Runners like to run — and a lot of times we don’t like to do much else. But since running is such a repetitive motion, it can cause structural imbalances that lead to injury. In fact, by some estimates up to 90% of runners get injured each year!
The good news is that you don’t have to become a gym rat to reduce the risk of injury. A few quick exercises before and after your run will help fix structural imbalances, take stress off your body, AND boost your running economy.
Here are the short, simple pre-run and post-run routines that I recommend to help keep you running strong and injury-free!
This pre-run routine is designed to activate the muscles you need to run efficiently, and to help reinforce correct movement patterns.
Squats: 1 set of 10 reps
Doing squats (or lunges) pre-run is a great way to get your running muscles fired up and ready to go — reminding your body which muscles it should be using. As with all exercises, form is important here, so check out the cues in the video and be sure to use a bench or chair to assist you if needed.
Leg Cycle Drill: 1 set of 20 reps on each leg
The leg cycle drill is all about practicing correct movement patterns before your run. This helps to produce a more efficient stride and reduce unnecessary stress on your body. Try to key in on extending your leg back (while keeping your hips square) and having your foot hit the ground directly next to your other foot.
Ankling: 2-3 sets of 20 meters (or 20 steps)
Our progression from general exercises (getting muscles warmed up) to more specific exercises (running motion) culminates in the ankling drill. The emphasis here is on proper foot placement under your hips and quick steps.
In this post-run routine, I want to put the focus on building strength in the glutes. Strong glutes are important for staying injury-free as a runner, but they don’t get much work in our day-to-day lives.
1-leg bridge: start with 10 reps of a 3-5 second hold on each leg; building up to 1x30 sec hold
The single leg bridge is great at isolating the glute muscles. Doing the single leg variation shown in the video also makes sure that you address any imbalances where one leg is stronger than the other.
Clam shells: 1 set of 10 reps w/ 5 second hold in each position on each leg
If you’ve been to physical therapy for a running-related injury, you’re probably familiar with clam shells. This is a more advanced version that targets multiple movements and muscles. Correct form is essential, so make sure to check out the video for proper form cues even if you’ve done this exercise before.
Lateral leg raises: 1 set of 10-15 on each side
This exercise focuses on working the glute muscles in a different plane of motion than when you’re running. This helps to strengthen the “external rotator” set of muscles that is often weak in runners but is important for preventing IT band friction syndrome and other common injuries.
With these routines, taking just a few minutes before your run and after your run will give you a big boost to your running economy and make a world of difference in injury prevention! Consistency is key, so don’t wait — start using them on your next run!