Despite running for about 25 years, I had a light bulb moment not long ago - you don't become a better runner by just running. Training includes developing and maintaining strength and stability.
Runners get injured a lot! While millions of people improve their physical and mental well-being through running, research found that up to 50% of regular runners are injured each year. Some injuries are caused by a specific incident (such as twisting your ankle on a kerb) but most are due to the overuse of muscles and other soft tissues that are weak or not 'firing' at the right time. The hip bone's connected to the thigh bone etc etc! and when one part of the kinetic chain is not working well there can be knock-on effects elsewhere. Pain can even develop in healthier stronger muscles and joints because they are overworking to make up for weak or damaged structures.
By adding running-specific exercises to your training programme you will have less injuries and become a more efficient runner. And it's not just your legs either! Runners should target key muscle groups that keep you balanced - lower back, glutes and core (deep abdominals and pelvic floor); quads, hamstrings and calves; and not forgetting shoulders, especially triceps that are crucial for good arm swing.
Have a search on the internet and you'll find a range of exercise suggestions. They don't need to be elaborate or involve lots of fancy equipment. Something as simple as a one-legged squat or heel raise, performed slowly under control, can be challenging and effective. These exercises not only strengthens your calves, thighs and glutes, but improve balance which is essential for efficient running form.
If an exercise feels easy, it wont be doing much good! You need to stress your muscles and joints so they adapt and strengthen or become more stable. Increase the difficulty by doing more repetitions, adding weights or a resistance band. Pick a selection of say 30 exercises and perform 10 of them each session to make things more interesting. If you can, exercise in front of a full length mirror to make sure you are doing what you think you are doing! Listen to music or an audio book while you're exercising, but dont forget to really focus on the exercise.
Group classes like Yoga and Pilates are great for strengthening core muscles and improving joint stability and control. They raise awareness of the importance of coordinating breathing with exercise and good body alignment.
Struggling with an injury or rehabilitation? Come and see one of our specialist physios at http://www.physio-form.co.uk/