Category Archives: Injury Prevention

Friday Fitness

glute-bridge

Squeeze those cheeks!

Because both Friday and Fitness start with the letter ‘f’, let’s make Friday the day when I share my favorite exercises, workouts, or other fun things (fun  also starts with ‘f’, by the way).

Today’s fitness fun is a workout that focuses on your running muscles, primarily hips and glutes, with some core and upper body work added in for an extra dose of strength. I’m not going to describe each exercise in detail, since you can easily find demonstration videos on Youtube.

Single Leg Deadlift w/Dumbbell – 3 sets of 12 reps each This exercise strengthens your glutes and hamstrings, and if you lift your nonworking leg while you lower the dumbbell, it pulls the core muscles in as well.

Single Leg Glute Bridges – 3 sets of 20 reps each  This is my absolute favorite butt exercise. Squeeze those cheeks together at the top of the lift like you’re trying to hold the winning lotto ticket between your cheeks!

Side Plank w/Leg Lifts – 3 sets of 12 reps each  Make sure your body is aligned in a straight line, and the leg you lift is obviously the top leg. If your hips aren’t strong enough to do this with straight legs, go ahead and bend the supporting leg.

Hip Hikes – 3 sets of 30 reps each  Your hip should be on fire by the 30th repetition of this one!

Lateral Band Walk – 3 sets of 15 reps each direction (side to side)  Loop the band right about your ankles and take a big enough step to the side so that you really feel the resistance of the band against the side of your glute.

Pushups – 3 sets of 12 reps each

Pullups – 3 sets of as many as possible You may only get 1 or 2 reps on this one, but keep working on it and you’ll get stronger.

Straight Leg Raise – 3 sets of 15 reps  Lay on your back, hands underneath your low back and top of butt cheeks for support. Slowly raise and lower both legs together.

This took me about 45 minutes this morning, but if you move quickly through the exercises you can get it done in a half hour. I don’t suggest rushing through, however, since form is very important with these exercises.

 

 

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See Jan Run – Saucony Stride Lab Assessment

BRC cherry creek

Boulder Running Company-Cherry Creek

In the heart of Denver, CO, within the upscale community of Cherry Creek, lies a runner’s paradise. It’s called Boulder Running Company Cherry Creek. Since it opened in early April, many runners have made a pilgrimage to admire the latest and greatest running store in Colorado, and to take advantage of a state-of-the-art running assessment that was previously only offered to elite runners, or non-elites who could lay down a lot of cash.

stride lab

This isn’t me, but this is the magic green treadmill, and a glimpse inside the Stride Lab.
Photo Credit: BRC Facebook Page

I made my pilgrimage in May, and after admiring all the shiny new running shoes, clothes, and gear, it was my turn for a visit to the Saucony Stride Lab. A little background on the lab – the unassuming, narrow green band in the center of the lab is actually a $150,000 treadmill. There are only 11 others in the country, and this is the only one located in a retail facility and available to the general public. The other super mills are kept in research and university facilities. Why did they put this one in a running store? According to my tester guy, Saucony will use the data from all the running assessments for product research and development. They’ll make note of how many runners would benefit from certain types of shoes, and of course, what shoes the runners being tested are wearing. If not Saucony, why not?

After receiving a brief rundown of what the assessment would entail, I slipped a neon yellow belt around my hips (so the cameras could more easily gauge any hip drop), stepped on the treadmill, and he fired it up. The goal was to bring me from a walk to an easy pace, and have me run at that pace for about a minute. I was supposed to run “naturally” and not look at my reflection on the huge screen in front of me (yeah, I didn’t peek at all). While I was running there were 4 cameras filming me from various angles, and the treadmill was measuring the force of my foot strikes, whether or not I struck harder with one foot than the other, and how much side-to-side movement I generated. The belt was quite a bit more narrow than a normal treadmill, so I really had to concentrate to stay in the center. The minute passed quickly, and I really didn’t want to stop.

