Strength basics for Runners

When someone starts running, they just go out and do it, encouraged by the hype that is it a “natural” human movement. Everyone should be able to do it. They go out, hammer it for a few days, a couple of weeks or months, and eventually, a lot of them get injured and frustrated. Running, the natural panacea to all problems has caused them problems.

What gives?

Yes, although running may well be a normal human movement, a lot of us have spend a lot of time doing some very un-natural human things. Sitting down for 5-8 hours a day, for example. Driving. Flopping in sofas watching tv. All these things mean that the muscles that would be used for “ natural human movement” are not actually ready for you to stand up and head out on a run – Forrest Gump Style.

Running is essentially a single leg exercise. There are two points in running when both feet touch the ground. The start and the end. That’s it, otherwise you’d be walking.

With that in mind, how often does your right foot hit the ground in 100m?

Let’s keep the maths simple, shall we? Let’s say 50 times.

Displaying trigger.jpgSo in 1km your right foot hits the ground and pushes you off – you essentially “hop” 500 times.  And in 10k?

If I asked you to stand up right now and do 5000 hops on your right leg, might that hurt somewhat? Yes. It might.

And yet people go on an easy 10k run. To be honest, looking at those numbers, I’m astonished that there aren’t more people who get long term injuries when running, especially when you consider the considerable lack of strength most people have in their legs and torso.

Consider this…

Can you stand up from a seated position on just one leg? Don’t cheat and use momentum, just stand up, and then sit down again, under control. Now use the other leg. Did you have any difficulty? Did your knee drop in? Did your hip dip? Did you have to really concentrate and fix through your upper body? Chances are, you probably did.

If you can’t sit to stand on one leg through lack of strength, what do you think 5k of single leg hops is going to do to you?

How about doing 3 hops in a row – and landing under control? Able to do that? If not- practice. Running is single leg based. Get the basics right, get the strength to do simple stuff and you’ll be creating a bomb-proof base on which to build your running style. If you are a regular runner and still can’t do these simple exercises. – practice them, you’ll find that becoming stronger in these exercises will reap huge benefits for your running.

Things to practice:

Single leg Sit to stand from a chair. You should be able to do 10 in a row on each leg. If you can’t, practice until you can.

If you can’t do a single one, raise the seat using towels until you can do a single repetition, now practice it until you can do 10 in a row, then take away the towel(s).

Form over numbers! Each rep must be perfect – no hip hitching, no knee dropping. Do it right.

Triple hops – start standing on a line, hop 3 times and stop dead on the 3rd landing. You should be able to control your landing. If you can’t, do it again until you can. Don’t worry too much about distance to begin with, concentrate on control.

Once you have control, then you can begin to concentrate on distance.


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