Runners Hips, Don’t Neglect Them
It doesn’t matter why you started running. There’s always a reason, and there’s always a goal, and it’s always personal to you. The reason is different for everyone. What we all do share is the knowledge of what the ground feels like whether it’s covered in bark dust or asphalt, sloping up or down, under old shoes or bare feet, or the pounding in our knees or our heart. We all know that feeling.
When you first started running, you might have hated it. There’s no denying it’s uncomfortable and mentally trying.
Once you push through that initial stage, though, it’s hard to stop. While the physically taxing nature of running may never truly go away, the discomfort gets milder and starts to feel like a familiar friend. It becomes a lifestyle. It’s a type of growth that may not be comfortable, but you know is bettering you, one way or another.
Why We Can’t Stop Running
When a runner’s regimen is tailored and well-executed, the benefits of running are veritably endless. Regular runners enjoy better cardiovascular health, elevated mental health, and greater overall fitness through muscular tone and endurance.
Because running is sustainable at almost any age, the benefits stay with you as long as you’re still moving. You will feel and look better as you age. Regular exercise helps the mind to stay sharp, and the fabled “runner’s high” keeps you happy. And who doesn’t want to be happy?
Too Much of a Good Thing
With all those benefits, it’s easy to take a love affair with running too far and land yourself on the couch. It’s estimated that in a given year, between 37 and 56 percent of runners will sustain an injury. Of those, more than 50 percent are overuse injuries.
We’ve all know the runners that swear pushing through twinges is the only way to keep getting better, and the opposite group that stays home at the faintest sign of pain. Neither of these camps is the one to pitch your tent in, so you’re stuck trying to decipher what that new ache might mean.
We’ve all been warned about shin splints, IT band issues, and the havoc running can wreak on knees, but hip injuries often take runners by surprise. Because bursitis and other common hip injuries aren’t touted with the rest of a runner’s plagues, many of us neglect taking reasonable care of our hips.
What may start as a tight hip that you assumed would loosen up after the first mile can turn into a doctor’s visit and some serious time on the couch. If you want to stay off the couch and on the trail, you should consider adding hip-focused training to your routine to prevent overuse injuries.
1. Resistance Training
Many runners incorporate strength training into their routines once or twice a week. Strength training can provide numerous benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, increased bone density, and, of course, stronger muscles.
By utilizing resistance training to strengthen muscles, runners are able to target areas that may not be worked equally or at all in weekly runs. It provides opportunity to work stabilizing muscle groups and ensure that joints are the healthiest they can be.
One or two days cross-training in the weight room is enough for most runners to reap the rewards. Bone density increases with weight bearing activities and helps the bones to remodel themselves in a way that minimizes the likelihood of a stress fracture. Working with resistance bands to strengthen smaller muscles groups is also common. Resistance work for the hips can target the hip flexors, gluteus medius and minimus, and deep core muscles to ensure a strong hip capsule.
2. Stretch, Stretch, and Stretch
Flexibility is, in my opinion, underrated. It seems like a lot of people have an “it would be nice to have, but I’m not going to work for it” attitude regarding mobility work and more often than not, rush through stretches post-workout.
Short or tight muscles are more likely to be injured. If you slip and need to catch yourself, misstep, or even neglect a proper warm up, short muscles can get stretched beyond their range of motion and land you with an injury. While the jury is still out on pre-workout stretching, there is little debate that stretching at the end of a workout is beneficial.
For runners, it’s easy to think about the calves, hamstrings, and quads. That’s what you feel most after a run. However, neglected glutes and hip flexors can result in improper pelvic alignment, lower back pain, and decreased stride length. The importance of stretching your hips increases if you sit at a desk all day, effectively immobilizing one of the biggest joints in your body.
3. Foam Roll
Foam rolling is a technique for releasing tight or sore muscles that has made a massive name for itself in the past several years. Previously, foam rolling and sports massage was reserved for elite athletes with trainers. Now, it’s common to find a mat and a stack of foam rollers in the corner of the average gym.
Foam rolling involves using the pressure of your body weight to roll over, well, a foam roll. The resulting therapy is called self-myofascial release, and it breaks up trigger points and tension in muscles. Trigger points are areas of tight muscles that cause pain in another part of the body when they are pushed on; they are commonly referred to as knots.
By putting pressure on an area to break up tight spots, muscles loosen up and become long again. Soft, long muscles mean a lower chance of injury as you’re less likely to push beyond your range of motion or compromise your form.
To foam roll the hips, focus on the glutes and upper leg muscles. Foam rolling the quad and hamstring will help with tight muscles. It’s more common to find trigger points in the glutes. Focusing on the glutes becomes easier by using a tennis or lacrosse ball.
4. Run Smart
Get a workout plan and follow it, for the most part. Moderation and consistency are key for effective training. However, sticking to a plan at the expense of your body will do more harm than good.
Listen to your body and rest when you need to. Now, be clear, I’m not advocating that you stay home from your run every time you feel a little fatigued. Sometimes the runs that are most worth it are the hardest ones to start. There are times, though, when pushing through a twinge is not the best plan.
You’ll continue to get to know your body better as you continue to run, no matter how long you’ve been at it. Listen, and update your training plan as you need to. Skipping your run doesn’t mean you have to skip the workout. There are endless options for low-impact exercises in lieu of your normal run.