We’ve all had those tweaks and niggles or maybe even a full blown injury. At the end of last season I started to have some twinges of pain in my foot and knee and my overall running seemed to plateau. So I consulted a running specific physical therapist to help out. I didn’t necessarily think I had a major injury, but I wanted to prevent one from happening. I want my body to be able to handle the high mileage and not crumble 5 years from now. And I also wanted to do something to take my running to the next level, to be able to run stronger.
I love my 8-10 mile trail runs. They’re the bread and butter runs of my training and the part of the day and week I always look forward too, but I also knew I needed to do something more than that to get stronger and stay healthy. I know myself, I won’t go to a gym and I won’t be consistent with a workout routine that takes even 30 minutes. I had to find a routine that was something I could stick with and would still be effective. My physical therapist worked with me to find the key exercises to improve my running strength in about 15 minutes a day. It’s been great because I have actually been doing this routine 6-7 days a week for a couple months now. I haven’t had any foot or knee pain and I can already see improvement in my hill climbing.
Just about every runner at some point experiences the dreaded knee pain. I am certainly not a physical therapist, but what I’ve learned through years of working with different physical therapists is the vast majority of runner’s knee pain stems from weak hips. My physical therapist has me doing three exercises for hip strength; clams, monster steps and angled steps. I also add in toe raises to strengthen my calves and ankles. With many runners switching from a traditional drop shoe to a low or even zero drop calf problems have arisen. Race after race I see runners on the side of the trail desperately trying to stretch out there calves. Save yourself from this and do some quick toe raises. I also do my toe raises with a ball between my ankles to work on strengthening my ankles. I’ve had weak ankles for years and with the twists and turns so often encountered on trails. In order to stay strong on trails another component is to keep your core strong. The rest of my strength exercises focus on my core. I like to bomb my downhills and am clumsy by nature so a strong core is essential to being able to stay upright on these uneven surfaces.
I think the biggest key to success, whether its adding a strength training program to your routine, getting started in a fitness program or training for a big race, is making sure the plan is something you can stick with. All too often I see people who go way too overboard at first and either burn out or get hurt. I for one have never stuck with a strength training routine this long. I’m sure there are many more exercises I could add that would increase my performance even more, but if adding 5 minutes more means I only do the workout once a week then it’s lost all effectiveness. Everyone is different and you have to know yourself, what your strengths and weaknesses are to be successful. Play to your strengths and build on your weaknesses and you are sure to improve your running and fitness.
Week January 13 - 19
Miles Running: 40.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 7.5
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