Every runner is imbalanced. I'm not talking mentally—although we do have our quirks—but physically. Your body isn't two perfect mirror images between right and left; some muscles are naturally stronger than others, and some areas are tighter or looser than others. In other words, all runners have weaknesses that can contribute to getting injured.
For the "normal" person, these weaknesses aren't such a huge deal, but, as runners, we demand that our bodies carry us for miles and miles while performing the same repetitive motion. Over time, our imbalances become glaring weaknesses that cause us to be less efficient and more prone to injury.
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A runner's imbalances are the slumbering volcanoes for injuries. Interestingly, injuries can manifest in some ways that are tricky to diagnose. You may be having problems in your feet, but the culprit is weakness in your glutes.
The best way to deal with a potential injury is to be proactive before you're actually hurt; you can't stop them all, but you can do your best.
Your imbalances will differ for you and your running friends, but many common points of weakness center around the core:
- ankles (OK, these aren't near your core, but one out of five isn't bad)
When it comes to the hips, adductors, abductors and glutes, it's like a minefield. So many people have issues—tightness here, weakness there, slacker muscles making other muscles pick up the work. This has the trickle-down effect to knee issues and tons of lower-leg problems. That's why improving flexibility in the hip region, and strengthening those small, intrinsic muscles is so important.
Here are some quick exercises and stretches that you can do to correct your imbalances.