Most runners, hikers, climbers, cyclists, and skiers can relate to the double misery of injury. Whether the problem is a pulled hamstring, strained ankle, or an inflamed shin splint, injury not only hurts you physically, it hurts you emotionally when it sidelines you.
Exercises that strengthen or stretch body parts that the outdoor crowd frequently stress is a good way to stave off such misery. Jason Jablonski of SET Coaching demonstrated a variety of strengthening and stretching exercises for us that will benefit most outdoor enthusiasts.
To improve flexibility and range of motion, try these:
Hip Stretch – Flexible hips will help most athletes perform better. Hip flexibility also reduces injuries — not just in the hips but elsewhere in the legs and back. Place one leg out in front while bending both knees. Make sure the front knee stays over the ankle and place the other knee on the ground. When the stride is long enough to produce a stretch in both hips, hold the position for about 30 seconds. Do this with each leg forward two or three times.
IT Band Stretch – Place the band around both of your ankles, calves, or thighs, depending on the amount of resistance you want. Take one step sideways, keeping one leg in the same position, and moving the other leg out into a squat. Do this for a few minutes on both sides. Over time increase resistance by moving the band lower.
Calf Stretch – Place one foot out in front, hip width’s distance apart. Keep both feet firmly on the ground, and lean toward the front foot, feeling the calf stretch in the back foot. Hold the stretch 25 to 30 seconds. Reverse the feet and then repeat each side.
Hamstring Stretch – The easiest hamstring stretch is completed sitting on the ground, with one leg out in front or to the side of you and the other bent with the foot touching your other leg’s thigh. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Reverse legs and then repeat the stretch on each side.
To focus primarily on muscle and joint strengthening, try these:
Hamstring Ball Roll – Start lying on the ground, and place a fitness ball underneath your legs, lifting them up to the top of the ball. This will have your body lifted at a 45 degree angle, with your neck and head firmly on the ground. Keeping your arms by your side, roll the ball with your feet toward your back, bending your knees and making sure your feet stay on the ball. Next roll the ball back out. Roll the ball back and forth this way for two to three minutes.
Swiss Ball Knee Drive – Place your hands on a fitness ball, with your arms and elbow straight, making your body at an angle to the ground. With your feet up on the soles, drive your knees in toward the ball, trying to make your leg parallel with the top of the ball. Switch legs and repeat. Keep switching back and forth between legs for several minutes.
Body Weight Squats – Start in a standing position with legs about hip-width apart and toes turned out slightly. Slowly bend your knees and push your back and butt outward, not downward. Put your arms out in front of you, and feel yourself able to rock back and forth on your whole foot, making your weight evenly proportioned. Return to standing and repeat. Start with 10 squats and work up to 20 squats over time
To benefit runners, Jablonski also talked about improving running form.
To improve form, incorporate these tips:
+ Keep arms at a 90-degree angle.
+ Keep knees slightly bent as the foot impacts the ground.
+ Run with a forward lean — literally use your legs to catch up to your falling body.
+ Strike the ground, not with your heel, but with your mid-foot or the ball of your foot.
+ Run with your shoulders back and your chest out.
For more information about improving your running stride, form, or goals, check out SET Coaching.
This post was originally published on 7/21/14.