strength moves for runners

Melting away our running aches and pains

by Meghan Reynolds

No matter how strong I am, how in shape I am or how much yoga I'm doing, I'm sore - A LOT! I sometimes feel like my hamstrings are made of lead. This feeling has been increasing over the past few weeks as my miles have ramped up and I'm doing track workouts. The soreness and pain diminish pretty quickly after running, it rears its ugly head during my runs. This has happened before and through trial and error, I discovered what relieves this soreness and pain (besides total rest): strength exercises and the MELT METHOD.

I still do yoga, foam roll and stretch but the combination of strength and MELT have relieved my body of so much soreness and pain, it's like a miracle. Seriously. Below details what I've been doing and why it helps.

Strength exercises - these exercises specifically target my hamstrings and glutes. I need to build up strength so they don't fatigue as quickly and are less prone to injury.

Bridge Lift and Walk

Single Leg Bridge Lift

Clock Lunges

Glute Press Up

Single Leg Deadlift

MELT Method: I use the actual MELT balls but you can use a tennis ball and golf ball. I do this after every run and in the mornings if my feet feel cranky. The reason MELT is effective for hamstring and glute issues is because the technique addresses dehydration. We have connective tissue all over our body, and in its simplest form, is what holds our muscles and organs in place. When this tissue is dehydrated, it doesn't move as well. When you bring back fluids to the tissues, you feel better and your body moves more easily. Check out this example of a 3 minute foot release from the MELT Method founder. Sometimes I just roll my feet on the large green roller (you can use a frozen water bottle). Do this for a week and I promise, you'll feel the difference.

Fitness Friday - 3 Moves to Power Up your Runs

Get a great backside and get faster at the same time. Having a strong, toned butt not only looks great but it actually helps you run faster. As your speed increases, the biomechanical load placed on your glutueus and hamstrings intensifies the most. Thus, to get faster and not get injured, you need to develop strong glutes and hamstrings. These 3 moves will help you strength, tone and lift your backside and make you a faster runner. Do each exercise at least 2 times and aim to do lower body strength work at least 2 times a week.

Plie Squat - Strengthens the inner thigh (adductors) and the glutes. Great squat variation. Do 25 reps, 2x.

Single Leg Bridge Lift - Strengthens the hamstrings and gluts. Added bonus, stabilizes the hips. Do this exercises for 30 seconds and repeat.

 

Clamshells - Strengthens the gluteus medius which will help the efficiency of your stride and your leg turnover rate. Do 15-20 reps on each leg, 2x.

 

Strength Move of the Week: Bridges

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Bridge Lifts and Bridge Walk
Why we love these? Bridges strengthen the glutes and stabilize the core which reduces the risk of injury to the hips and knees. Feel this exercise primarily in the glutes and abdominals, not the lower back. If you are new to bridges, start with bridge lifts for the first week and then add in bridge walks. Otherwise, do both of these - one after the other. No matter what, make these are part of regular weekly routine! 

To get into proper bridge position lie on your back with your hands at your sides and bend your knees to bring your feet flat on the ground about hands length away from your butt. Raise your hips by firing your glutes (squeezing your butt cheeks) and using your hamstrings and glutes to drive your heels into the ground. Lift up until you create a straight line from your hips to the knees without arching your lower back. Keep your abdominals contracted the entire time and avoid rocking your hips from side to side during the lifts or walks. 

Strength Move of the Week - Toe Touches

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Toe Touches
Why we love these? Toe touches strengthen the upper abdominal muscles which promotes proper posture while running. More specifically, strong upper adominal muscles enable you to maintain a tall, erect posture while running - keeping your head and shoulders in alignment with your hips rather than slumping over as you fatigue. Slumping over restricts your breathing. So, proper posture means better running economy which means faster running.

As you do these toe touches use your core rather than your arms to pull your upper body up towards your toes. Also, try to keep your shoulders from touching the ground on your way back to the start position so your abdominals remain engaged the entire time. Continue for 30 seconds working up to one minute. Repeat 2-3 times. 

Move of the Week - Bicycle Crunches

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Bicycle Crunches
Why we love these? Get back to the basics - nothing fancy - with bicycle crunches. This simple move stengthens the oblique muscles necessary in maintaining a stable upright position during your runs. As you do these make sure your lower back stays pressed to the ground.  Start out slowly going through a bicycle pedal motion altnerately touching your elbows to the opposite knee as you twist back and forth.  Concentrate on control, not speed.  Perform for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.  

