RUNNING PREHAB IS NOT OPTIONAL
As many people around you will confirm, running is not all about running. The streets are littered with the dreams of wannabe runners that have tried and hit a brick wall in the shape of their own knee/ankle/etc. As you increase the running volume and intensity the cracks are much more likely to appear in any previous problems. Have you had a perfect injury past? Can you afford to not do the maintenance before taking yourself out for a road test?
Obviously every-body and every foot is different based on what you were born with and what your injury history has done to it since. Here we detail some basic cover-all foot mechanics exercises and supportive weight training. You will most likely have your own imbalances that you should get assessed if you want to achieve the perfect stride, but the below is a good starting point to ensure you’re covering the most obvious bases.
The foot is an over worked and under paid part of your body. What’s the first thing to hit the ground with every stride? What dictates the movements of the joints above it? The foot. If your foot is not functioning correctly nothing above it can either. But no one ever talks about it! When was the last time you stretched your foot?
I want to give you a couple of foot mechanics exercises to add in to your warm ups and gym workouts. These will improve the way your foot strikes the ground, transitions and drives off so that you get better cushioning, more energy efficient movements up the chain and hopefully a smoother faster stride. Big promises; with the caveat that these are the basics cover-all most used exercises for these goals. You no doubt have your own minor malfunctions that might need personal assessment but hopefully you’ll get away with these, a good pair of trainers and a sensible gradual increase in training volume.
· Clock balance
Increase your foot’s strength and activation in a wider circle and you will help it to work more fully through your stride. By reaching the outer limit of your footprint and balancing there you use the extremities (your little toes, full first toe and the outside of your foot) that are often underused during your stride and by doing so key your brain in to utilizing them more fully.
· 3d hamstrings
Most of us have turned our ankles a few times in our sport/running/messing about career and very subtly your ankle may never have returned to normal use. Your brain got used to avoiding the position where you damaged it and never went fully back there. This exercise puts the weight in the outside of your heel, safely, reminding your brain that it’s ok to go there, leaving you with a more complete foot strike. It is also an awesome hamstring stretch!
· 3d Ankle and Hip opener
The foot related part of this one is to relight the fire under your 5th toe, re-educating your brain to use it as you push off the ground. Your ankle and knee will travel back through their whole range during your stride as you will have rediscovered the lost art of supination (Where your fore foot rolls to the outside) which so many of us don’t access properly. You’ll get a stronger push off and reduce pressure on your knee.
These exercises hardly scratch the surface of the potential in your feet to improve your movement chain. The journey I’ve been on after learning these techniques from the movement wizards at Anatomy In Motion has been huge. I had pins in my knee after an injury rooted in an imbalance that also curved my spine and gave me neck/shoulder problems for 15 years. I was still training hard but hitting an (shoulder/neck/back/hip/knee/ankle) injury every 6 months and had to slow down or change focus. By starting from the foot up I‘ve used these techniques to remove the knee, ankle and hip pain I suffered with every run, the shoulder tension I got every time I did a push workout and the neck tightness with more or less any movement harder than walking. I’m now starting to gradually build my training level again, keeping a constant eye on my movement patterns, so that after 15 years of juggling my training around injuries I can end up an (almost) normally functioning human!
I would encourage you to do some gym work throughout your training. And especially at the start if you're inexperienced. While it might seem irrelevant compared to getting the miles in it is not. For those less experienced or injured you must improve the strength of the chassis you are taking round the track if you want it to travel fast and without injuries. For seasoned pros who have the miles under their belts it may be the missing factor to take your performance up a notch.
You can’t run long and hard without good:
· Pelvic stability
· Single leg stability
· Back endurance
· Glute activation
I would do more weight training at the start if you have injuries, tight muscles or are lacking experience. Get your ducks in a row before you up the mileage. Perhaps 2 x 45-60 min workouts a week. 2 runs and 2 workouts a week + stretching.
This is one workout from many possible workouts that may suit your needs, if you’re not about to get one set for you specifically this will be a good starting point.
Do 4 sets of these exercises in a circuit format
(Do each once with no breaks, rest for 60 secs and start again x 4):
1 leg Romanian Deadlifts - x6 on each leg
Leg Extensions - 45 seconds
Banded Lunges - x12 on each leg
Step Up To Balance - x6 on each leg
Swimming Back Extensions - 45 seconds
Lunge with Torso Twist - x12 on each leg