Friday, April 5, 2013

Don't Be Unbalanced!

I don’t know if you know this or not but nearly ALL running injuries are due to muscle imbalances.  It’s true!  What exactly is a muscle imbalance you might ask?  It’s when one muscle is overactive (tight) and an opposing muscle is under active (weak).  Let’s say you are experiencing knee pain, if one muscle is overactive it is tight and pulling on your knee.  In order to fix said imbalance you must not only foam roll,
 massage, use The Stick and stretch
 but you also MUST strengthen the weaker muscles.
I think one mistake a lot of runners make is that they only run!  Running is great, it’s my very favorite thing to do in the whole wide world, BUT if you repeat the same motion over and over again you are risking injury.  I will talk more about cross training another time.  Strength training is imperative to staying healthy and injury free.
In my opinion, which you can take it or leave it, the way to know if a physical therapist is good or not is simply this.  Have they given you a list of stretches and strengthening exercises?  When I had my first running injury the first physical therapist I went to didn’t give me a single stretch or strengthening exercise.   Needless to say I wasn’t getting any better.  I finally gave up on that yahoo and went to a sports medicine doctor.  My first appointment he showed me exactly what muscles needed strengthening and showed me a long list of exercises to do.  He told me to continue doing the exercises I was currently doing during my workouts and told me to add a few of his.  Many of which were things I was already doing but putting more emphasis on my vastus medialis oblique.  Instead of just doing a squat I would squat with a ball between my knees and squeeze my legs together to really work that inner part of my quad.
One easy way to look for imbalances in yourself is to look in the mirror while you work out.  When you squat do your knees go in?  If so, strengthen your glutes and outer thigh.  Do your knees go out?  Strengthen your inner thigh and vastus medialis oblique.  In my case, being a personal trainer, I was constantly watching my form, I was trying to keep good form but didn’t notice that my legs wobbled a bit.  They wanted to go out but I fought it.  Even that small wobble ended up being a big problem for me.
I have always worked with weights and made sure to hit every muscle group equally.  Sometimes certain muscles might need a little more attention.  For the most part when I’m not injured I just try to make sure I hit every muscle at least once.   You don’t want to do a leg work out that only consists of quadriceps   I think a lot of times people think they are working their whole leg but while doing squats they are not activating their hamstrings or glutes.  They aren’t going down far enough and not squeezing their glutes at the top.  We can’t just go through the motions we must concentrate on what we are doing and really activate as many muscles as possible.  Let’s get those glutes firing ;)
I also try to include at least one power exercise in my leg routine.  One example of a great power exercise is the jumping lunge.
To get a well rounded leg workout you don’t have to be a muscle expert.   Make sure in one exercise your quads are burning (aka the front of your upper leg).  In another, your hamstrings are on fire (aka the back of the upper leg).  Your calves want some love too (aka the back of your lower leg).  And PLEASE don’t forget about those glutes.  Please don’t park yourself at the “inner thigh” machine at the gym and think that you are doing yourself a great favor.  Most trainers cringe every time they see someone doing that machine.  There are waaaaay better ways to work your inner/outer thighs than those lame machines.  In fact, you’re much better off sticking to free weights.  A machine locks you into position so you aren't use your stabilizing muscles.   I feel like I’m going off on a bit of a tangent here so I will stop :)
Here is an example of a leg workout for you to try.
Weighted squats, watch your knees!!
Calf raises, hold heavy dumbbells
Hamstring curls using a stability ball
Split leg squat with one foot on a bench, hold dumbbells.  If you want to be super awesome stand on a Dyna Disc.
Weighted step-ups.  Use a bench or something about as high as your knee, hold weights and step up and down.
Lunge jumps.  I like to do 15 on each side.  To really feel the burn pause at the bottom of your lunge for 5 seconds, JUMP switching legs and pause.  Repeat 30 times and your legs will surely be on FIRE!!
I usually do 10-15 reps of each exercise.  
I was planning on doing a vlog for you but I have had this written for months and have yet to do it so if you have questions Dr. Google is very smart ;)  Your welcome!
One other VERY important thing to remember is that you want to vary your workouts from week to week.  Our bodies are magnificent and adapt to what we are doing extremely fast.  I can’t tell you how many people I see doing the exact same workout over and over, week after week.   CHANGE IT UP!  


  1. I love this post, such great information! You converted me to LOVING weight training! I did weights here and there but since we started working out together I love it and have noticed huge differences in my body and running performance. I do so love to run and love running without injuries :) Get those glutes firing!!

  2. Thanks for the post, I love my runs but definitely need to balance it with weights. Great advice...tomorrow it begins!
    Alesha H.

  3. I am a runner and also do yoga regularly to make my body muscles strong and healthy. Of course it can improve our performance.