Whenever we perform single leg squats, single arm strength exercises or side planks, that’s when we realize that we have a weaker side. Often runners will get one-sided injuries due to the connection to a dominant side. Running is a balancing act, if one side is weaker the other will take over, over compensate and eventually get injured. Runners should focus on training to balance their strength and look after specific muscle tightness, back pain, knee pain to make sure that the body is balanced to create a proper running form.
Running is a balancing act. Our right and left leg perform a motion of coordination and opposition, one leg pushes off while the other swings forward. When one side is weaker or tighter, the coordination breaks down. A previous injury can also cause one side of the body to be weaker, that’s why it’s very important to strengthen the specific injured area once it is healed to avoid creating any imbalance. For example, if you sprain your ankle, once it’s healing make sure you perform specific single leg exercises to strengthen it, otherwise that side will remain weaker and eventually cause injuries on the opposite side, or reoccurring injuries.
Simple single leg exercises such as single leg squats or lunges, clamshells, single leg calf raise can be performed easily and included in daily tasks. You can perform single leg squats as you brush your teeth in the morning, or do some single leg calf raise standing on a pillow to work on balance as well. Make sure you include some efficient cross-training like strength exercises, core training, cycling, swimming etc… Even trail running is a great way of cross-training even though you are still running. Running up and down mountains, on uneven terrains, along rocks activates more muscles, balance and stability. Looking after your body will allow you to enjoy your running sessions and avoid injuries.
Having a good balance is essential for distance runners. Running involves having one foot on the ground at a time and you have to be able to quickly stabilize your body. Balance is all about keeping your body aligned and stable in all three planes of motion, which we rarely perform in our daily life. Our body constantly moves only in forward motion, the outcome is the inability to develop the stability to balance joints in other planes of motion.
These three exercises will work on strengthening the weaker side, work on balance and stability in all three planes of motion:
1.Standing Leg Lift- Stand on your weaker leg, lift the other leg up with pointed toes and bring it back down. Next lift the same leg to the side with your toes pointing forward and bring it back down, last lift your leg back while engaging the glutes and bring it back down. Perform 10 reps of this cycle and switch side.
2. Stand and Twist- Stand on your weak leg, raise the opposite knee up and rotate your torso and hips away from the standing leg (standing on the right leg, rotate to the left). Perform 20 reps each side.
3. Standing Leg Lift with Resistance- This is a modification of the first move. Perform the same exercises but with a resistance band around the ankles. Because it is more intense with the resistance, perform each cycle for 2 mins then switch side, then repeat twice on each side.
Train Hard, Eat Right, Feel Great!