Dr. Jamieson is a Chiropractor located in Edmonton, Alberta. His emphasis is on sports Chiropractic and is a certified Active Release Technique provider.
What to do when running season wraps up and the vast majority of running events have concluded, it’s common for most runners to pull back on their mileage. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as quite often our bodies can use a bit of a break from the past 4-6 months of repetitive beating they take from running. That being said you also don’t want to lose all of the gains that you achieved throughout the running season by just stopping all activity.
I see countless runners in the spring that have emerging aches, pains and injuries from trying to start running at the levels they ended at the year prior. So the question becomes, what can you do to keep the gains that you’ve worked so hard for?
A big part of the offseason should be cross training. It should actually be a big part of the running season as well, but with a finite amount of free time cross training often gets pushed to the back burner in favour of a good run. Cross training consists of strengthening accessory muscle groups to help support the primary muscles you use for your primary activity (in this case running). Running is a very linear sport, which can lead to some significant muscle imbalances. It’s quite common to see knee, ankle and hip issues arise due to lack of strength or even a simple lack of activation, of the muscles that control our lateral/side-to-side movements. As these muscles become more balanced, it can actually improve running performance as you remove the rate limiting step that’s stopping you from going further, faster. A big emphasis of cross training for runners is working the gluteus medius and minimus muscles that are responsible for the lateral control of the hip and leg. These can be achieved with exercises such as glute bridges, single leg squats, side lunges, etc. The problem is a lot of people, especially runners, can find these exercises to be a little boring and monotonous, and not give the same sweat and stress reduction that a good run does.
A great way to still get the benefits of cross training in a more active and fun environment is Barre classes. The small isolated motions that these classes combine with some sweat producing anaerobic cardio can help strengthen the lateral hip muscles while aiding in maintaining some of the cardio gains you’ve achieved during the summer months. A portion of the class is done standing on one leg, which is one of the best ways to train running as you are always supported by only one leg on a run. This helps build endurance and proper joint biomechanics that have a huge benefit on running. I have talked with a number of runners who have simply worked Barre classes into their weekly run schedule and have had improvements in run time with less injury issues. Another benefit of these classes is they work the whole body, including the arms and shoulders, areas that really don’t get any work with running. That being said it is still important to keep up some of the aerobic cardio that you worked on all running season. This typically involves hitting the treadmill, indoor running track, or bundling up and facing the cold outdoor run. Mixing the cross training with some intermittent runs can go a long way towards keeping your fitness up so that come spring it takes no time at all to get back to the levels you’re at right now, and allows you to keep increasing your running performance to new heights.
Dr Lanny Jamieson D.C All Sport Health