Do you drive to work each day? Watch television in the evening? Or sit in front of a computer screen most days?…..Don’t worry, if you answered “yes” to all three of these questions then you are exactly like me!
Our modern lifestyle promotes many sedentary activities, meaning our bodies can become functionally weak and even simple activity can make us prone to injury! Because what happens to muscle when we don’t use it? Simple. It shrinks. It’s called muscle atrophy. There is much truth in the saying that “if you don’t use it, you lose it!”.
Since returning to running after the birth of my second son, Logan, I have focused on functional strength as part of my running routine and I believe it is an essential component of injury prevention.
Functional strength training attempts to adapt or develop exercises which allow us to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries.
In the context of running, functional training involves mainly weight bearing activities targeted at the core muscles of the abdomen, lower back and glutes.
One of the biggest challenges I faced after the birth of Logan was strengthening my core again. I developed diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) during pregnancy and was also recovering from a subsequent cesarean section. I eased back into running slowly and wore a core compression sleeve for around twelve months after Logan’s birth to support my core as I returned to running.
As part of my rehabilitation and return to running, I was fortunate to meet Shelly Stevens from Onelife. As a personal trainer, Shelly helped me to activate my transverse abdominals (deep innermost abdominal muscles) using simple breathing techniques. It became evident that simple breathing techniques were far more important than abdominal crunches!
All of my functional strength training is done at home when I get the time (usually twice a week). No gym required!
This strength training provides the balance that my muscles need to recover from my running routine. If I start to feel a niggle, I think of the muscles that feed into that area. The niggle can often be a symptom of muscles becoming unbalanced. For example:
- Sore shins (shin splints) can be the result of tight calf muscles with weak muscles in the front of the shin.
- Hamstring pain can actually be a result of tight hip flexors that tilt the pelvis out of correct alignment.
- Plantar fascia pain can result from tight muscles in the calf and soleus.
- Hip flexor pain can be caused by weak glutes and tightness through the quads.
By recognising the muscle imbalance and/or tightness, then addressing it, I can can often prevent an injury from occurring or getting worse. This is something I have learnt the hard way, having had many injuries in the past! These days, consistency with my running is the most important thing and prevention is ALWAYS better than a cure!
Whatever your routine, it is worthwhile to include some functional strength training. So pick your time, put on your gear and do it; because one thing is clear: if you don’t use it, you will lose it!
Shelly Stevens, Onelife personal training, Rolleston.
The following YouTube link is from physiotherapist Brad Beer. I recommend hip stability exercises for all runners.
Image Credits: Adobe Image Library