Running is hard on your body, there is no doubt, and, your body needs to develop the strength and resistance for the miles you put it through. However, putting your body through too many miles without the relative strength, stability and mobility opens you up for injury and, potential, missing your race.
Here is a session I completed with a group of ultra distant runners using body weight movements.
Athletes in Chamonix
Over the last several years, I have had the privilege of meeting a number of top flight runners, climbers, and cyclists coming through my home, Chamonix. One such running super couple is James Poole and Claudi Schroegel. Both James and Claudi are seriously experienced mountain and road runners and a few years ago started an inspiring free running group in London called Advent Running.
Advent Running – now the AR Collective – was created to get people moving in the lead up to Christmas, to counter all the alcohol and mince pies, and to introduce people to the joys of running. The initiative has grown enormously and now is one of the top rated running clubs in London with year round meets, track evenings and events.
Last weekend, a group of them decided they wanted to experience the joys – and pains – of running in the Chamonix valley and so trip out to the world famous Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc was organised and 12 keen runners descended on my local trails. Over the 4 days they clocked up an impressive 80km with thousands of metres of ascent so, come the final day, they were in search of something a little different.
I wanted to introduce them to some strength, stability and mobility exercises that would not only give their tired legs a little rest but also show them ways to work towards injury prevention, stronger running form, and a bit of fun along the way.
My top 3 strength, stability & mobility exercises for trail running
There is so much that could go here but I wanted to highlight 3 body weight exercises that I feel have had the biggest benefit to my body when it comes to long days in the hills be them running, hiking, or climbing.
1) Prying squats – a mobility exerciseThe prying squat is one of the first movements I teach personal training clients and it is a great and simple test to see range of motion and core strength. People often struggle with the concept of how low you are meant to go with this movement but, with a little encouragement, everyone can get down to the bottom.
The prying squat is a deep squat with you butt as close to the floor as possible then prying your knees apart, opening up your hips.
- Take a stance with feet approximately shoulder width apart and lower yourself between your legs.
- Keep your chest up and your back in a neutral position.
- Once down, place your hands together and pry your knees apart with your elbows. Rest here for a short while.
- If you are comfortable down there, then draw a figure of 8 with your butt, mobilising your ankles, knees and hips.
- Come up, shake out, and go again.
2) Single leg deadlifts – a stability exerciseSingle leg deadlifts are a superb way to assess the imbalances that most of us have between our left and right legs. By working on our single leg balance and then building on the strength, we build up the stability in the foot, ankle, knee and hip.
- Move onto your first leg
- Hinge at the hip bringing the back leg up, in line with your torso
- Maintain a neutral spine
- You will feel the tension build up in your hamstring and glute before pulling back through the hip to right yourself again.
- Make sure the whole movement is completed in control, not using any momentum nor swing.
3) Bulgarian split squats – a strength exerciseWhether you have weights or not, the Bulgarian split squat is an awesome movement to make your quads work hard. By only using one leg but using the other for balance, you test the and build the strength of the major muscles – your quads – and build on the stability on your feet, ankles, and knees.
- Place one foot on a bench behind you
- Lower your body directly down, making sure to not let your knees track in front of your toes
- Pause at the bottom
- Squeeze your glutes hard as you drive back up.
A strength, stability & mobility workout for trail running
Here is the workout we did with the AR Collective crew out here in Chamonix. A simple yet effective all round workout for runner.
Warm up – mobility
First, I like to move all of your body parts, each perform for 15-30 seconds:
- Look left and right
- Look up and down
- Tilt your ears to each shoulder, alternating
- Roll shoulders back
- Roll shoulders forward
- Rotate one arm back then the other
- Rotate one arm forward then the other
- Twist thoracic (upper) spine – keeping hips facing forward
- Hip hinges
- Knee bends
- Rotate ankles clockwise
- Rotate ankles anti-clockwise
- Point toes up and down
Warm up – heart rate & movement
Now to start raising the heart rate and priming the movements we will be training.
Between each movement, perform 10 Pop & Stops.
- 2 x 10 body weight squats
- 2 x 5 wall squats – facing the wall, feet dead straight.
- 2 x 5 prying squats
- 2 x 10 ankle bends each side – facing a wall, foot about 4” away, bend knee to touch the wall.
- 2 x 10 hip thrusts – bridge your hips up from a supine position.
- 2 x 10 inch worms – walk your hands out to press up position, and back
- 2 x 5 press ups – chest to the floor
Workout – part 1
The main part of the workout is a strength and stability superset combining the Bulgarian split squat with single leg deadlift.
For 5 rounds, perform:
- 5 Bulgarian split squats – left leg
- 5 Bulgarian split squats – right leg
- 5 single leg deadlifts – left leg
- 5 single leg deadlifts – right leg
Workout – part 2
Core integrity is crucial to running form and so we finished off with a short but challenging core drill. The movement is front leaning rest (FLR), or, to most, press up position. With short sets, the aim is to generate as much tension in the body as possible, pulling the heels of your hands towards your toes, forcing you to fully engage your core and rest of your body.
For 5 rounds, perform:
- 30 seconds hold
- 30 seconds rest
Moving through the whole body, I like to spend a good 5 – 10 minutes stretching at the end of a session.
- Lying, supine hamstring stretch
- Lying, supine glute stretch
- Lying on your side quad stretch
Same on the other side, then:
- Child pose
- Child pose, hands at 9:50 then 2:10 (on a clock)
- Downward to upward facing dog – back and forth
- Downward facing dog calf stretch
- Deltoid stretch
- Tricep stretch
Let me know how you get on!