While going for a long, pleasant joggle in the wintry woods north of the Big Apple yesterday, I was very mindful of how much of a better joggler I am because I strength train my legs. Hills for instance aren’t a big deal and I actually enjoy them, even the steep, rocky ones that make me drop balls.
For some strange reason, many runners do little to no strength training of their legs. A few I’ve known even seem to be hostile to the idea, seeing themselves as cardio purists who scoff at the idea of doing strength training exercise. This is unfortunate, since this may increase the risk of various injuries, besides making hills more difficult.
Strength training the legs is as simple as strapping some ankle weights around your ankles, and doing leg lifts while lying on the floor on your back. If you have access to a gym, there are so many other things you can do to strengthen your legs. And this only needs to be done 2 to 3 times a week.
This takes care of most of your lower body muscles, except for the hips. Runner’s World had a great article on hip-strengthening exercises a few years ago – All in the Hips
The resistance band exercises the Runner’s World article recommends are very helpful. I used to forget to exercise my hips, but I find I can go up rocky hills faster now due to regularly exercising my hip muscles. I even came close to spraining my ankle yesterday while joggling through a rocky wooded area. I think my strong hip muscles may have prevented it from getting worse.
This study suggests doing hip exercises can prevent injury – Hip muscle weakness and overuse injuries in recreational runners.’
Although no cause-and-effect relationship has been established, this is the first study to show an association between hip abductor, adductor, and flexor muscle group strength imbalance and lower extremity overuse injuries in runners. Because most running injuries are multifaceted in nature, areas secondary to the site of pain, such as hip muscle groups exhibiting strength imbalances, must also be considered to gain favorable outcomes for injured runners. The addition of strengthening exercises to specifically identified weak hip muscles may offer better treatment results in patients with running injuries.