Two of the most common questions that I am asked as a running coach are: “ What days should I do my strength training on?” and “What is a great exercise to strengthen my glutes and hips to help prevent injury?”.
It depends on what your training week looks like. If you are new to running, and most of your runs are easy or recovery type runs, then it doesn't matter so long as you give yourself at least a day, and maybe two, depending on your recovery rate, between strength workouts. If you are a more experienced runner, and have quality sessions on your schedule, then it’s better to put the strength workout on the same day as your quality session so you can truly recover on your easy running days. By quality, I mean interval, tempo or race pace running. Basically anything that isn’t easy running. Since one of the goals of a recovery run is provide healing blood flow to the muscles that were worked the previous day while increasing your base miles, it makes sense to keep the easy days, well, easy.
The other consideration is how many sets or repetitions of an exercise should I do? As a certified personal trainer, I usually suggest 1-3 sets of each exercise and 8-12 repetitions where the last few reps are fairly difficult. However, I train many time crunched athletes. Due to those time constraints, I encourage them to do 1-2 sets of each exercise to fatigue, not failure. As they become stronger, they can increase the weight or resistance.
When the gluteus muscles get weak, other supporting structures such as hamstrings or lower back are recruited to help with the load and can get overused and tight. Weak glutes can also cause knee problems. All of this can negatively impact an athlete’s running mechanics causing increased forces on joints in their knees, feet, or hips, which, over time, leads to overuse injuries.
One of the simplest and least expensive (no gym required) exercises to strengthen the gluten and hips is the monster walk.
How to do it:
- Get a resistance band and tie it in a big loop. Bands are sold at Target and Walmart as well as online and are often referred to as therabands by many physical therapists.
- Place the loop around your ankle or above your knees.
- Bend your knees while keeping your back neutral and your gaze forward and start walking sideways in one direction
- Maintain a good tension on the band with an open stance. Step to one side with one foot then step in with the other all while maintaining tension on the band.
- Make sure that your knees are always aligned in one line from the hips over the feet and the feet are pointing forward. After a few steps, more if you are stronger, you will begin to feel your hips working; continue stepping to fatigue. Then step the opposite direction.
- Do one set at first and work up to 2-3 sets.
Happy healthy running!
Coach Karen is a USAT and USA Track and Field certified coach living in Panama City Beach, Florida. She can be reached at Coach Karen Email. Her website is http://www.coach-karen.com