For nearly anyone attending CONNECT for physiotherapy or chiropractic care, strengthening makes up a huge part of their rehabilitation once their pain is no longer the biggest limiter. Why? Because strengthening generally increases the capacity of tissues to tolerate load or strain, and typically injuries happen as a result of mismatched capacity and demand. If you read our last blog, we talked extensively about how you can control demand to reduce injury risk as you return to your spring/summer/fall running season. If you haven't read it yet, check it out here.
We started that first blog with altering demand because it's the quickest factor you can change to reduce risk, but arguably the BEST way to reduce injury in the long term is to increase capacity. Where demand changes usually involve running slower, for less time and with longer between sessions and give you less flexibility on where you run, building capacity lets you run longer with greater frequency at a faster pace, adapt faster to new shoes, surfaces or terrains, and increases the longevity of your running career.
So how are you going to increase your capacity when hitting the weights at the gym really isn't your thing? This blog is here to give you some simple, running-specific, at-home exercises that you can spend fifteen minutes on two to three times per week. Add them on to the end of a run, or do them as a stand-alone to help reduce your risk of a running injury this summer.
Ideally, you should have a few resistance bands at home and a couple of weights, and these exercises should be done barefoot for best results. 45 minutes a week to reduce injury risk? Sign me up!
Exercise 1: Single Leg Deadlift
Balance on one leg, standing tall. With a soft bend in your stance leg, reach your opposite leg backwards as you hinge forwards at the hip. Try to get your chest parallel to the ground and your back leg fully extended. Use a wall beside or behind you if you need support. In a slow, controlled fashion, bring yourself back up into standing, and raise your free leg up, as if you were going to take another step.
Perform the same exercise as above while holding a weight in one or both hands.
Exercise 2: Banded Sidestep
Place the loop band just below your knees. With your feet shoulder-width apart, sit your bum back like you're reaching for a chair to get into a slight crouch, keeping your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your shoulders square, lift one foot and take a small step to the side. Lift the other foot and step in, returning your feet to shoulder-width apart. Now, perform the next rep by leading with the opposite leg (stepping back in the other direction)
Perform the same exercise, but place the band around the toes or arches of the feet. Concentrate on stepping slowly, lifting the foot 3-4" off the ground before placing it back down.
Exercise 3: Pallof Press
Hook a long band around something that is fixed at your chest height (door frame, post, bannister, etc). Step away from the band to create some tension, you should be facing perpendicular to the band. Keep both feet on the ground, the closer your feet are, the harder this exercise will be. Hold the band in both hands at your chest, keep your body still as you extend your arms all the way out and slowly back in. Do this facing the opposite direction as well.
Set up the same as in the easier version, then stand on one leg, keeping your free hip flexed so that your thigh is parallel to the ground. Try to keep your body steady as you reach your hands away from yourself. Repeat this standing on the other leg, and perform the same two legs facing the opposite direction.
How To Get Started
Now that you have the exercises, how are you going to make sure you do them? One simple way I get my athletes and patients to structure their rehab (or pre-hab) is as a mini-workout. I find that setting a specific start and endpoint within a manageable amount of time helps break down the barrier of "I don't have enough time," because a fifteen-minute block of time before or after a run is all you need to get this done!
Enter the REMOM: Rehab Every Minute On The Minute
Set a timer for fifteen minutes (or an interval timer for 15 x 60 seconds). Each minute, complete as many reps as you can of one exercise before moving on to the next exercise for the next minute. For the single-leg deadlifts complete one minute on each leg, and for the pallof press complete one minute facing each direction, which gives you five exercises total, repeat the whole cycle three times, for a total of fifteen minutes. Invest in these exercises 2-3 times per week and watch your running efficiency improve without the overuse injuries you're used to!
Want a reminder? We put together these handy summary sheets for the beginner and advanced version of these exercises, download them below!
Go forth and enjoy the sunshine, runners! We hope you find this strengthening helpful, and tune into our next running blog where we get into everything to do with the core when you're running!
Clare Donaldson is a Registered Physiotherapist, new mom, Crossfit enthusiast, poor but passionate hockey player, and genuine lover of all things physiotherapy. She is especially interested in keeping moms of all ages strong and healthy throughout their lives. When she's not at CONNECT, you can find Clare hiking with her dog, Moose, or spending time with her young family. To find Clare at CONNECT, click here