Is Your Body Ready for Running?
So, you’re all set to start a running program – you’ve got the gear, the hamstring stretches, and those crazy-expensive anti-blister socks. But before hitting the pavement, have you considered if your body is ready for the high-impact exercise that is running? Running isn’t just about endurance; you need strength for injury-free running. That’s why it’s essential to perform a strength test to determine if you’re ready to start running. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through.
Start by going for a brisk 10-minute walk to get your heart rate going and loosen up your muscles.
The Strength Test
To perform the strength test, you will need a few things:
1. An exercise mat.
2. A timer.
3. A step stool or any other raised surface for better grip.
Perform each exercise below for one minute, in the order listed.
1. Forward Lunge, Knee Up
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward with your right foot, then sink down into a lunge. From this lunged position, push up on your right leg and bring your left leg forward into a knee-up. Step your left foot back to where it started and sink into the lunge again. You should feel this exercise in your right hip and right glute. If you are feeling it in your quadriceps or experiencing any knee pain, focus on keeping your knee behind your toe as you lunge and your right knee turned slightly outward to engage your gluteal muscles. After one minute on one side, rest, and switch sides.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hop just slightly above the ground. There’s no need to go super high; just a slight hop will do.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stick your rear back, keep your chest up, and sit back like you’re going to sit in a chair. You should feel this exercise in your gluteal muscles. Strong gluteal muscles are essential for injury-free running, so if you can’t keep the proper form, you likely aren’t ready to run yet. Until you’re stronger, you can hold onto a steady object (e.g., a chair, the back of the couch, etc.) to give yourself some stability while mastering this move.
4. Football Feet
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Shuffle your feet up and down quickly. Move to the right, to the left, or stay in the middle. The goal is to keep moving.
5. Bird Dog Crunch
Start on all fours on your exercise mat. Tighten your core and make your back flat. Tuck in your left arm as you bring your right leg toward your stomach into a crunch motion while keeping your back flat. Then, extend your arm back out to be straight while you also straighten your leg. After a minute on one side, switch sides and repeat the exercise.
6. Side V-Up
Lie down on your right side with your right arm straight in front of you. Lean slightly back on your butt, keep your legs straight and crunch up, making a V, then come back down. After 30 seconds, rest and switch to the other side.
7. Side Plank
Lie down on your right side with your legs straight out. Stack your left foot on top of your right foot. Rise up onto your right elbow, while keeping your feet stacked on top of each other and your body in a straight line. After 30 seconds, rest and switch sides.
8. Plank Dog
Start in a plank position. Your body should be in a straight line. Press back into downward dog (i.e., making an upside-down V with your body) and bring back one of your hands to touch the opposite shin. Go back into plank, on the next downward dog, and switch arms.
9. Bridge Kicks
Lie on your back. Place your feet on the floor, a couple of inches from your butt. Tighten your core and raise your butt off the floor. Keep your butt tight while you lift your legs one at a time. If your butt’s dropping, tighten it up; it needs to be level.
10. Side Steps
Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Stick your butt back and go into a squat, keeping your chest raised. If you can’t see your feet, you aren’t sitting back far enough. You should be able to wiggle your toes. Once you’re in a good position, step to the side while holding this position for 10 steps (or as far as your living room will allow), then go back. Think about keeping your nose level as you move across the floor.
11. Heel Raises
Stand with legs shoulder-width apart and feet facing straight ahead. Rise up onto the balls of your feet, lift one foot, and sink down slowly onto the foot still on the ground. Focus on bringing your arch to the floor last. After one minute on one side, rest, and switch sides.
12. Mountain Climbers
Start in a plank position. Your butt should be in alignment with your back and shoulders. Alternating knees, bring each knee into your chest in a quick motion, like you’re climbing rapidly up a mountain. Keep your butt aligned and don’t let it pop up.
So, how did you do? Were you able to perform each of the 12 exercises for one minute, while maintaining great form, without having to take breaks? If you completed the test successfully, congratulations, you’re ready to start your running program.
But if you struggled through these exercises or needed frequent breaks, don’t worry. Keep doing this strength test up to five times a week and continue building your strength until you can complete the exercises with excellent form. Once you can, you can feel confident as you head out the door and begin your running program.
Starting a running program is an excellent way to get in shape, boost your energy levels, and relieve stress. However, before you start pounding the pavement, make sure your body is ready for the challenge. Performing a strength test is a great way to determine if you’re strong enough to start running successfully. By following the exercises listed above and practicing them regularly, you’ll build the necessary strength to run injury-free and achieve your fitness goals. So lace-up, hit the pavement, and enjoy the miles ahead!