Ok, so there’s a fair chance that you’ve tried your hand at this running thing before, right?
“I’ve tried to run and it’s not for me”
If I had a dollar for every time I hear “I’ve tried to run and it’s not for me” or “I’ve followed the couch to 5km program, but I got an injury”, it’d be funding my running footwear annually!
“I’ve followed the couch to 5km program, but I got an injury”
It’s likely that you’ve made it to weeks 3 to 5 when you started to present with some symptoms such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or pain in hip flexor, achilles, hamstring or lower back.
One or all of these tend to occur during that adaptive phase where the constant loading of running starts to either benefit your biomechanics or have a negative impact. Some of you may have attempted to run several times before, leaving you with months off at a time and only to return and repeat the same process.
The conversation I often have with these runners (yes you’re still a runner if you run, even if you run for a minute!) usually starts with respecting that the longevity of being a runner doesn’t come from running alone. It’s fair to say that most people undervalue the role that strength plays in performing the high impact sport.
When I ask these runners “What strength work are you currently doing?”, it’s usually met with “Um, none” or “Arghh, some squats, upper body and yoga.”
Runners tend to hit a road block when they think about what strength they might do. The idea of having to come up with exercises can be overwhelming and time consuming. So it’s common for them to skip the session and it’s just that much easier getting the shoes on and hitting the pavement. In doing so often enough, it’s important to be realistic about your risk of injury.
The importance of strength work before introducing running and maintenance once running is frequent, is highly undervalued.
Strength isn’t just “how much can you lift?”
It represents your ability to load with and without resistance, frequency, mid-movement/swing, explosively, with mobility and flexibility.
However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated to get started. The one phrase you’ll often hear me say as a Running Coach is “How does it serve your running?” when referring to an activity that might have a negative impact on their running performance overall.
As a Strength & Conditioning Coach, you’ll often hear me say “How relevant is that move or exercise to running?”
First and foremost, it’s without a doubt that EVERYONE needs to strengthen core before anything else. In the conventional sense, people go pump out a bunch of crunches and go “Yeah, my core is good”, but if you’ve ever experienced mid to lower back pain, it’s likely that your core failed you at some point and that could be for an array of reasons. Understanding how to correct yourself, resetting core and recognising fatigue is vital in injury prevention. This is highly overlooked and hence why it is recommended that you get an assessment to establish this.
The second area to focus on is compound strength to develop more efficient muscle. This is the broader strength of the bigger muscle groups and should be established with both legs before transitioning to specific single leg work.
You can then further challenge these hip stabilisers in single leg by introducing contralateral and plyometric movement. We want to train these modalities with endurance in mind - so lots of repetition.
So it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the idea of where to start strength training. You really want to do as much as possible before you introduce the running itself. Do yourself a favour, book yourself in with a strength & conditioning coach and learn as much as possible. Invest in your running journey. Invest in yourself.