How to Find Your Weaknesses as a Runner and Avoid Injury


Mobility

Hip Circles: Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, place your hands on your hips and make circles with your hips. Really exaggerate the movement, and get as much circumference as you can without moving your feet. Do 10 in the clockwise direction, and 10 in the counter-clockwise direction.

3-Way Leg Lunges: Imagine you are standing on a giant clock; ahead of you is 12, behind you is 6, and you are in the center where the hands originate. Start with both feet together, then lunge your right leg directly in front of you to where the 12 would be; dip into the lunge and then back to center. Without moving your left foot—keep it planted—lunge with your right foot leading to where the 3 would be on the clock. As you dip down, focus on opening up the hip area. Lunge back to center. For the third lunge, keep the left foot planted and really work on opening up your hip by leading the lunge with your right leg to get as far past the 3 o'clock as you can. As you gain flexibility and range of motion, see how close you can get to the 6 o'clock. This is tricky in terms of balance. Once you do three lunges with your right leg leading, switch to leading with your left leg. You'll notice that often times one side of your hip is tighter than the other. Work up to doing a few sets on each leg.

More: How to Work Your Abs and Glutes With the Balance Lunge

Donkey Kicks: Get down on all fours on your hands and knees. Keeping your right leg bent at the knee, draw it under you toward you chest, then reverse the motion and swing it up and back, raising the leg up into the air. Think about kicking toward the sky (you'll also feel this in your glute muscles), and then bringing your leg back down to the starting position. You want a slow, controlled movement; don't allow momentum to take over. Do one set of 10 on each leg.

Leg Swings: Stand to the side and hold onto a wall or post for balance. Swing your left leg in front of you and then back behind you in a swinging motion. Aim to reach your leg higher in front of you and farther behind you the more swings you do. Do a set of 10 to 15 reps on both legs. You can complete lateral leg swings (facing a wall) by swinging your legs across your body to the right and then left in a sweeping motion.

More: Hip Strengthening and Mobility Exercises for Runners

Ankles

Pillow Balance: Ankles are prone to rolls, and you want the small muscles around the ankle to be strong and supple. To improve your ankle strength, balance on a Bosu ball or pillow. Start by standing on a pillow, balancing on one foot and holding it for a minute or two. You'll notice this is easier on one side than the other, so you'll find out if your imbalance is on the right or the left side. When the pillow balance becomes easy, try completing the toe touch balance exercise described previously while balancing on a pillow.

Calf Exercises: Complete one set of three-way calf raises for 10 to 15 reps each.

More: How to Execute the 3-Way Calf Raise

The argument of sanity aside, every runner is imbalanced in a way unique to him or her. Sometimes it takes a little hunting around or an injury for your to find yours, but do all you can to become as balanced as possible before an injury strikes. Both your running and your sanity will be better off.

More: 3 Ways to Build an Injury-Proof Foundation for Running

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