So maybe now would be a good time to talk about your glutes (or muscles of the buttocks as they are otherwise known).
Most of us are sat on them most of the day forcing them to be in a lengthened position which makes contracting them and engaging them properly really difficult. They get out the habit of stretching. You really need to concentrate really hard on engaging them. Put your mind in the muscle.
What can we do to work our glutes? Avoid a Hip Drop Running Gait (when your hips drop/swing side to side a lot when you run). This can be problematic for many joints in the body – hips, knees and lower back for starters. It also means you are leaking energy from the movement, too much side to side reduces the kinetic energy stored up ready for the next stride. Imbalance in single leg strength can display as hip drop but not necessarily – it depends where the weakness is. But it is another important factor, if one leg is dominant; it increases the risk of injury.
Some things to fix it.
Hip hitches are amazing (The hip–hitch exercise is an isolating movement which targets the hip abductors’ ability to lift the opposite side of the pelvis and the weight of the other leg). Do them 3 times a week, 3 sets of 15-20 on each side every time you find yourself at a loose end on some stairs. It should work the muscles around your bum and outside of your hip.
Single leg squats – also amazing for stability of all the joints in the leg. Bit more emphasis on the quads on this one but very good. Range doesn’t have to be huge to get a decent burn off this.
Get in the gym and lift something substantial. Deadlifting is amazing for everything; posture, core strength, glute strength, posterior strength (what more could you want!?)
Think normal deadlifts, sumo deadlift and straight leg deadlifts (there’s tonnes on the internet about these and I could go on for ever!). You’re not going to get massive and bulky trust me! That’s a whole different article for another time. But guess what, you can do dead lifts on one leg too!! And add a resistance band in the opposite hand to increase core strength and add a bit of something for posture too.
Stop stressing about heal striking. The heal touching the ground first is not the same as heal striking. Its where the centre of gravity goes over the foot that counts, so if that is over the middle or even front of the foot you aren’t “breaking” the movement. It only applies the breaks when the centre of gravity is over the heal.
Posture… a forward rounded posture is something else to look at when you run. If its forward and slouchy, it makes it harder to propel yourself upwards (quite necessary to take the next stride whilst running, you do need to leave the floor at some point, even-though it is momentarily). It can also cause that burning “stitch” like pain the top of the shoulder. By being tall and open you increase the space so muscles and joints don’t and cause friction within the body.
Pilates posture exercises can help with shoulder blade retraction and depression (getting the shoulders back and down, not forward and round). Or just get in the gym and lift things… specifically lat pull down, bend over row (with dumbbells rather than a bar), seated row (think about both wide and close elbows on this one), bent over flys, single arm row.
The whole time we need to think about stabilising the shoulder blade first, so you are lifting with your shoulders down and back. It’s very easy for the upper traps to get involved and try to help as they tend to be over tight and over stimulated naturally from hunching over a computer, phone, tablet, steering wheel all day. During the exercise this will look like your shoulders are scrunching up to your ears if your traps are getting overly involved.
Concentrate on it, it won’t happen if your mind is elsewhere, your mind must be in the muscles.
Also – stretch your pecs! A lot!
Enjoy your run, Daisy x