Running is a great way to keep fit and it’s one of the most popular forms of exercise globally. However, at least 50% of regular runners will face the problem of injury; the most common injuries being iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral syndrome (Runner’s Knee) and Achilles tendinopathy.
In motion, your body is exposed to forces of up to 8 times that of your own bodyweight in a repetitive manner. If your body isn’t conditioned to effectively attenuate these forces, it will increase your risk of injury. That’s where prehab comes in. Running Prehab: Why It’s Important and 5 Example Exercises!
What Is Meant by the Term ‘Prehab’?
The phrase ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ embodies the rationale of prehab. The aim of running prehab exercises are to effectively strengthen and condition your body to meet the physiological demands of running at a given pace and distance. These exercises aren’t intended to be intensive and gruelling. 3-5 exercises a day is sufficient with each session lasting no more than 10-15 minutes. There are many different exercises that target different areas of the body with some needing no equipment at all.
Glute Activation – Gluteal Bridge (Glutes and Hamstrings)
The glutes stabilize the lower limbs while running, aiding extension of the hip to propel us forward.
- Lay down on your back with both legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms to down on the floor next to your hips.
- Drive through your heels by squeezing your glutes to raise your buttocks off of the ground until your back is straight.
Core Activation – Plank & Side Plank (Rectus Abdominis & Obliques)
Core strength is essential for the pelvis, hips and lower back to work in synergy so that you waste less energy from rocking back and forth and maintain good balance.
- Get into push-up position but bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of using your hands. Your body should be straight from your shoulders to ankles.
- Brace your core by contracting your abdominal muscles and hold for 30 seconds or more depending on your current level of strength.
- Lie on your left side with your knees straight and hold your upper body up using your left forearm.
- Brace your core by contracting your abs forcefully and then slowly raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds or longer depending on your strength.
Hip Adductor Strength – Copenhagen Plank (Inner Thigh & Groin Muscles)
The hip adductors are often neglected and wrongfully so! Hip adductor strength is a huge risk factor for groin injury in many sports.
- Like the side plank, start on your side with forearm on the ground. However, instead of having your feet on the ground, put the top foot onto a bench or other stable surface while holding the bottom leg off the ground.
- Maintain a straight line from your shoulder to ankle. Hold for 30-60 seconds, or more if you can!
Calf Strengthening – Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise (Gastrocnemius & Soleus)
Calf muscles act as a brake pedal as well as producing the final bit of force to propel you forwards. In doing so, they conduct large amounts of force and therefore need to be strong.
- Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand, arms by your sides. Keeping your back straight, slowly rise up on the toes of both feet, raising your heels as high as you can.
- Pause at the top, then slowly lower your heels back down. For extra stretch and calf development you can do these off a stair or step so that your heel can travel further downward. The stretch should ‘burn’ a little more.
It is crucial to have the right training, preparation and education in order to promote good running habits. Adding prehab exercises to your running routine will help strengthen those weak spots and reduce the risk of injury so you can run better, faster and for longer too!