Prevention is always better than a cure, but when faced with the choice of lacing up those joggers and pounding the streets of Perth, or staying at home for an extra 10-15 minutes to do some valuable injury prevention exercises, most of us are already out the door and clocking up the kilometres before we know what’s happened.
It’s not until injury rears its unpleasant head we actually consider doing something about it. Our efforts are usually diligent and well intentioned until we are rid of the injury and can forget those bothersome exercises once more.
So, should you be incorporating some strength exercises into your routine?
Strength exercises: Injury prevention or performance enhancing?It’s both! If you have a time or a distance goal, some careful lower body strength exercises can actually help you to achieve this in a number of ways and keep you injury-free in the process.
Improve your running efficiency: By strengthening your glutes and hamstrings in particular, you can run with greater efficiency. This means with the same amount of energy expended, you will run faster and/or further.
Improve lower limb endurance: Strength work stimulates a whole lot of physiological responses in your muscles like increased capillary density (more blood flow), increased mitochondrial density (more energy produced) and improved lactate threshold (run faster without that burning feeling in the legs).
Protect your tendons from injury: Tendons, joining your muscles to the bone, are prone to injury in runners. In fact, achilles tendinopathy is the most common injury in recreational runners. Simple strength training can significantly reduce the likelihood of getting such injuries and missing days and weeks of running. By avoiding these injuries, you’ll miss fewer days of training and see an improvement in performance as a result.
Bone health: There is some awesome research coming out of the Australian Institute of Sport showing resistance (strength) training can help to improve bone density and health which reduces the likelihood of weeks and months missed through stress fractures and other bone-related injuries like shin splints. It also reduces the likelihood of osteoporosis later in life- Bonus!
What are the best strength exercises? Circuit, HIIT, heavy strength, plyometrics, Olympic lifting, cables, bodyweight… the list goes on. A combination of these types of activities are likely to yield great results, but most should be done with supervision if you’re not experienced with them.
On that note, if you are just starting to do some strength exercises, I would suggest bodyweight exercises. No gym membership required, no equipment needed. You can do these at home or at a time that works for you.
Do proceed with caution. A slow start is best when introducing new exercises. Don’t be surprised if you experience some DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) 24-48 hours after doing them for the first few times. This is really normal, but might have a small impact on your training for a few days.
In part two of this blog, I will share the six strength exercises all recreational runners should be doing. I’ll post these after the City to Surf to avoid any temptation to try them before taking on that heartbreak hill this weekend!
Wishing everyone all the best for the City to Surf, Dave.