By Lori Sawyer. Lori Sawyer is a certified athletic trainer and licensed sports nutritionist who has worked with Seton Hall University and UCLA Athletics. She currently operates Mommy-Moves which includes stroller classes, boot camps and nutritional programs throughout NJ. For more info, go to www.mommy-moves.com .
Whether you are new to the sport of running or a seasoned veteran, you always run a risk of injury. Being smart about your training and preparing to race properly can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Educating yourself on the big 3: STRENGTH, FLEXIBILITY and CARDIOVASCULAR TRAINING will help decrease injury right off the bat. Make sure to find the proper training schedule that fits the goals of your race and design your program around these goals.
I am going to focus on the strength-training portion of injury prevention in this article. You may have read different philosophies on strength training for running. I TRULY BELIEVE that strength training can make you a stronger runner and help decrease your chance if injury tremendously. Low back pain will subside, imbalances that can cause IT band syndrome can be balanced, and your form will not suffer when you become tired during training (which in turn can cause injury).
The best way to implement a strength program is to use what is called periodization. This is where you vary your routine around your big race. Not training for a specific race, and just want to become stronger? Not a problem. You can use your season as a guide. Building your base is the key.
Simply put, step 1 of periodization is your strengthening phase. This is where you want to build your base strength so you have a strong base for training. You should be doing anywhere from 8-15 reps and 2 to 3 sets of specific exercises.
Step 2 is your power phase. It is very important to have a solid strength base before beginning a power phase. Remember, education and being smart in your training will decrease your chances of injury. During your power phase you decrease your number of reps to 5-8 and do 3-4 sets. You will add in plyometrics, speed workouts and explosive strength training during this phase. Remember, a base strength must be established before you can properly do a power phase. These sessions will increase your power for your runs and will give you that push when you need it.
Your 3rd phase is what is considered your strength maintenance phase. This is usually done during your training season and maintains what you have worked so hard for. Your reps are usually around 12-15 with 2-3 sets.
Those are your 3 main phases of athletic strength training. There are a few things I do want to touch on to be a little more specific. I can’t stress enough how important core strength is. This cannot only help you in everyday life, but will help maintain proper posture and decrease your injury risk.
Begin with this core strength exercise. This is my absolute favorite exercise for the core and when done properly, is one of the best you can do. Do this a few times a week, in front of the TV or after a workout.
One example would be “the dead bug”: This is where you lay on your back and bring your legs to 90 degrees. Your arms can be at your sides or they can be straight up in the air. Roll your low back into the ground. Think pulling belly button into your spine. Squish something with your low back. This engages the transverse abdominus muscles. These are key in core strength. Once you feel like you are rolling that low back into the ground. Lower 1 leg as far down as you can while keeping that low back down. Return to 90 degrees and do the other leg. Repeat these for 1 minute 3 to 5 times or if you cannot do 1 minute, only do as long as you can while your low back is down.
So get out there and get strong! Check back here soon for more tips and exercises to keep you safe all season long.
See you on the pavement!
Lori Sawyer, MA, ATC