What if you could SWAG your way into an injury-free season?
(scientific wild-ass guess)
Obviously, making decisions informed by the literature, research recent, etc...
Would you be in?
Meet the Injury Screen.
In your case, a running prehab injury screen.
And it only takes 5mins to run yourself through it.
Ready? Let's dive in!
*disclaimer: running research has limitations. we don't know 100% what causes running injuries or exactly how to prevent them. but....we can make some scientific guesses ;) )
3 TEST SCREEN
These are meant to be quick, pass-or-fail tests.
Trust your body and trust yourself when you answer:
Does this feel equal right vs left?
Does one side feel easier vs more wobbly?
Why these tests?
Side Sitting: assess your end range hip rotation (external and internal) mobility on both sides.
Studies have found that tight hip joints and limiting tight hip flexors will slow you down! And…set you up for potential future injuries and hip pain.
does one hip feel different than the other? Tighter, unable to get into the position, or just plain stuck?
This is a sign you *probably* need to work on your hip mobility to avoid: hip flexor strains, painful hip joints as mileage and speed work increases, and knee pain.
1/2 Kneeling Tandem Balance Test: assess your single leg balance (a MUST for running!) and your glute strength and activation
Very RECENT research has shown that glute strength for runners is not only important, it's a MUST!
The catch: don’t assume just because you "fail" this test, that your glutes are weak.
The HIDDEN truth: your glutes *might* actually strong, but they need the right exercise to activation that strength and turn up the volume (don't worry; I'll show you how-keep reading!)
did you immediately fall over on one side? Or did it feel pretty equal but VERY wobbly? Or maybe you were rock steady on both sides?
If you struggled on both sides or flopped over on only one, take this as your sign that your glutes could use a little TLC to avoid: shin splints, hip flexor strains and pains, runner's knee, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis. Not to mention, you'll be a stronger, faster runner
Standing Toe Grab: assess your hamstring flexibility, single leg balance, core coordination
This is a spin-off of a PT favorite "but make it running": a straight leg raise. The catch here: your knee DOES NOT have to be straight!
could you maintain your balance on one leg without falling over? Did you feel like you had to hunch over to grab your toes? Were your hamstrings holding you captive and protesting loudly?
This test is jam-packed with nuance, so at the bare minimum, pay attention to the question prompts above!
If you found it difficult to complete this test correctly, you could *probably* benefit from some full body core-sequencing and running specific glute activating exercises to free up those hammies and keep your single leg balance strong.
Why? Because who wants a hamstring strain or even low back pain to stop them mid-season?
Let these be FAST. Even fun ;)
When to use them: a pre-run or race warm up
Circuit: 2-3 rounds
90-90 or shin boxes: 10 secs
Focus: hip mobility
Plank high knee hip swivels: to fatigue
Focus: glute activation, single leg balance and strength, upper and lower body disassociation
Backwards bear crawl: 5 yrds x2
Focus: glute and hamstring activation, hamstring elongation, upper and lower body sequencing
Plank to sprinter floor push alternating sides: x5 ea side
Focus: glute, single leg strength activation, single leg balance, running sequencing
Why THESE exercises?
Can you see how these look like running?
(ok, all of them except maybe the bear crawl…we'll get to this one)
All of these exercise give your body a preview of coming attractions by focusing on
Single leg balance
Glute activation and strength
Upper body and core strength
And something we've only just touched on…lower vs upper body dissociation (how well you can move your shoulders in a different direction than your hips)
The BOTTOM LINE:
you need ALL of these to run injury free, stronger, faster, and better than you've ever done yet. Not to mention, when you can pass these tests, when you are rock solid with all of them, you risk for injury is much, much lower.
WHY the bear crawl?
You might have noticed: there's been a lot trending hub-bub surrounding hamstring strength for runners.
And while glute bridges and all it's variations are great exercises, does anyone else cramp up or feel it in their back?
I wanted to give you an alternative that at least begins to wake up your hamstring in an isometric and an elongated way.
What is upper vs lower body disassociation and why do I care as a runner?
Imagine a headlamp on your running hat. It probably bounces a little out in front of you but generally stays in one place.
Now imagine another lamp on your "belt buckle". Probably stays generally out in front of you, but it's going to move a lot more, right?
With both of those lamps strapped on, now imagine how different those beams of light would look if you were sprinting down the 100m straightaway on a track. The two beams *should* be moving in two different directions.
As you run faster, your body coils and uncoils like a powerful spring to create speed, powering you down a straight away or just across the finish line.
Have you ever noticed how a sprinter looks both strong and fluid while maybe the teenage kid in your neighborhood likes a stiff wooden board?
The difference is the "coiling".
So not only is the hip swivel a great core exercise, it'll also help you get faster ;)
READY TO SEE YOUR PROGRESS?
If you're new here, we test and re-test.
If you've been here a while, then you already knew this was coming.
Go ahead and do the exericses above for 2 rounds.
And then come back and repeat those 3 tests from the beginning.
What did you notice?
Was anything easier? More stable? Did you begin to feel more equal side to side even if things weren't perfect yet?
Over time and with practice, you should be able to pass these tests on the first try. In this case, you might not even need to do your prehab warm up circuit (unless you want to!)
Prehab doesn't have to be a bore.
And it doesn't have to take hours on end.
It should be running-specific, dynamic, and leave you feeling stronger, not exhausted.
Remember: you run only as good as your prehab.
And…especially if you're a high mileage runner, regularly logging 50-100+miles a week.
These are ONLY 4 exercises, spread over maybe 5 minutes…compared to HOURS of running!
Don't skimp on your prehab!
While you might not need these specific exercises anymore as a running warm up, it's always better to prehab problem areas before they become a nuisance and you miss out on 4 weeks of training.
Had Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, peroneal tendonitis or any other foot-it is in the past? Then use my Stronger Feet Workshop as your fool-proof foot prehab.
Or maybe you're keeping your fingers crossed hoping that you can skip the aching hip pain, tight hip flexors, unrelenting hamstrings, runner's knee, and lazy runner glutes this season? You'll probably want to use my Stronger Glutes Workshop as prehab to avoid all those!
And as always running fit fam…
Dare to Train Differently,
Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit
Alberto Encarnación-Martínez , Roberto Sanchis-Sanchis , Pedro PérezSoriano & Antonio García-Gallart (2020): Relationship between muscular extensibility, strength and stability and the transmission of impacts during fatigued running, Sports Biomechanics, DOI: 10.1080/14763141.2020.1797863
Konrad, A., Močnik, R., Titze, S., Nakamura, M., & Tilp, M. (2021). The Influence of Stretching the Hip Flexor Muscles on Performance Parameters. A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 18(4), 1936. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041936
Mettler, J., Shapiro, R., & Pohl, M. (2019). Effects of a Hip Flexor Stretching Program on Running Kinematics in Individuals With Limited Passive Hip Extension. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 33(12), 3338-3344. doi: 10.1519/jsc.0000000000002586
Pinheiro, L. S., Ocarino, J. de, Bittencourt, N. F., Souza, T. R., Souza Martins, S. C., Bomtempo, R. A., & Resende, R. A. (2020). Lower limb kinematics and hip extensors strengths are associated with performance of runners at high risk of injury during The modified star excursion balance test. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, 24(6), 488–495. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bjpt.2019.07.011
Teichmann, J., Burchardt, H., Tan, R., & Healy, P. (2021). Hip Mobility and Flexibility for Track and Field Athletes. Advances In Physical Education, 11(02), 221-231. doi: 10.4236/ape.2021.112017