“It’s Cold Outside” is No Excuse to Neglect Your Running

December 01, 2018

Strength Training and Running


Now that the weather is colder and running outside is becoming a challenge, it is a good time to add strength training into your routine. Strength training in the off-season is a good way to help reduce the likelihood of injury in the coming season and actually aid your performance1.


Obviously as mileage increases during a build phase of training it becomes increasingly difficult to find time for anything else. Time is not in abundance for recreational athletes. There are work and family or social obligations that make it difficult to fit everything in. Not to mention sleep. One of the things that tends to take a back seat during these build phases is strength training. During the build phase as mileage is creeping up, so does the rate of injury.


A lot of times the onset of injury correlates to 4-6 weeks after the athlete in question has decided to discontinue their strength regimen in favor of more running time. As the running volume increases and strength begins to decrease, injuries start to appear. These injuries are rather innocuous at first but become increasingly more severe in the final push to the big event. Injuries that seemed rather insignificant can derail race day or leave the runner unable to start the next training cycle. It is usually at this point that they will seek medical attention and/or physical therapy intervention.


Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you are certainly not alone. Many runners find themselves in the same predicament. One of the most common issues we encounter in physical therapy regarding runners is knee pain. As stated earlier, this knee pain (often lateral) can start rather quietly but begin to worsen as the running program progresses. This onset of knee pain is often due to weakness in the hip musculature2.


So what is a runner to do? 1. Maintain some form of strength training throughout the running season. 2. Take advantage of the offseason when your running mileage is low to zero and start doing resistance exercises. This should not take a lot of time and you can achieve very good results with as little as two times per week. As mentioned above, a lot of these injuries are related to weakness in the hips so a good way to start is to focus on hip musculature. This helps improve lower extremity biomechanics and reduces the likelihood of creating an injury in the first place.


What do you mean by hip exercises? Two exercises that would benefit every runner are: 1. sidelying hip abduction and 2. bridges with straight leg raise. They require no equipment, require very little time, are running specific, and are very effective.


How do I do them? Sidelying Hip Abduction or Leg Raise: Lay on your side with both lower extremities out straight. Lift your top lower extremity approximately 12 inches away from the leg on the bottom. Hold for a count of 3 and then return to the start position. Perform until your hip feels fatigued and then roll over and do the other side. Then repeat. Bridge with Straight Leg Raise: Lie on your back. Bend your knees to 70-90 degrees and have your feet flat on the floor. Raise your buttocks by pushing through your feet. Raise your buttocks until your thighs are in line with your trunk. Hold the bridge while extending your left knee. Hold for 3 seconds and then return your left foot to the floor. After the left foot returns to the floor, extend your right knee and hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times on each leg. To increase difficulty, increase the hold time.


Hopefully, these suggestions will lead to a good start to next season and better running seasons in the years to come. If, however, you are struggling with an injury or have more specific questions as to what you can do to prevent or recovery from injury, contact us for an appointment.


1.The Effects of a Sport-Specific Maximal Strength and Conditioning Training on Critical Velocity, Anaerobic Running Distance, and 5-km Race Performance.

Karsten B, Stevens L, Colpus M, Larumbe-Zabala E, Naclerio F.

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016 Jan;11(1):80-5. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2014-0559. Epub 2015 May 6.


2.Proximal and distal influences on hip and knee kinematics in runners with patellofemoral pain during a prolonged run.J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Aug;38(8):448-56. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2008.2490. Epub 2008 Aug 1

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