Alpine Physical Therapy: To Stay Injury Free, Stay Balanced

sm-apt_horizontal-logoMay is the month things start to ramp up. Race season is not right around the corner, it’s here. The Missoula Mile is on Sunday May 31. This is a great race to kick out the kinks and see where you’re lining up with your speed work. Not to mention a great fundraiser for local treatment and screening of prostate cancer. Coming in hot after that is the local favorite the Pengelly Double and Single Dip. If elevation is your thing, this is your race. The Double Dip was recently featured in Outside Magazine. The race boasts elevation gains of 2700 ft in a little over a 1/2 Marathon. The race is in memory of Dave Pengelly and supports Missoula Youth Homes. This is a really exciting month and the weather has been cooperating this spring. That all being said, don’t just kiss the gym or your exercises goodbye. Race season does mean a decrease in time allocated to strength and stability as you increase your sport specificity, but it does not mean you can check out until next winter. To stay injury free this season, stay balanced.

This month Matt and I will continue taking you through complementary exercises specific for runners.  Once again the videos will be linked to a Youtube page for you to view as needed. Our brief introductory is below and further information will be on the Youtube page.

The Hip Bridge: I love the hip bridge. This is a great exercise for you to work on isolated movement pivoting at the hip joint and stabilizing the pelvis and the core. Great for the glutes. The whole back side will fire, but when performed correctly you will get a good burn in your bum. Getting a burn in your hamstrings? Try and move your heals closer to your body and focus on a sold core. Feel it in your back? Take your pelvis into a slight posterior pelvic tilt (like tucking your tail) and see if that helps. When you watch Matt doing the exercise take note of his trunk up to his head. It moves as a unit. He doesn’t leave his head and neck resting on the bench. This would cause movement in the spine and that is not what we are going for here. Beginners can start with 2 sets of 10-15; more advance people can start with 3 sets of 15 and add weight across the pelvis as needed. These can be done 2 times per week.

Back Lunge: We are choosing the back lunge over the forward lunge to keep your body weight from traveling forward. The front leg is the working leg and the back is your kickstand. A wide stance is fine at first as you work on your stability. Step back keeping your pelvis level and square. Your back knee, hip and shoulder should be in a straight line. You can also get a nice hip flexor stretch as a bonus if done correctly. Feel free to stand next to a wall or use a pole to help with stability until you get the movement down. This is a great exercise for hip, quad, core and dynamic balance. Beginners can start with 2 sets of 10-15; more advance people can start with 3 sets of 15 and add hand weights as needed. These can be done 2 times per week.

Single Leg Stance Balance: EVERYONE needs this exercise. Balance is so important for runners and very under-trained. To successfully train balance it is important to challenge all systems required for balance. Standing with your eyes closed and your eyes open helps with this process. If you don’t want to do this exercise in the gym, do it at home. I tell a lot of my patients to do it while they are brushing their teeth. If the exercise is easy with eyes open and eyes closed try turning your head right to left or standing on an uneven surface. The goal here is 30-60 seconds without a loss of balance.

Monster Walks: This is a classic exercise for runners. It challenges the hips, core and quads. It is also really easy to perform incorrectly. If you are swaying side to side use a lighter band! You are missing the point. The little muscles are being overridden by the big muscles and you have lost the ability to maintain a stable core and disassociate the hip from the pelvis. I tell people if the mirror didn’t show your body below your pelvis it would look like you were floating from left to right. Shoulders should stay level the whole time. Beginners can start with 2 sets of 10-15 side to side; more advance people can start with 3 sets of 15 side to side and increase the thickness of the band as able to perform correctly. These can be done 2 times per week.

Bird Dog: So, last week we did the bird dog prep. I did this on purpose. I wanted you all to make sure that your glute was firing BEFORE you were cleared to lift your leg. It is very common for runners to extend their hip with their hamstring and back. This is often due to a combination of poor motor control and tight hip flexors causing inhibition of the glute muscle. Let’s see if we can get that little glute on board. Remember, it’s not how high you lift the leg, it’s about lifting from the glute and maintaining a stable core. Beginners can start with 2 sets of 10-15; more advance people can start with 3 sets of 15. These can be done 2 times per week.

Happy racing this month! Hopefully all your hard work is paying off!

Jamie Terry, DPT, SCS, CSCS
Matt Schweitzer, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Alpine Physical Therapy Downtown Located in the Peak Health and Wellness Center
150 E. Spruce St. Ste. A
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: 406-549-0064
Fax: 406-543-2999