“The knee accounts for about half of all running injuries,” says Robert Gillanders, a physical therapist specialising in sports and spinal injuries. “But knee problems are usually indicative of a weakness in the hips, glutes, and core.
If those areas aren’t solid and able to stabilise you as your foot strikes, your knees take the brunt.”
Gillanders is a fan of simple exercises you can do anywhere; here are four of his favourites that will downsize your risk of knee – or any other – injury from running.
Targets: Glute strength, hip-stabilising muscles, plus it opens hips.
- Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart, arms out to the side.
- Engage your core and lift your hips up; if your back hurts, don’t raise your hips as high.
- Focus on squeezing your glutes to hold your hips up.
- Hold for a count of 5, then slowly lower and repeat 10 times.
- Work up to two sets of 15.
Up the challenge: With your hips up, ‘march’ by lifting one foot a few centimetres off the ground. Don’t let your pelvis move. Lower and alternate. Work up to three sets of 30 reps.
Targets: Hip rotators and core.
- Lying on your left side, stack your legs on top of each other and bend both knees 90 degrees.
- Rest your head on your extended left arm.
- Bracing your core muscles and keeping your ankles glued together and your hips facing forward, raise your right knee 15 to 20 centimetres off your left.
- Slowly lower.
- Do two sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Up the challenge: Rest on your hands and knees and engage your core. Raise one leg, knee bent, directly out to the side. Again, keep your pelvis and lower back as still as possible. Do two sets of 10.
- On your hands and knees, engage your core.
- Reach your left leg straight back as you extend your right arm forward.
- The goal is to keep your lower back stable; if need be, lay a foam roller or dowel across your lower back; it shouldn’t move as you raise your limbs.
- Hold for a count of five, then lower.
- Repeat on opposite side to complete one rep.
- Do 10 total.
Up the challenge: Do 10 reps on one side without touching the ground.
Targets: Glute strength and balance.
- Anchor a circular Thera-Band to a stable object, then put your right foot into it and wrap it around the ankle.
- Pretend you are standing in a clock; you are now facing 12:00.
- Stand on your left foot with your core strong and glutes engaged, and pull your right foot back to 6:00.
- Do 20 reps, trying not to let your right foot touch the ground. Then turn 90 degrees to the right, so you’re facing 3:00.
- Pull your right foot to 6:00 again, for 20 reps.
- Go 90 more degrees to face 6:00, and raise foot forward for 20 reps.
- Finally, face 9:00 and aim for 6:00 again for 20 reps.
- Repeat on the other side.
Up the challenge: Do the same set of exercises standing on a folded towel, cushion, or other slightly unstable surface.