The fact is the hillier the running course the greater the risk of back injury. If all runners did was run on flat ground, stress on the low back would be significantly reduced. However running is not that simple, see runners are “unique” individuals. When runners see at hill it is a challenge. It makes you stronger, it decreases you race time; it helps you crush a goal. A runner will run a hill, not only once, but several times until the can no longer walk never mind run. If they run it 5 times one week, it is 6 the next. The workouts never get easy, but the milestones get bigger!
For all of you that love your hills you are about to get a healthy dose of your own medicine. Around the bay is hilly. The last ten kilometers are rolling hills with one monster at the end. This can easily leave you in the dust, and cause you drop out of the race. The Around the Bay and Road 2 Hope races bring more low back injuries into the clinic than any other races combined in the year. If you don’t keep a consistent pace, there is a very high risk of that you could suffer the same this year.
Technique is very important. Leaning to far forwards or backwards will increase negative stress on parts of the low back. Keep your back in a neutral position while doing your hill training. A running coach should be able to analyze technique and call for areas of improvement. When running downhill many people use their legs to break, or slow down their speed. This is probably the biggest mistake runners make. Breaking increases the amount of jarring forces through the low back. Allow your legs to move smooth and steady. A small forward lean in your running gait can often be the simple answer.
Strength in both the hips and core muscles also greatly improve your ability to attack hills. The stronger the hips are, the less load is directly placed on the low back. Adding a few simple exercises to your daily routine can help your back become more stable, strong and healthy. Below are some exercises to add to your workout routine. Remember if you suffer from low back pain, get evaluated by a health professional before starting this routine. In next week’s article you be given tips and tricks for the week leading up to race day. You are two weeks until race day, keep it up and you will be across the finish line in no time!!
Superman Slides: Assume a pushup position on the floor. Place a towel under one hand and be sure you are on a floor where the surface allows the towel to slide freely. Maintaining a strong stable pushup position, slide the towel up towards your head, pause for one second and return to the starting position. Perform on both sides 3-5x, take a break and perform twice more.
Hip Hinge: Assume a tall kneeling position with the knees underneath the hips and feet and ankles extending. With your hands on your side, stick the hips back to bend forward as far as you can. Squeeze your hip muscles to return to the starting position. Remember there is a difference between bending at your back and hips. Perform 6-8 repetitions, take a break and perform twice more.
Ex 3: Lie on your back in a comfortable position with both legs flexed at the hip. While holding one leg still, allow the other leg to fall out to the side. Be sure to slowly control it’s descent, while not allowing the hips to rock on the ground. Pause for one second and return to the starting position. Perform 6-8 repetitions per side, take a break and perform twice more. If you have pain in the starting position of this exercise, it is not for you.