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prepyourbody2
Jun 28, 2017

Prepare Your Body For Running – Part 1

“Learn how to start running properly and get your body ready from the top down.”

Read Time: 5 mins. Learn 4 vital body areas to prepare for running

So you’ve had enough of being unfit, but you don’t know where to start and you don’t want to spend excess money on a gym membership. What is one of the cheapest and ‘easiest’ forms of exercise you ask yourself, and you think ‘running!’

How hard is running? You just get up out of your office chair and start pounding the pavement with your expensive new shoes and all of a sudden you feel like you can run a half marathon.

You start with 2 short runs a week and feel fine, so you up it to 3 runs a week, and that feels fine, so you increase the length of the runs, and that feels ok for awhile but it doesn’t take long before you start feeling little niggles here and there; your hamstrings hurt, your calves ache, your lower back gets sore. Recent research estimates that 82 percent of runners will get injured at some point in their running career. But you don’t have to be a part of that percentage! Running is a total body activity, and if you look at and understand the body as a whole, the way it moves and interacts, then you will be able to run longer and with less injury.
In this two-part post, we start by looking at four major drivers of the body that enable us to run, and how to use them most effectively; the upper body, the core, hips and glutes. Then in the next post, we will talk about Feet First, It’s A Balancing Act (lateral stability), Find Your Rhythm (cadence) and Going the Distance (how to safely increase your mileage).
RELAX YOUR UPPER BODY
Yes legs are the main drivers for running, but your upper body still plays a very important part. There needs to be sufficient movement in your thoracic spine (spine between neck and lower back), otherwise problems will develop further down your body and can put your back out, hips out, glutes out, and more. Especially with those office jobs, we easily get rounded backs and shoulders meaning you get a tight chest, weak back muscles and a stiff thoracic spine. Try this exercise to stretch out a tight chest and read the interesting article about the importance of thoracic mobility. There are some great Pilates moves that will work on strengthening the back and loosening the thoracic spine, and once you have the execution correct, can be done anywhere – Scarecrow, Dart, Swan I and Swimming and Plank.
      Scarecrow                          Dart                                    Swan I                                  Swimming
FIND YOUR INNER CORE

‘The core’ is a buzz word these days, and means more than just the six pack you can show off at the beach. The core encompasses your transverse abdominals, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominus and at the back your erector spinae. The transverse abdominus is a very important, deep core muscle that often gets overlooked. It essentially wraps around our trunk like a corset, and connects your ribs and upper body to your hips and pelvis, while also playing an important role in spinal stability.

It is very important that we learn how to engage this muscle effectively, and the other muscles that form our pelvic floor as a whole. Often people think they are engaging their core, when in fact they are not; if you find yourself bracing very hard, scrunching up your face and putting a lot of pressure around your abdominal area, you are probably not activating your core correctly. Core activation is a much smaller movement, and can be done anytime, without anyone even knowing you’re doing it. Check out this article that has some great imagery to help you learn how to properly engage your core.

Aim to keep this feeling whenever you’re running – it will help reduce impact forces and prevent injury. There are many exercises we can do to further strengthen our core – Pilates toe taps, The Hundred, Criss Cross, Chest Lift and more. Simply doing crunches is only going to work your superficial rectus abdominals, where as we want to go deeper.
        Criss Cross                      The Hundred                    Chest Lift                              Toe Taps

ITS ALL IN THE HIPS

The hips and pelvis are where it’s at. There have been debates for years over the importance of foot strike but recent studies are now finding that all the power comes from the hips. Get your hips and posture correct and the everything else below that will take care of itself.

When we work at a desk job all day, hip flexors tend to shorten and tighten, which limits hip extension when running. Over time, it also forces the pelvis to sit in unnatural positions – either anterior pelvic tilt or posterior pelvic tilt. Check out this article that goes into depth about the importance of the hips and exercises to help fix alignment.
GET THOSE GLUTES FIRING
The glutes are the biggest muscle group in the body, and drive so much power when running. But again, due to our sedentary lifestyles, we don’t know how to correctly activate them and so other muscle groups, like our quads and hamstrings, overcompensate and get overused. But if we don’t learn how to engage our glutes, we will never run most efficiently.
You should perform some glute tests to check how well your glutes are actually workin, and it is well worth taking a few minutes before you launch into a run to do some of these exercises to ensure your glutes are firing while you’re running.
Guest Post by
Sophie Rutherford
Sophie is a Personal Trainer, Skippilates and Running Coach
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