Squatting for Runners
Running is a popular activity and one of the simplest to pick up if you’re starting off on your fitness journey. However, one thing that you’re not told is how tough it can be on your body if you aren’t conditioned properly. There is a study out there that states 50 percent of runners who begin running end up with an injury. Does this mean that running is bad for you? No. It simply means that these individuals aren’t preparing their body correctly for the trail. There is one exercise that can help prepare your body for running: squats!
I’m going to explain in more detail why the squat is so essential and what benefits it will have for you and how you can get started today!
When I suggest that runners should squat, I sometimes get a weird look wondering how that could help them with their running performance. Squats are one of the best exercises to assess an individual’s mobility, stability and strength. It’s an exercise that is very natural to the human body since we’ve been squatting since infancy so if we start to lose that function then we’ll find pains and aches are inevitable.
Lets first look at the mobility aspect of the squat. When our joints are stiff and are unable to move in the range of motion for which they were designed, other joints and structures are recruited to complete the motion and provide stability. For example, if your hip is very immobile, and you go to swing your leg back your lower back will extend to make up for the lack of mobility in the hips. This will cause excessive extension in your lower back and lead to pain and dysfunction. As you can see, if one structure is not working properly then many other issues can arise.
Next, let’s look at the stability factor of the squat. If you are unstable in a squat while both feet are planted on the ground, then that will lead to issues with your running. But how?! It’s simple. When you squat you have both legs on the ground but running is technically a single legged sport, since when you’re swinging one leg forward the other leg is being used to stabilize on the ground. Having the correct stability in that leg can cause too much shearing force on the knee. When proper stability is established the body can then engage the right muscles to help the individual run faster, easier and with a minimized risk of overuse injury.
Lastly, let’s look at the strength aspect of the squat. What many runners don’t know is that to have strength endurance, they must first have strength to endure. Performing heavy weight training with runners not only significantly increases their endurance but also helps strengthen the correct muscles to better stabilize the joints as they run. Neglecting resistance training can lead to a huge gap of progress that the runner is missing out on when compared to a runner who regularly lifts weights.
Now that you know all about the benefits of squatting and how it can help you, what should you do next? First you should get to squatting and see how it feels to your body. Does it feel smooth and fluid or stiff and restricted? If your feeling stiff and restricted, I’d recommend you start off squatting into a chair then progressing to a lower surface. Next watch your knees and they should point in the same direction as your toes. If you’re a bit confused on how it should look, then let me know if you are interested in a neuromuscular assessment to see what areas need to be improved, both from a mobility and strength stand point. Message me HERE and we’ll figure out a date and time that works best for you.