While my tester guy was letting his fingers fly over the computer keyboard to gather the test results, I was surprised to realize I was really nervous. What if I had something horribly wrong with my stride? What if I looked like Phoebe in the episode of Friends when she ran through Central Park with her arms and legs flailing? It calmed my fears a little to know there is a physical therapist “in residence” so if something was broken, I could consult with a professional to help me fix it. Luckily I didn’t see Phoebe while watching my film, and amazingly there wasn’t much wrong with my form.

There was a lot of data, and in addition to the foot strike/lateral movement analysis from the treadmill, the cameras assessed a variety of things; my vertical displacement (up and down movement), how my upper body moves, any hip drop, angle of my knee at impact, amount of hip extension, body rotation, degree of pronation, where my foot strikes the ground (heel, midfoot, forefoot), and where it lands in relation to my body. Then the computer analyzed angles, forces, etc.

My results – I have a very efficient, “almost perfect” stride. I’m a moderate heel striker, but I roll through quickly from heel to midfoot to toe, so he didn’t suggest changing anything there. I strike the ground evenly with both feet, not too hard or too softly – all ok there. I have very little up and down or side-to-side movement, my upper body rotation is what it should be, my arms match my stride and are placed appropriately (don’t cross the body, my hands don’t go too high, etc.). I don’t over stride, and he felt like my cadence is appropriate. No hip drop (thank you clam shells and glute bridges), my hip extension is good, my knee angles are good, my shoes keep my feet from pronating too much (he said I don’t need the Superfeet inserts I sometimes use), and my Brooks Adrenalines appear to be an excellent shoe choice for me. His only suggestion was for me to work on going from a very straight back to a slight forward lean (from the ankles), which would make me a bit more efficient.

I was so relieved at the assessment results, and really wanted to get the “almost perfect” part in writing, although he was only referring to my running form. Having an analysis like this done has been on my wish list for such a long time, and I still can’t believe it was absolutely free! If you’re anywhere near Boulder Running Company Cherry Creek, I encourage you to make an appointment in the Saucony Stride Lab. It’s well worth your time!

Have you ever had a gait assessment done? Did it help your running?

Power or Plank?

Kettlebell Swing

Is this the new king of core?

Can you hold a plank for more than a minute? Do you diligently hit the mat for your daily dose of core work before or after every run? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you might want to consider trading in some of your planking time for some good old strength and power work.

Open any running magazine and you’re sure to find at least one article extolling the virtues of core work for runners. Planks appear to be the king of the core exercises, with most people aspiring to spend as long as possible in the plank position. The internet is full of plank challenges, where the win goes to the person who can hold plank the longest. Some experts, however, are challenging the power of the plank. One of these experts is Dr. Greg Lehman, a physiotherapist, chiropractor, strength & conditioning specialist, and spine and biomechanics expert.

Dr. Lehman believes that general strength and power training for the whole body should be a runner’s first priority, and that hips and calves are the true driving forces and power producers in running. The muscles that are usually thought of as the core (erector spinae, obliques, rectus and transverse abdominis) aren’t big contributors to running mechanics. In fact, these muscles are worked at less than 30% of their maximum during running. According to Dr. Lehman, running itself is like an endurance workout for the core. Why spend more time on what we’re already getting? If we’re going to spend time training our core muscles, we should focus on strength rather than more endurance.

So which exercises should we do to train our core for power? Grab a kettlebell and do some swings. Traditional deadlifts, med ball slams and throws, and tuck jumps are also good choices. The beauty of these exercises is that they work so many more muscles than just the core. If you really miss the plank position, do stability ball rollouts or stir the pot. One exercise that made it to the top of Dr. Lehman’s list is the side plank with leg lifts. This one works the hips too.

Strength and power are becoming more prevalent in the running world. Both are proving to be important for preventing injuries as well as improving running economy and performance. Training the body as a whole instead of as individual pieces not only leads to improved strength and power, it also saves time. Next time you work your core, think power instead of plank.

What are your favorite core exercises? Do you consider the plank one of the essentials?