Strength and Conditioning

It has been a major goal of mine this year to work on developing my stability and resilience to injury – obviously to little avail so far. But I hope that if I continue to do thing right I should see improvements in my running form and helping me to go faster with less effort.  The basis of my approach is to teach my body to utilise all the muscles in and around my core. I have broken this into 3 parts focussing on core strength, spine stabilisation, and leg conditioning. I have been working on these areas in the gym with Mike Adams which as well as being a very new training experience is also extremely interesting.

My core routines are very ab-based mainly because I have the tendency to allow my pelvis to rotate forwards and having stronger abs should help me to pull the front of my pelvis up. Another major component to having a strong core is the obliques which are used for bending your torso sideways and help to hold your body inline and upright while running. This is one of the weakest parts of my running and I struggle to hold a straight line through my torso especially when in terrain. At times I can be seen to ‘snake’ through the air which is quite funny to watch once you notice it! Having a weak core can be a major problem in orienteering because the lack of stability in uneven ground means you have to work much harder to provide a significant amount of forwards movement.

Obliques labelled on the left and abs labelled on the right

 The spine stabilisation routine looks similar to core but focusses on supporting the spine, and hence upper body, through a wide range of motion and from every direction. This requires exercises to target specific muscles in around the top of the pelvis, up the middle of you back, and muscles on the side of your torso including internal obliques and muscles over the side of the rib cage. Initially this 20 minute session was the cause of days and days of pain as it was working some seriously underdeveloped muscles. But I have made some great improvements, and I feel much more in control of my posture.

My conditioning for running routine takes about 27 minutes to do 3 cycles. The 4 main parts focus on abductors, adductors, hamstrings, and quadriceps.  Abductors and Adductors are generally stabilisation muscles and are used to maintain a correct skeletal alignment so that prime movers like hamstrings and quads function optimally. Below I am using my adductors to pull my legs together against the resistance of the weight. To work my abductors I would have the weight on my right foot while trying to move it away from my body with the weight pulling my feet together.

Simple adduction exercise at the gym

 The first step in the quadriceps exercise is to pull your knee up with your hip flexors

Knee up

 Then to straighten your leg using your quads before releasing slowly.

Foot out

 The hamstring exercise is again very simple. This is the heel up version. Pulling your foot backwards without lifting it far above the ground activated your glutes more.

Heel up

Once you have a basic understanding of how muscles function it becomes very clear how to exercise specific muscle groups. An important point to be very clear on is that these are small weights as some of the muscles used are quite small and can be easily overloaded as I found out with my TFLs. This session is about muscle activation and reminding your body how to use such muscles. I expect that in the long run I will become a much more biomechanically sound athlete and reduce the risk getting injured.

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