It may seem out of place to focus on running when there is so much snow outside! Many readers are probably waist deep and happy to be focused on their snow sports – I know I am.
However, those committed souls targeting a spring marathon (or half) are ramping up training and entering into a critical phase of their preparations. After all, spring marathon season is only three months away!
In our last article of 2016, I suggested runners incorporate strength training into their routines in order to 1) reduce injury risk and 2) improve performance. As luck would have it, the approach is similar regardless of which goal you prioritize.
On a very basic level, we can think of running as a purely ‘sagittal plane’ sport – in other words, it is a straightforward activity. Other than dodging the occasional pothole, your race likely includes no backward, sideways, or cutting movements. However, it is imperative that runners have good strength and stability in the other planes of movement – specifically the frontal plane (side-to-side movements) and the transverse plane (rotational movements)
Even though running is a sagittal plane activity, lack of control in the frontal or transverse plane leads to inefficiency, wasted energy, and sloppy movements that lead to repetitive stress injuries.
So – what to do about it? Strength training specifically to build stability and control of frontal and transverse plane movements will allow for more efficient movement in the sagittal plane while running.
While there is no perfect substitute for a customized exercise program focused on your individual deficiencies, there are common weaknesses found in runners. For this reason, it is common for writers to offer their opinions on the best exercises for runners. However, often the exercises chosen are influenced by the desire to show something original or different. For example, my colleague and I were asked to contribute an article for a very well-known running magazine. They asked for “the 5 best exercises to prevent injuries in runners.” We submitted our article and were told that these exercises had been highlighted previously, and that they wanted new ones. Three submissions later, we found two “new” options. As you can imagine, the focus quickly shifts away from the best choices towards something new and sexy. I attempted to focus on the former in our most recent blog addition “The 5 Best Exercises to Prevent Injuries in Runners” (Yes, the title is sort of a joke).
For those with specific performance goals in mind or with a complex injury history, you would do well to meet with a Sports Physical Therapist for an individualized program. Otherwise, most runners will find value in the exercises highlighted at www.VASTAsports.com.
So, remember, make time for strength training (swap out 10-15% of your running time if necessary) and use this time wisely!
As always, please email me with any thoughts questions or ideas for future articles. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Albertson is a Sports Physical Therapist and the Director of Physical Therapy at VASTA Performance Training and Physical Therapy. Jeff and his family live in Charlotte.