Have you ever wanted to start running? Maybe complete a 5km race? Have you been scared to start a running program because you are afraid of hurting yourself? Maybe you have been apprehensive of starting running because you don’t know how to begin? The purpose of this article is to tell you what one needs in a good running program to prevent injuries. A successful and safe running program must include 3 elements: a good strength training component, a good flexibility component and the actual running component.
The Strength Training Component
The strength training component is important because your muscles need to be strong to help absorb some of the shock from the impact from the running. Most people are weak in their medial quads (inner knee muscle). This can cause problems when running because the vastus medialis (or medial Quad muscle) is an important stabilizer of the knee. An easy but very effective exercise which strengthens this small muscle group is the terminal knee extension. Let me explain how it works.
Terminal knee extension: Stand with a resistance band tied just above your knee. Stand perpendicular to the machine the band is attached to. Feet are hip distance apart and parallel. Keep the leg without the band around it straight. Slightly bend the leg with the band around it. As you straighten the leg try to contract the muscles around the inner part of your knee. This is a small movement – don’t let the bend get too big. This exercise is about being precise. We want to strengthen the small muscles that support your knee.You also want to be careful not to compound exercises that attempt to strengthen all the large muscles in your lower body. Many people do squats and lunges, which are both really good exercises, but I suggest trying as much as possible to do single leg exercises instead. This is important because most people have strength discrepancies from leg to leg. I also suggest focusing on getting the ‘glutes’ working when doing your lower leg exercises. Many people over use the quad muscles when doing squats and lunges. This can be problematic. As a runner you need to get your ‘glutes’ working, especially your gluteus medius, because it is the main stabilizer of the hips. Let me suggest a great exercise for this: it is a twist with a lunge. It will help you to engage your ‘glutes’ when doing a lunge.
Lunge and rotation: Stand with both feet facing forward but with one foot ahead of the other. Hold a medicine ball in front of you. Bend your back knee down into a lunge. Both your front and back knees should be creating 90-degree angles. Be careful to keep your front knee from going over your front toe when you drop into the lunge. As you bend both knees, shift your weight onto your front leg. Concentrate on putting weight onto your front heel. As you lunge rotate your medicine ball to the outside of the front foot. Connect your energy into that front heel and push back up to standing. As you push up try to connect into the glute of your front leg. Make sure that front glute gives you the power to push yourself up.
The Flexibility Component
It is extremely important to include a flexibility program when running. One of my favorite tools to use for this is a foam roller. This wonderful piece of equipment allows you to do myofascial release or what I like to call self-massage. Let me describe one of my favorite foam roller exercises as well as a more traditional stretch. There are countless other stretches that could be included in a running program. The truth is that all stretches are good. Just make sure you are not “bouncing” the stretch. You want to hold each stretch for at least 10-30 seconds. Remember to breathe as you hold each stretch and to focus on doing them after your run.
IT Band Foam Roller Release: Lie on your left side with the foam roller perpendicular to your body, with the roller underneath the side of your left leg. Bend your right leg so your foot is on the floor. Use your right leg and your left arm to roll your body up and down the foam roller so your side of your leg gets a nice massage. Switch and do the other leg
Hip Flexor Stretch With A Swiss Ball:
Put a Swiss ball underneath your right hip. Put your left leg forward in a lunge position. Let the right side of your body relax into the ball, contracting your right glute muscle and sitting up nice and straight. Feel a stretch through the front of your right thigh. When you are done switch and repeat on your other leg.
The Running Component
If you have not been a runner before now, you want to start with a running and walking program. Week 1-2: Start with a warm up of walking for five minutes. Then run for 3minutes and then walk again for 2 minutes. Repeat this cycle four to six times. End with a cool down of gentle walking for five minutes. Week 3-4: Warm up for five minutes with a faster walk then week 1 and 2. Run for five minutes and walk for 2 minutes. Repeat this four times. Cool down for five minutes. Week 5-6: Warm up for 5 minutes with a fast speed walk. Run for eight minutes and walk for 2 minutes. Repeat three times. Cool down for five minutes. Week 7-8: Warm up with a 3minute fast walk and a 2 minute slow jog. Run for 10 minutes and walk for 1minute. Repeat three times. Cool down for 5 minutes.Enjoy your running program and celebrate your success!