All runners want to remain injury-free. Running injuries are painful, frustrating, and sometimes expensive. Thankfully, despite the high rates of runners injured each year, you can reduce your risk of injury with some simple injury prevention exercises for runners.
An injury prevention workout focus on two effects: strength and mobility.
Weak muscles are more prone to injury, especially if the weakness results in a strength imbalance. Weakness in one glute causes excessive strain on stabilizing muscles, thus leading to injuries such as runner’s knee or IT band syndrome. A weak core strains the hip flexors or lower back, and so on. Most injuries are due to strength weakness along a different part of the kinetic chain (typically, weak core – including the transverse abdominus – and weak glutes).
Poor mobility hinders your optimal stride. Consequently, you overstress certain muscles and cause areas of tightness. Over time, these tight areas pull on other muscles and tendons, resulting in injury.
Consistent strength training reduces muscular imbalances and prevents undue loading of smaller muscle groups (for example, if glutes are weak and calves then are overloaded). Mobility work improves your range of motion, so that your hips and shoulders can move without hindrance through the running stride.
Consistency matters. Ideally, you should strive to include these injury prevention exercises two to three times per week, but even a few minutes once per week makes a difference. Injury prevention workouts do not take long – 5-15 minutes – thus paying huge dividends for a short investment of time.
If you are short on time, it is well worth cutting your run short by 5-10 minutes. Injury prevention is not cross-training – it is a necessary component of well-rounded training.
You can complete injury prevention exercises before a run as part of your warm-up, after a run, or incorporate it into your strength training.
This is a sample of some quick injury prevention exercises: birddogs, deadbugs, clamshells, and glute bridges. Depending on how much time you have available, aim for 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps; although if you are very crunched on time, even one set is better than nothing.
Birddogs improve hip and shoulder mobility and core stability while strengthening the glutes, hips, core, and back. To ensure good form, place a small, light object on your lower back; if it falls off, you need to concentrate more on stabilizing your core. Begin in a quadruped position (on all fours) and engage your abs by pulling your navel to your spine. While maintaining a stable pelvis and flat back, extend your right arm forward and left leg back. Reach through your heel to activate your glutes. Hold, then return to start and repeat on the other side.
Deadbugs train hip and shoulder mobility as well as core strength, especially the transverse abdominis. For the deadbug, lie on your back with your legs in a tabletop position (90 degree angle between the floor and your thighs, 90 degree angle at the knees) and your arms extended straight up and perpendicular to the floor. Your back should be flat against the floor/mat and you should pull your navel in to engage your abs. Slowly lower the left leg and right arm down, maintaining a flat back and engaged core throughout.
Clamshells work the glutes, especially the glute medius, individually. As a result, you will improve glute activation and lateral stability in your running stride. Lie on your side with your knees slightly bent and your ankles, knees, hips, and shoulder stacked. Loop the resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees. You can prop up your head in your hand or rest it on your arm on the floor. Keep your navel pulled into your spine and your hips stacked. Raise your top knee up slowly against the resistance of the band. Pause, then slowly lower back down to complete one rep. Perform all of the reps on one side before switching to the other side.
Single leg glute bridges strengthen the glutes in isolation, thus preventing imbalance. They also work the core, including the transverse abdominis, and improve hip mobility. Loop the resistance band just above your knees. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, back flat, and feet flat on the floor. Raise up one leg while keeping tension on the band (don’t let your leg track too far inward). Engage your abs and raise your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. As you raise your hips, focus on keeping your hips level. Slowly lower down to complete one rep. Complete all reps on one side, then repeat on the other leg.
Other quick injury prevention workouts:
Hip, Core, and Glute Resistance Band Workout
Lateral Exercises for Runners
Six Core Workouts for Runners
Six Injury Prevention Workouts for Runners
Mini Band Glute Exercises for Runners (Happy Fit Mama)
Three Essential Moves to Prevent Injury (Sarah Canney)
Resistance Band Workout for Hip Strengthening and Glute Activation (Run to the Finish)
What are your go-to injury prevention exercises?