Five Exercises to Improve Trail Running
Rebalancing your muscles is not only good for preventing injury but can make your joints stronger and improve your sport. The following exercises are specific to trail running, where problems arise in the ankles from rough terrain, as well as IT bands, knees and lower backs from the repetitive motion of a long run. I usually recommend incorporating these exercises into a strength training program or after a run as part of the cool down. Remember that none of these exercises should ever hurt.
1. Calf raises: (strengthens calves, helps prevent rolling your ankles) Keep your feet straight, hip width apart and weight even between your toes, slowly lift and lower your heels. Progress to one foot at a time. Repeat 10-20x
2. One legged ¼ squat: (strengthens quads/knees, helps prevent IT band friction syndrome and patellafemoral syndrome) Hands on your hips, standing on one leg as tall as you can. Slowly bend your knee ¼ way keeping your hips square and kneecap over your second toe through the motion. As you slowly straighten your knee, try to flex your hamstrings until your leg is all the way straight. Repeat 10-20x/leg.
3. Clamshell: (strengthens glute med, which helps your IT band, hips and knees) Lay on your side with your feet together, knees bent and upper hip rolled forwards. Lift your upper knee up and down. It should only be able to go 45 degrees without your hip rolling back. If it goes higher than 45 degrees, roll your hip forwards. Repeat 10-20x/side
4. Lunge up: (strengthens hip flexors/glutes, helps prevent lower back pain) Start with one knee on the ground and the other foot in front of you, both knees 90 degrees, hands on your hips. Squeeze your glutes and slowly lift your body one inch off the ground without leaning forwards or twisting your hips. Lower back down and completely relax between each lift. If it is too difficult on your knee, place a pillow under it. 8-20x/leg.
5. T-jumps: (improves your agility and ankle proprioception/stability) Start on one leg with your hands in front of you. Jump and twist your lower body 90 degrees to the left keeping your upper body square. Jump back to the middle and repeat to the right. 5-10/position/leg.