Injury prevention exercises may very well be the most important aspect of a runner’s race prep. The ability to withstand the thousands upon thousands of impacts with the ground each run, can not only make or break your performance, it can also prevent injuries that can stop race prep dead in its tracks.
The three lower body joints (ankle, knee, and hip) are the most common site of injury for runners. Depending on how you run, and where your body’s natural strength and weaknesses lie, one joint may be more prone to injury than others. Saying that, strengthening up each area is a great way to ensure you prevent the most common areas of injury. Below are recommendations on simple strengthening exercise you can do for each lower body joint.
My recommendation is you carve out five minutes each day, right before bed, to perform the exercises described below. A sample schedule could be:
- Monday/Wednesday/Friday: Ankle
- Tuesday/Saturday: Knee
- Thursday/Sunday: Hip
The ankle joint may be the single most critical area of the body for a runner (that’s why I recommend strengthening it 3 days/week). Strong ankles can prevent plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and shin splints from occurring. The 3-way ankle prehab is a great way to strengthen the ankle complex to prevent these types of issues. The 3-way ankle prehab involves 3 movements (inversion, eversion, and dorsiflexion) at the ankle. Please click here for a video demonstration of the exercises. This workout goes fast, you’ll only need to do 10 to 15 reps per leg of each exercise, and since you’re alternating ankles, you won’t need to rest between sets.
The knee undergoes a tremendous amount of stress when running. Strengthening up the knee can prevent runner’s knee, patellar tendonitis, and IT Band issues from occurring. The knee prehab is a simple workout you can do to prevent knee-related injuries. Please click here for a video demonstration of the exercises. Perform 10-15 reps of the first 3 exercises (hip flexion with internal, external, and no rotation). For the marching pelvic lift, perform 10-15 lifts of each leg off the ground.
Although the hip is a complex joint, the area of consistent weakness is the glutes. In fact, both the glute max (bigger butt muscle) and the glute medius (smaller butt muscle on the outside of your hip) tend to be weak in most runners. This can lead to a whole series of issues in the knee and ankle, as well as some localized issues in the hip (like IT band problems). You can strengthen the glute max and medius by performing:
- Full Body Superman’s: 2 sets of 10-15 reps, with a 30 second break in between sets
- Side Lying Hip Abduction: 2 sets of 10-15 reps per leg, alternating legs (no rest in between)