by lacing up their tennis shoes and hitting the road. I applaud these individuals for their enthusiasm and dedication. After the 5k many undertake racing a mini marathon, and for some, a full marathon or 2. Running is excellent exercise for the body. The jostling and pounding of running releases a great number of endorphins and other neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that make you feel great (Ratey. Spark. Little, Brown, and Company, 2008). So since running is so amazing, you need a plan to stay healthy to continue this great form of exercise.
Running takes its toll on your joints. With every step, you are placing over 3x the force of your body weight onto one leg! If you are female, the angle between your hips and knees places greater stress on your knees due to having wider hips than men. There are numerous injuries associated with running: stress fractures in the lower leg and foot, tendonitis in the knee, ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, turf toe, hamstring strains, and on and on. To prevent some of these injuries and keep your schedule of running, add a regular routine of resistance training to your workout regimen. Try adding some of these exercises below to your weekly routine:
1.) Air Planes: great for balance in the lower leg and strength and flexibility of the hamstring. Prevents ankle sprains, shin splints, and hamstring injury.
Hinge at your hips to tip forward, keeping your core rigid and your knee unlocked. Return to the start while maintaining balance. x 15 each leg.
2.) Hip extensions: increases the integrity of the knee. Strengthens glutes and hamstrings for more power during running.
Prop yourself up on a bench (as shown) or place your feet on a stair or ball. Extend your hips and lower x 20.
3.) Directional Lunges: great for stability of the knee by working in all angles. Improves overall strength of your leg and balance for ankle stability.
Start by standing shoulder width apart with your feet. First, lunge forward 10 reps on each leg, then lunge backward 10 steps on each leg, then out to the side, 10 reps on each leg.
4.) Dorsiflexion: prevention of shin splints.
Attach a band to a secure post. Pull toes towards your body and lower slowly. x 20 each leg.
5.) Foam roll IT band: loosens fascia connecting hip and knee and releases tugging on the knee. Will alleviate some knee discomfort.
Roll from hip to knee on each leg about 1:00.
6.) Cross training exercise such as swimming, biking, stair master. Running is a high impact exercise. If you have weight to lose and are using running to shed those pounds, be wary of the extra stress those pounds have on your joints. Plan to run only 2-3 x per week and cross train another 2-3 x.
Following any workout or run, it is important to stretch all muscles used. Include a stretching routine for your hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves to prevent limited range of motion and tightness. Have fun taking over the road!