As a physical therapist who works with runners, there is one consistent area I find weakness even in very fit & strong runners – lateral (side) motions.
Running involves muscles to move you in a forward direction on flat ground, up hills, and down hills. The majority of strengthening most people focus on in legs is quads, hamstrings and calf muscles, which is helpful for running but not the only muscles a runner should focus on. While running is not done sideways, the muscles that function in side motions are important stabilizers to help keep you balanced and decrease the stress that occurs in lower back, hip, knee, foot and ankle.
As many runner head into their slower race time of year, it is a great time to begin to work on strengthening for the demands that running requires.
So continue to work on the strength needed to move you forward, but add in strengthening in the lateral motions. Some exercises to address this area are: sidelying clamshell, side stepping with theraband tied around ankles (keep feet parallel), side planks (adding in arm and leg lifts as you gain strength), side step ups or hops, jumping side to side, grapevine/carioca.
Also as you work on balance exercises make sure you keep your pelvis level and challenge your balance by being on unstable surfaces (ie. BOSU balls, foam, cushions, or pillow). So make a change to work your body in new directions!
Kristi Moore, MSPT
Alpine Physical Therapy, North
2965 Stockyard Rd.
Missoula, MT 59808