With the closure of fitness clubs and recreation centers, you might have noticed more pent-up people donning their running shoes and heading outside for a jog. If you’ve recently decided to join the club of cardio, you may be experiencing some typical aches and pains from running.
Aside from following the usual advice to speak to your doctor, and rest and ice any acute issues, these following six exercises (and stretches) will help treat your common running injuries:
Sore Knees: Patellofemoral Syndrome
If only we could order new knees for Christmas! The knee is probably the most common joint to experience pain during and after running for both the novice and elite athlete. Deviations in stride, imbalanced foot strike, or overuse can cause the knees to become inflamed and sore. Often, new runners do too much too soon, and their legs are simply not conditioned enough to sustain the level of activity. Intentional training of the surrounding muscles and hips can greatly help knee pain.
1. Strengthen the Quadriceps Muscles (as long as you’re not too sore!)
Place your back against a wall, shuffle your feet one step forward, and stand with legs hip-width apart. Keeping your back flat, squat down until your knees create an approximate 90-degree angle and hold for 10 seconds at the bottom. Repeat for 5-6 sets.
Alternatively, this wall squat can be performed with an exercise ball supporting your back, making an easier gliding motion.
View a demo video of the wall squat exercise.
2. Fire Hydrants for Glute and Hip Strength
Position yourself with your hands, and knees to ankles, flat on the floor. Maintaining a 90- degree angle at the knee joint, lift your right leg out, abducting slowly from the hip, and hold for 5 seconds at the top. Repeat 5-6 times, then alternate legs.
View a demo video of the fire hydrant exercise.
Tight Hip Flexors
Tight hips are often the result of overuse from excess running or sitting. Constricted hips can cause misalignment and imbalanced muscles, resulting in an overly tight anterior chain, and a weak posterior chain, which interestingly can make issues like Patellofemoral syndrome, worse.
1. The Model Stretch
Standing with your right foot forward and left foot back, rest your hands on your hips and shift your weight to the back leg. Next, gently push the pelvis forward, creating a stretch at the hip. Hold for 45 seconds and repeat twice per leg. For additional flexibility, place your left hand on the back of your head during the stretch.
View a demo video of the model stretch exercise, aka standing psoas stretch.
2. Curtsy Lunges for Opposite-Chain, Glute Gains
Standing with feet hip width apart, engage your glutes to lunge the right foot backwards to cross past the left leg in a curtsy style angle. Ensure that the front leg’s knee doesn’t go beyond a 90-degree angle (you should be able to see the toes on your front foot). Repeat 10- 12 times per leg.
View a demo video of the curtsy lunge exercise.
If you’ve experienced shin splints, you know how debilitating this pain can be. Usually this aching feeling is again, the direct result of overuse, or weak (and tight) calf muscles. This is an injury that needs to be taken seriously, as repetitious exercise can progress splints into Tibial stress fractures
1. Stair Raises and Stretches
Holding onto a railing, or wall, step up on a stair onto the balls of your feet, so that your arches and heels hang off. Engaging your calf muscles and glutes, raise your heels above the balls of your feet and hold for 10 seconds; repeat 5 times. Next, place your left foot flat on the step allowing the right foot’s heel to relax over the step, lean forward, and passively stretch out the calf. Hold for 45 seconds, then repeat for the left.
View a demo video of the stair raise exercise.
2. Spice of Life Training
When you begin to feel shin splints, this is your body’s warning that it is time to rest and do some cross training. Cardio is important, so try something new like biking, kickboxing, or swimming. Variety in your training will not only be fun but will allow your running to be more sustainable.
There’s no doubt that running is an excellent form of exercise for reducing stress, and increasing your cardiovascular health, but too much can become very hard on your joints and create muscle imbalances. Remember to strengthen surrounding areas, stretch out commonly tight muscles, and implement diversity to avoid these typical running injuries.
Now go get your shoes on and place some miles between you and your front door. And if you need us, remember that we're just a few clicks away.