Hip strength is critical for runners!
I learned my lesson about the importance of hip strength for running a few years ago.
I’ll never forget when my back went out. The pain was searing like fire up my spine, down my legs and into my pelvis. I couldn’t unlock my hips to relax my back. We had spent the day out in Philadelphia at the Penn Museum. The kids were enthralled by the mummies and ancient artifacts. It was the day after a 5K Turkey trot. I knew my back was uncomfortable and that something was wrong. Upon arriving at the museum my back had locked up but I was able to stretch it out and walking felt good. I felt like I was loosening up. I shrugged it off and figured that I would be alright because I hadn’t done anything specific to injure myself. But then later that night our whole family went out to dinner at a Chinese Restaurant. As we passed around the dumplings with energetic chatter from the kids around the table I felt increasingly uncomfortable and couldn’t focus in on what was being talked about around the table. When we finally went to leave I tried to stand up but I couldn’t fully stand upright and the pain had become unbearable! We left the restaurant and my mom looked at me, seeing tears in my eyes she knew it was time to take me to the walk-in clinic. I couldn’t move. The trouble we would later pinpoint was a combination of lack of hip strength along with some other instabilities.
What was going on?
It turns out my body had decided that enough was enough. I had been running on an unstable foundation of hips, legs, and core since my two pregnancies (which included a laparatomy while pregnant the first time and 2 c-sections). After having my babies I jumped right into running with total disregard for the rebuilding that must happen to keep a female runners body strong and healthy. I ran and ran and ran to meet goals, and to bring myself peace and healing but I didn’t focus on my overall strength and fitness as a whole. Strength training exercises are so important for women who begin running again after pregnancy. So many of us forget how critical this is because when you are a new mom you are just trying to keep your head above water and try to fit your workouts and runs in whenever possible.
The issue with my back was actually due to extreme instability in my hips and lack of strength in my hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings. My hips and pelvis were taking on the full load of my running without the strength of key muscles to create a strong platform for running. My hip strength was minimal which had caused bad habits in my running. In order to correct my issues I had to completely backtrack in my training and head to physical therapy. For me, I needed to rebuild and it almost felt like starting at square one.
The best course of action is to be proactive about keeping your body strong and healthy. I learned the hard way how important it is to always make time for strength training especially when you are building up your running (and/or triathlon) mileage.
What can you do about it? 3 exercises to strengthen your hips for running.
*NOTE: I am not a certified personal trainer or physical therapist, these exercises are similar to what I used in rehab.
- “Single-Leg Bridge: Lie on your back with both legs bent and your feet flat on the ground. Lift your left leg off the ground and extend it while you raise your lower back and butt. Hold the position for two seconds and lower back downwards in a controlled manner. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each leg.” (SOURCE-Active.com).
- “Single Leg Squat: The exercise is initiated by moving your backside backwards and downwards, as opposed to moving the knee of your supporting leg forwards. This can be challenging for many people as it requires a certain level of balance, coordination and flexibility.” (Source-Runners Connect). This exercise should be done while standing on one leg.
- “Clam Exercise: Lie on your side with your hips and shoulders in a straight line. Bend hips to a 45-degree angle and your knees to 90 degrees. Make sure one hip is above the other. Move the upper leg while keeping your feet in contact with one another. It’s important to move the leg as far as you can without disturbing the alignment of the hip. Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times on both sides. You should feel the muscles in the back of the hipbone.” (Source-Women’s Running)
What exercises do you do for hip strength? Are you consistent with strength training?