WORKING ON WEAKNESSES
There are two things we all have right now: more time at home and a weakness we can improve on. We’re breaking down ways we can use this extra time to make those improvements.
Balance is important in everything we do. Since running is essentially a series of single leg lunges, balance is one of the most important improvements runners can make. This is especially true if your like to hit the trails. The best part about balance is you can incorporate ways to build on it into your everyday life at home, without even really thinking about it.
Here are some ideas:
Standing on One Foot
Simply standing on one foot when washing the dishes or folding your laundry can help improve your balance over time. So next time you’re knocking out some house chores, try it out!
To take this exercise up a notch, try standing on a yoga block (or a large book will do!). It’s a bigger challenge than simply one foot on the floor, but the results will be bigger, too.
At-Home Balance Board
Balance or wobble boards are a great way to work on balance on a daily basis. If you are working at home and are able to stand up, try experimenting with standing on the wobble board during a Zoom call. If you want more, you can find specific balance board routines on YouTube.
All the bones, muscles and tendons of your feet and ankles work extra hard while running. Working on strengthening and fine-tuning their mobility is key in staying healthy and running well.
Here are some ideas of quick, simple exercises you can each day. Remember, be patient, with strength and mobility—it’s the little things that count.
Resistance Band Routines
Using a resistance band, hook it around the ball of your foot and hold both ends. Sit down and pull the two ends of the band towards your midline, flex your ankle to the outside 20 times, then pull the two ends to the outside and flex your ankle to the inside 20 times. Then, hold the two ends straight up and point your toe 10 times. Do this on both legs.
If you don’t have a resistance band, here are some alternatives that work well: Bicycle tire innertube, belts, suspenders, bungee cords, towels, or even long songs. Get creative!
Strength and Balance
You can combine balance and foot/ankle strength using a balance board. If you don’t have a balance board, you can do these exercises on the floor, too, still gain balance and strengthening benefits:
-Squats or single leg squats
-Twists or single leg twists
Looking for another way to improve your foot strength? Running in lower cushioned shoes, like the Vanish-R, Vanish XC, and Solstice XT can help naturally strengthen your feet.
DAILY STRETCH ROUTINE
Taking a few minutes to stretch each day can help improve flexibility and keep your running comfortably. Here are some great stretches for runners to get you started:
While standing, pull your leg up behind you using the same-side hand. Pull your shin toward your thigh and hold for 30 seconds per leg.
Calf Stretch 1
Standing near a wall, put the ball of one foot up against the wall. Lean toward the wall to intensify the stretch and hold for 30 seconds per leg.
Sitting on the ground, extend one leg and pull the other leg in toward your inner thigh. Lean forward and reach for the toes of your extended leg. Reach as far as you can and hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
Calf Stretch 2
While standing, place one foot about a half step in front of you and the other foot about a half step behind you. Lean forward, slightly bending the knee of the leg in front of you. You should feel the stretch in the calf of the leg behind you. Hold for thirty seconds then switch legs.
Laying on your back, bend your knees while keeping both feet flat on the floor. Cross your left ankle over your right knee and grab behind your right knee, bringing your leg toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds then switch legs.
Standing in a widened stance, lean to your right side, bending your right knee. You’ll feel the stretch in your groin. Hold for 30 seconds for each side.
The beauty about stretching is that there are so many options, and they all have their benefits. It’s important to know your body and to listen to it. As you start, you may not be as flexible as you’d like. But remember what we’re doing here: working on our weaknesses and improving.
Looking for more? There are lots of great stretching and yoga videos available.
Dynamic stretching is a great way to warm up your body pre-run, cool down post-run, and get a little extra strengthening while you’re at it. It only takes a few minutes and can make a big difference in your running. Here are some of our favorite routines.
10 forward for each leg.
10 backward for each leg.
Add an upper body twist for a little extra stretch.
Pay attention to alignment and try to keep your knee in a straight line and don’t let it extend out over your foot. With the twists, you want to twist your upper body towards the lunging leg.
This helps get the blood pumping through your legs and core muscles and gets those muscles firing!
10 forward for each leg.
10 backward for each leg.
10 side-to-side for each leg.
Try holding onto something with the opposite hand of the leg you are swinging. Be in control and don’t over-swing. Make sure to keep your core and upper body tight. This is not about how high you can get your leg!
This helps loosen up your hips, hamstrings, and legs and is especially useful before a speed workout.
Calf Raises on Stairs
10 for each leg.
Stand at the bottom of the stairs (you can hold onto the railings). Step up two steps with one foot and raise up to your toes. Bring your foot all the way back down to the ground and repeat.
This is a great way to stretch your lower leg muscles and work in some mobility after your run. If you ran long or steep or hard, you will definitely feel this one!
Get down on your hands and knees and do 10 of each on each side:
Donkey kicks: With your knees hip width apart and hands under your shoulders, lift one leg at a time, keeping your knee bent and your foot flat.
Leg circles (10 each direction on each side): With your knees hip width apart and hands under your shoulders, lift one leg at a time, keeping it straight, and create a circle motion. Vary the size of the circle for varying levels of stretch.
A strong core does a little bit of everything. It helps with posture, control, stability and balance. Here are some workouts that can help strengthen your core and in turn, your overall running:
Planks are one of the best ways to work on core strength and not put undue stress on your back like crunches can do. There are plenty of plank challenges out there and plank variations. Here are a few to get you going:
Your typical plank position. Arms shoulder width apart, resting on your elbows and forearms, with your feet hip width apart.
Side Plank (each side)
Stack your feet, resting on one arm. Keeping your core straight, lift your hips and hold.
Plant Arm Reach
From a plank position, alternate extending one arm straight out, reaching forward.
Plank Shoulder Touches
From a plank position, alternate touching your opposite shoulder with your opposite hand.
From a plank position, walk your forearms out, getting closer to the ground.
Form is very important in all planks! Make sure you are keeping your back straight, sucking in your stomach, and practicing proper form. You can modify planks by dropping your knees down to make it easier as you get stronger.
Now go work out those weaknesses! And remember to always use your best judgment and be patient.