In the last article I wrote, I walked you through how to buy running shoes.
Now, it’s time to start a running program.
This article will help you prepare your body to meet the physical demands placed on it from running.
Some of you will no doubt come from an athletic background and be ahead of the game when it comes to having a body that’s ready to run.
Others may not. And that’s okay too.
In my interview with running expert, Jay Dicharry, he goes through the three non-negotiable items he likes to see in the athletes and patients he works with, before they start running.
You can run without checking the box on all three, but you will lessen your chance of becoming injured and run more efficiently if you work on them all.
1. Range of motion to move your leg behind you
Being able to extend you leg behind you while running is required to run efficiently and to avoid placing stress on other parts of the body.
Moving your leg behind you (extension at the hip), can be broken into three different components:
- hip extension
- ankle motion
- big toe motion
You don’t need all that much extension at the hip. Jay Dicharry states that 15-18 degrees is enough.
As you can see in the image below, I would say I have an adequate amount of hip extension.
Now you try.
Get in front of a mirror, stand on one leg and move the other leg behind you. Be sure to keep the back leg as straight as possible and try not to lean forward at the waist.
How did you do?
If you don’t have at least 15 degrees of hip extension, you need to work on your flexibility a bit.
For people that sit a majority of the day, having tight hip flexors is no surprise.
We need to reverse this trend to help your running.
To do this, try the hip flexor stretch below.
Using a pillow will make it more comfortable for the knee resting on the ground.
Try to tilt your pelvis back (not by leaning back) until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip and the top of your thigh.
Hold the stretch for 2-minutes and then switch to the other leg.
Ankle and big toe motion
If you don’t have enough motion at your ankle (due to Achilles and calf tightness), you will not be able to get your foot far enough behind you when you run. This will compromise both your running form and your ability to generate a strong push to propel you forward when you run.
To test how whether you have enough motion at the ankle or not, sit in a chair with both your hips and knees at 90 degrees.
Next, slide your butt forward until the front of your knees is just past your toes – do this while not moving your feet.
Were you able to keep your heels on the ground? If not, you have some stretching to do.
Here is a good old calf/Achilles stretch to perform. Remember to keep your heel on the ground and hold the stretch for 2-3 minutes per leg.
The Big Toe
In order for your foot to move properly when your pushing off the ground to propel your body forward, you must have adequate range of motion at the big toe.
In other words, if you can’t pull your big toe upwards (while keeping the ball of your foot on the ground) at least 30 degrees (see image below) your foot may roll inwards or outwards. This can cause injuries in your lower legs.
To improve your big toe range of motion, you will need to work on increasing the mobility of the connect tissue on the bottom of your feet (the plantar fascia). You can do this by simply pressing your hands on sore or tight spots while moving your toes back and forth.
I like rolling my feet on a lacrosse ball as well. It is somewhat uncomfortable, but doing this for 5-minutes per day will really loosen the tissue at the bottom of your feet and make you a better runner.
2. Learn to fire from hips.
We talked about the importance of being able to move your leg behind you (extend) when you run.
The hamstrings and glutes are two major muscle groups that will help you do this.
For most people (even non-runners), the hamstrings tend to do much of the work that the much stronger glutes should be doing.
So I want to give you an exercise that has two benefits.
- It will teach you to active your glutes.
- It will strengthen your glutes (and who doesn’t want a nicer looking booty?).
The ability to both use and have strong glutes will make you a better runner.
Glute Bridge with Alternating Legs
Lie on the ground with you knees bent. Raise you hips using your butt (really focus on this).
Next, lift one leg off the ground for a couple of seconds without letting your hips drop on the left or right side. Return this leg to the ground and then lift the other leg. Do not let those hips drop!
Try 1 set of 5 reps per leg to start and move up once you gain more control and strength.
3. Good proximal core control.
Having a strong core is important for running.
And by core, I don’t mean having 6-pack abs.
In running, the hips are the centre of power production. But for the hips to create the most power possible, your torso must be stiffened.
If you create a “stiffer”, stronger torso through a few core exercises, you will set yourself up to be a faster and less injury-prone runner.
You’ll also notice subtle improvements in your running form as you improve your core control – without even thinking about it!
I am a big fan of Jason Fitzgerald’s standard core routine. In fact, I used it last year to help me set a personal best in the half marathon.
Watch the video below and for a written description of the exercises, click here.
Start a Running Program Today: A Summary
So, here’s your homework.
- Get more flexible (if you need to based on the tests) in your hips, ankles and big toes.
- Get your booty trained to work by performing the glute bridge exercise.
- Strengthen up your core using the exercises in Jason Fitzgerald’s standard core routine.
I would recommend working on these for 2-3 weeks before you start running. So please, be patient.
As always, please email me if you have any questions!