Coming from a soccer background where running was usually the preferred choice of punishment, it’s hard to believe I’m saying this: distance running is probably my favorite mode of exercise. There’s a mindset you can reach when you get comfortable with running that I’ve never touched while training with weights. Some people call it a runner’s high, I just call it my zone, where I’m so in the groove of what my body is doing physically that I can reach a point of total mindfulness and really TAKE IN what’s going on around me. It’s a moving meditation, and I hope to always have it as a part of my life.
Running also beats me up, and if I truly want to keep doing it as I get older, I’ll need to take some preventative measures to keep my joints happy and healthy. Luckily, many of them are simple and made in the weightroom. While I also happen to love lifting, I know a lot of runners really, really don’t. For that reason, I’m putting together a few posts outlining some of the best bang-for-your-buck movements to keep you hitting the road or trail for years to come.
We’re going to focus on the number one thing most runners are lacking in their training: posterior chain work. Why? Running is a hip-dominant exercise! Have you ever watched world-class distance runners move? They’re moving at mind-blowing speeds for very long periods of time and all while they appear to be floating. Their movement is coming directly from their hips in that they can powerfully extend each hip with each and every stride. Take a look at this short video of Eliud Kipchoge (who later went on to be the first person to break the 2:00 marathon mark in 2019).
So often with running aches, pains, and injuries we complain about our knees hurting or our shoes being wrong for us, when what we really need to be looking at is our hips. If your glutes aren’t waking up and doing their job of being your primary mover, your other muscle groups need to pick up the slack when they really aren’t meant to. Overactive quads that develop in response to underactive glutes are how we might end up with a recurring knee pain.
There are two avenues to attack this problem: hip-hinging strength exercises and proper glute warmups. Today we’ll cover some great warm-up movements that can be done just about anywhere and with very little equipment. Once you master these and really feel the burn, you’ll be ready to both take off on a productive run AND move up to the big, weighted movements.
The only piece of equipment I recommend is a band (and even that is optional). I typically use the blue or black Therabands that you see in every physical therapy office, but whatever you have available will work! This is a comprehensive pre-run warm-up, so you’ll notice some core work thrown in too.
- Banded Side Steps – 2 x 10 per leg
- Wall Abs – 2 x 10 per leg
- Band Monster Walk – 2 x 15 per leg
- Slow Eccentric Heel Taps – 2 x 8 per leg
- Standing Banded Fire Hydrant – 2 x 12 per leg
- Single Leg RDL to March – 2 x 8 per leg
Give it a shot (and reach out if it made your run better)!