It’s cold outside, but the sub-zero weather doesn’t keep Canadian runners indoors. Perhaps our ego, and likely our desire to avoid the treadmill completely, means many Canadians brave the weather and continue running outside. We love running and the cold doesn’t change that, but the weather conditions can take a serious toll on our muscles and bodies.
Cold weather and icy sidewalks contribute to the shortening and tightening of our hip muscles, putting us at risk of wiping out on ice. If we’re going to keep running outside, it’s vital we strengthen and lengthen our hip muscles. It’s important to note that just because our hips are tight does not mean that the muscles are strong. To keep ourselves safe we need strong hip abductor muscles, specifically our gluteus medius. Our gluteus medius is responsible for lateral movement and will help keep us balanced and steady on slippery surfaces.
Strong gluteus medius muscles will also help prevent against common running injuries such as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), patellofemoral stress syndrome (PFSS) and plantar fasciitis. To help strengthen your gluteus medius, try half moon.
Half moon pose – strengthens gluteus medius
To perform this pose, begin by facing the wall with both hands on the wall. Slowly lower your hands down the wall as you walk your feet away from the wall. Walk your feet out until your body is in an L shape. Your back should be straight with your hips in line with your hands. Planting your right foot into the ground, lift your left foot off the ground and remove your left hand from the wall. Turn your torso to the left so that your left hip is stacked on top of the right. Flex your left foot and raise your left leg so that it is inline with your torso. You should feel your gluteus medius engage.
When you are able to balance in this position, try moving your right hand to a block on the floor.
Stretching is also imperative to outdoor runners, helping to lengthen those shortened hip muscles. Our hip flexors – a group of muscles – are responsible for lifting our legs towards the torso.
Shortened and tightened hip flexor muscles can alter our running form leading to different hip and back injuries.
Here are two great stretches to help lengthen your hip flexors. Both are static stretches and should be done after your run.
Lunge with bent knee – stretches hip flexors
Begin with your feet together. Take a step back with your right foot about three feet, bend your left knee making sure to keep it in line with your ankle. Place your hands on your hips and shift them up and back while scoping your bum in. As you move your hips, bend your back right leg and draw the quadriceps forward, rocking forward onto your toes.
Semi kneeling stretch – stretches hip flexors
Begin in a kneeling position. Place your left foot on the floor and your hands behind you keeping your hands inline with your shoulders. Lift your hips up and forward.
Hold each of these stretches for 15-20 seconds on each side. Repeat.
Good luck with your winter training and stay safe in the cold.