Many fitness-conscious men hold a deep admiration for running, whether it's on a treadmill, through a scenic park, or along the open roads. Running often becomes the preferred fitness regimen or even a cherished hobby among men, primarily due to the exhilarating rush of adrenaline it provides. However, it is an undeniable fact that running is one of the most challenging exercises for maintaining good physical shape. Running exerts simultaneous demands on various parts of the body, including the heart, knees, and muscles. It's crucial to exercise caution while running, as it can be as detrimental as it is beneficial if performed with improper technique. Establishing the right running technique is essential for effectively training muscles and bones to yield long-term benefits.
A 2015 study titled 'Injuries in Runners' highlights that the "most common site of leg injuries is the knee," followed by the lower leg, foot, and upper leg. Less frequent injury locations include the ankle, hip, pelvis, groin, and lower back. The study emphasizes that "poorly perfused tissues, such as ligaments, tendons, and cartilage, are particularly at risk due to their slower adaptation to increased mechanical load."
Therefore, fitness experts emphasize the necessity of preparing the body before embarking on a running routine. This preparation aims to condition the body and build strength to withstand the strain exerted on various body parts, primarily to reduce the risk of injuries. This principle applies to fitness enthusiasts at all levels, including beginners, intermediates, and seasoned runners, as injuries can afflict even the most physically fit individuals. Thus, it is imperative to not only mentally prepare but also physically condition the body for running.
Proper technique not only minimizes the risk of injuries but also prepares the body to support you in achieving your targeted fitness goals. Consequently, certain exercises can be incorporated into the running routine to ensure a smoother and safer experience, reducing the likelihood of injuries, premature fatigue, and breathlessness. Let's explore some of these techniques:
Train Your Glutes
The glutes, often referred to as the hips, play a crucial role in men's daily activities, such as standing and sitting. When engaging in vigorous running, one of the body parts that is immediately affected is the glutes. Therefore, it becomes imperative to condition the glutes before commencing a running routine.
An effective method to strengthen the glutes involves standing on a step with one leg suspended, allowing one side of the pelvis to drop slightly, and then promptly raising it back up using the opposing gluteus medius muscle.
Another vital body part to consider is the knees, which are particularly delicate and prone to longer healing times once injured. Knee injuries can significantly disrupt one's daily life, affecting even routine activities like walking. During running, the knees endure direct impact as they come into contact with the ground, making it crucial to adopt practices that maintain balance and reduce strain on the knees.
One recommended technique is running on your toes, as it helps distribute the pressure more evenly and alleviates stress on the knees.
Incorporating high-knee jumps into your workout routine is a fundamental step for runners aiming to prepare their knees for the upcoming demands of running. This exercise can be executed simply by lifting one knee with the toes pointing forward (not downward) and subsequently alternating with the other knee. During this exercise, one knee remains elevated in the air while the opposite foot remains grounded, allowing for controlled and targeted knee strengthening.
The next critical body part to focus on before starting a running routine is the calf muscles. Strong calves are not only essential for overall health but also contribute to a smoother running experience.
Calf training can be approached either by working on both calves simultaneously or by targeting them individually, depending on personal preference, as both methods yield similar benefits. To work on one calf at a time, you can lift one leg off the ground and slowly raise and lower the other leg that is grounded. Alternatively, to train both calves simultaneously, stand on a step with your toes on the edge and move your heels up and down. This exercise effectively conditions the calf muscles, reducing the risk of cramps and muscle strains during running.
Resistance Band Running
This technique is primarily designed for intermediate-level trainers who possess sufficient strength to work against gravity. It serves as an excellent exercise for promoting knee health, building resistance, and enhancing overall leg strength. To perform this training technique, you'll need a readily available resistance band.
Here's how to execute it: Attach the resistance band either around your waist or thighs, and secure the other end of the band to a sturdy object. In a gym setting, you can use a machine for this purpose, whereas in an outdoor environment like a garden, you can use a free weight or bench as an anchor point. Position yourself at a distance from the machine, tree, or bench where the resistance band is anchored, and then gradually initiate a series of backward lunges.
This exercise effectively challenges your leg muscles while incorporating resistance from the band, contributing to improved leg strength, knee stability, and overall fitness.
Written by: Bhawana Anand
Edited by: Aniket Joshi