Two things inspired me on new years day to write this article. One was a telephone conversation about an injury with a friend, the other was the 7 people that I counted that day running (actually, mostly jogging) past my house in new luminous running gear. More about the runners later and on to the phone conversation, I promise the two subjects coincide further down the line.
So let me give you a bit of background on the friend in question. He is in his mid-thirties and has played sport and been very active all his life. He has played football at a very high standard at junior level and top level semi-professional as an adult. He recently run a 5k in under 18 minutes and completed the London marathon in 2012.
I hope this has painted an accurate picture of a fit, healthy and active thirty something with above average CV fitness, coordination, speed and balance?!? Prior to doing the marathon he had a hernia operation so had to be careful performing certain core exercise for a period of time. He ran regularly over this festive period without pain or injury but as soon as he went to the gym to do some resistance work he felt a tweak in the area he’d had his operation. He went to see the doctor to make sure he’d not injured himself seriously and was comforted in the knowledge that he’d on slightly stressed the scar tissue. To make sure the specialist re assessed his core function with a few tests…..this is where it gets interesting…
The specialist couldn’t believe, with his sporting background in mind and at that level of fitness that he even got close to finishing a marathon. He was told his core strength was one of the weakest they’d ever seen and had probably been so for most of his sporting career!! The probable reason for his recent injuries was the fact he was building up fitness without hardly any foundation core stability at all.
Bare him in mind when I summarise later.
Now, on to the runners……
I love to see people running outside. Whether it is a slow jog around the park, interval walking/running with a friend or 10x sprints up hill, there aren’t many activities as effective that require no equipment apart from yourself and a bit of determination and drive. Saying that, I’m a great believer in doing other exercises that are running specific to help maintain or improve your core, hip, knee and ankle stability, strength, endurance, balance and coordination to name but a few.
I completed the London marathon in 2010 and was taken back at how some of the runners even got through their training let alone finished on the day!! I say this with the upmost respect as it must have taken an unbelievable amount or determination, dedication, drive and commitment for those guys and girls to finish. I take my hat off to you!!
I seriously doubt any of those participants went to the gym even once a week to do any running specific exercises. Now I’m not saying for one minute that everyone doing the London Marathon 2013 has to go to the gym twice a week as well to get FIT for the race.
Runners like to run, I totally get that having been one myself in a past life. But if you do take the time to improve your technique with running based exercises I’m sure that your chances of staying injury free during and after the race will increase by a fairly high percentage.
The 3 basic exercises I would want someone of any level to be able to perform comfortably are below:
These are all exercises that can be done WITHOUT gym equipment so they can be done at home as well as in the gym. They work on strength, stability, balance and coordination and are also specific as they are all performed on one leg at a time. It’s not to say that if you can perform these exercise comfortably you will not get injured but if you are going to be putting all that stress on your joints when “upping your mileage” I’d at least want you to be able to stabilize your hip, knee and ankle whilst standing on one leg.
I’d like to summarise by saying that the purpose of this article is to get someone who is starting their marathon training, or someone who has already completed one, thinking. In my opinion it would be beneficial to find time to do these exercises at least once a week, if you are short on time maybe do them in a quick circuit form to up the intensity. Even if it is not these particular exercises but others that help stabilising the hip, knee and ankle and engage the core that’s fine. Just make sure you find time to do them as they really will help long term with your running.
Please check out my videos attached for the demonstration of the above exercises with the specific teaching points.
Keep on running……