Recently I have been reminded of the importance of cross-training for runners. From Tracy’s torn plantar fascia to an inquiring email about shin splints, running-related injuries are aplenty, most of which can be remedied with a regular cross-training regimen specific to runners.
I was inspired to write this blog while training Kiley yesterday at Hudson’s Bay track in Vancouver, WA. To give you a brief background on Kiley, she’s a very talented young lady entering the seventh grade who has been training with Whisper for a little over a month. Kiley’s entry into Whisper training has included some very difficult workouts and she has responded very well, both emotionally and physically. The workouts prescribed from the onset of training have, again, been fairly rigorous, so yesterday I let Kiley choose her workout, while I set the pace – repeat 200m breakdowns – hardly a cross-country workout, but everything else we have done so far has predominantly ranged from 400m-1k repeats, so doing something short and allowing her to feel the sensation of control within her training and development creates a sense of empowerment within – win-win.
Following the repeat 200’s, we ventured to the gym to do a few basic cross-training exercises, mostly consisting of a lower-body focus – squats, kettlebell deadlifts/swings, and walking lunges using resistance. It was while performing squats on a Bosu ball that I realized something really cool – I’m actually training Bambi. Bambi!
As Kiley jumped right up onto the Bosu, which had been placed belly-side down, it was when she went through the squatting motion that I could see areas of potential development within her core and lower body. More specifically, as she went through the range of motion of the squat, her knees moved inward upon the concentric (up) phase of the squat. This inward movement is very common in beginners. For individuals wishing to run regularly, say 3-5 days per week, strengthening the legs to assure a patella-over-second-toe movement is crucial for running healthily.
There are a number of exercises which can help strengthen and align the legs, but it’s important to perform these exercises with intentional focus to assure proper form from feet to head. Keeping the heals grounded, just outside the hips and the toes pointing straight ahead (okay, slightly outward, but the patella should be in-line with the second toe). When squatting, emphasize your movement so the hips go back like your rear is reaching for a chair, then forward while contracting the glutes (versus thinking the squat is a down-up exercise). The squat, along with the following exercises, strengthen and align the muscles from hip-to-knee-to-toe, so that you can run further and faster without a decreased risk of injury:
- Walking Lunges (with some resistance)
- Single-legged squats (with supportive apparatus, perhaps a TRX or other device to help with balance if desired)
- Step-ups (9”-12” is sufficient)
- The above exercises barefoot (walking lunges barefoot can be difficult on the heal, so standing lunges are preferred)
Please use caution when performing these exercises. Doing these exercises incorrectly can accelerate or exacerbate injuries. If you need suggestions, consultation, or training, contact Dave at Whisper Running.
Here's to happy and healthy running!