 

Strength Move of the Week - Walkouts

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Walkouts
Why we love these? Walkouts stengthen hamstrings, shoulders, abdominals, lower back and promote hip stablity in runners. Strong shoulders, core and stable hips are all things every runner needs to ward off injury and improve speed! As you do these focus on keeping your hips stable and using your core to push yourself back to the start position - NO rocking back and forth! If you have trouble get back to standing without rocking, don't go down and far. Also, if you can't touch the ground without bending your knees, then bend your knees at the beginning to get your hands to the ground and then straighten them as you walk your hands out.

 

Strength Move of the Week - Single Leg Deadlifts

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our strength move of the week!

Move of the Week: Single Leg Deadlifts
Why we love these? This movement strengthens your hips, engages your hamstrings and gets the glutes firing - all of which are needed for stabilizing the body while running. Plus, balancing on one leg reduces the strength imbalance between your left and right sides. Bonus - this also feels like a great stretch at the end of your runs.

 

Repeat 8-15 times on one side. Switch legs and repeat.  

Tip of the Week - 3 Do Anywhere Exercises

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The following 3 exercises are our favorites because you can do them anywhere - house, hotel room, park, rest stop, gas station and airport - if you don't mind some funny looks! They hit the major muscles groups for an easy total body workout and will get your heart rate up. Do 3-5 rounds at the same time or split it up over the day. We like to do a set or 2 at each rest stop while road tripping. Try variations as well - we've listed a few for you. Happy exercising!

Squats: Strengthens the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and improves overall muscle balance and mobility. Focus on keeping the knees over the ankles and sitting as far back as you can while keeping your chest up. Add some variety: slow down the up and down movements; lower down to where it burns a bit and pulse; widen your stance into a ballet second position or sumo squat; or try the variation (video on the right) that adds more leg movement: Squat to Leg Extention

  

Pushups: Strengthen shoulders, arms and core. This is a great exercise for runners because it improves the upper body strength you need to maintain proper form as your lower body begin to fatigue & essential in hilly terrain to help drive your body uphill. Keep your core nice and tight throughout for a true full-body workout. There are a ton of variations as well: keep your arms close to your body for a yoga/tricep pushup, move your arms far away from your body and move one arm forward and keep the other by your shoulder. The modified version (on the right) is great and you can do those variations on your knees too. Aim for 10-15 for 1 set.

  

Planks:Targets your entire core. Our favorite way to do planks is in a 2 minute series: 30 sec forearm plank, 30 sec side plank, 30 sec other side and end with 30 sec forearm plank. Try the variation (video on the right) for added oblique work - Plank Knee Tucks

  

Base Training - Muscle Stability

A major part of staying injury free and hitting your target or goal race times is muscle stability. Your muscles need to work together, harmoniously, to properly turn over and keep you going for 20+ miles. Thus, you need strong, stable muscles and not just in your legs. We are talking core and upper body as well. A strong core will help you pick up your knees, which translates into faster times (think turnover, how many times your feet hit the ground) and a strong upper body will help keep you upright and keep those arms pumping.

Below we highlight a few exercises that we recommend to stabilize your muscles and prepare for more strength work and longer miles.  Do 30-60 seconds of each exercise, 2x. Click on each exercise to see a brief video and explanation.

  1. Bridge with Single Leg Raise
  2. Plank - Side Plank Series
  3. Opposite Arm/Leg Extension
  4. Single Leg Deadlift
  5. Single Leg Calf Raise
  6. Squat to Leg Extension
  7. Donkey Kicks
  8. Glute Press Up

Shin Splint Prevention

Shin splints are unfortunately a common injury for new runners. It occurs when athletes run too much after a period of not running or if there are imbalances in the body. There are ways to prevent shin splints from occuring as you begin to ramp up your running. We've created a Shin Splint Prevention series that will help strengthen your muscles and keep you running longer and farther!

Perfrom this routine 2-3 times a week at the beginning of your workout for prevention. 

Happy Running!
-The Hot Birds

 

 

The Best Strength Moves for Runners

Let’s face it, most runners, us included (!) think we are in great shape and fit because we run long distances or many hours a week. While that’s true, running is the same motion over and over and over again. Thus, your muscles and joints learn to behave in a very specific way. In order to become a faster and stronger runner, incorporate cross training and strength exercises into your weekly running plans.

One of our favorite ways to incorporate strength into our weekly workouts is to do the exercises during a run. We do this on an easy run day and not before or after the following workouts: speed, tempo, hill or long run.

Here’s our workout: Run 1 mile, dynamic warmup series, run ½ mile, leg exercises, run ½ mile, core exercises, run ½ mile, upper body exercises, finish up with 1 mile cool down.

Have time to hit the gym or do the workout at home? Here are the top exercises we recommend for every runner (with links to our YouTube videos):

  1. Plank and side plank (30 t0 60 seconds)
  2. Pushups (25-50, modified or full)
  3. Squats (regular and/or with high knees)
  4. Bridge lift
  5. Single leg deadlift