Strength Training – by Judith
There is an old runner’s adage that if you want to train for running, just run…. And the same would be true for walking. I accepted that as Gospel for most of my running years, but I’ve now changed my mind. I’m sure that old adage is true for those rare beings with the perfect runner’s body, but the rest of us need some help!
Lower body strength training adds power to our legs. Unfortunately, our large gluteal muscles remain under-used. It’s easier for the body to recruit the quads and hamstrings to do the work! Research suggests that the weakness in gluteal muscles is a factor in many common runners’ injuries.
Making use of your glutes enables your pelvis to stay centred, so that your centre of gravity is in line with your ankles, knees and hips. Not only does this provide more power to your running, but the increased stability lessens the chance of overuse injuries from your body compensating for poor posture.
How do you know if you’re recruiting those glutes? Next time you’re out running (or walking), imagine you have a headlights on the front of each hip bone. To be able to ‘see’ where you’re going, the headlights have to be facing straight ahead. Try it – you’ll notice a subtle change in your gait… And you will feel, as each foot leaves the ground, your leg pulling up and back rather than pushing down and forward. It’s hard to describe on paper, but give it a go!
So what are the best exercises for strong glutes? Try these:
- Monster walk – place a resistance band above your ankles. Keep your legs far enough apart to keep the tension on, and take 20 steps to the right, then to the left to return to the start. Be careful not to allow the knees to collapse inward.
- Squats! You can do sets of 10-15 anytime during the day – waiting for the jug to boil, hanging clothes on the line… just use your imagination!
- Split squats: stand with feet hip-width apart about a metre in front of a low bench or similar. Place your right foot (shoelaces down) on the bench. With weight on the left foot, lower onto a lunge, then push into left heel to stand. Do 10-15 reps then swap legs.
Source: Runners’ World Australia and New Zealand edition, March 2018, pp 24-25.