Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Getting Stronger

Alberto Salazar: “You can be efficient for a while with bad form but eventually that’s not good for your body. It’s going to produce tightness and muscular imbalances and structural problems. Then you get injuries, and if you’re not careful – if you don’t take care of the muscular and structural issues – the injuries can put you into a downward spiral.”

At the Houston Marathon Expo Memorial Hermann's Sports Medicine Institute's Sports Biomechanist Kim Gandler told the audience some generic truths. Amongst these are that:
  • Very often long distance runners will burn up their muscles during a training season, especially as they rarely take the time to build them back up. Over the years these neglected muscles continue their break down. 
  • In general running strengthens the calves, quads and the hamstrings. However, absent supplemental training - which most runners unfortunately neglect - their abs, glutes, and hips tend to weaken. 
To one of my follow-up questions Kim clarified interestingly that many triathletes avoid these characteristic weaknesses owing to their activating their hips and glutes while cycling. Recognizing my prior one-dimensional running-centric focus it's little wonder that I've developed muscular imbalances that translate into my less efficient stride.

Accordingly, hoping to improve my efficiency - and ultimately my endurance and speed - I've embraced the strengthening exercises that Kim prescribed following my
recent gait analysis. These do an excellent job by targeting my greatest areas of weakness, including:

  • Hip External Rotators and Abductors ('Clam Shell' with bent knees)
  • Hip Abduction with Calf Against Wall (upper leg lift)
  • Quadruped Leg Lifts
  • Hip Hiking
  • Hip Extensors Bridging
  • Side Plank
  • Prone Plank
  • Abdominal Crunches
Having incorporated these exercises and a few others into my training plan over the past two weeks proved relatively easy, and I'm already feeling the benefits. I encourage other runners to similarly have their running form analyzed by someone with extreme competence in this area, and to then incorporate some good running-focused general strengthening exercises (e.g. see this good Running Times article with helpful videos.)


  1. Good stuff. I used to try and cycle twice a week and it made a positive impact on my overall training. Once the weather heats back up, I'll be hitting the road again.

  2. I've noticed that my strength training is making a different as well. I do try to cycle a couple of times a week just for variety but it's good to know it's doing some good as well.

  3. Good think I have buns of steel and washboard abs. Look at that run today. 65 deg. Nice.

  4. I do some core and upper body exercises 3 times per week and it is amazing what difference it makes. I can work more on my hips for sure.