When I met up to run with trainer Andia Winslow at The Chelsea Piers Sports Center in New York City, she was able to take a quick look at my gait and pinpoint my weaknesses almost immediately.
I was guilty of all the muscular imbalances most common among runners: weak glutes, tight hip flexors and hamstrings, sub-par posture. Luckily, she had tons of tricks and tips up her sleeve to help me correct them.
Winslow is a professional golfer, Master Certified Fitness Pro, and founder of The Fit Cycle. As an elite athlete, she has trained with Olympic Hall of Fame Track & Field Coach Brooks Johnson and was talent identified to join the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation in preparation for the Winter Olympics.
As we were warming up I confessed to Winslow: I know I'm supposed to do all of these extra things, it's just a matter of whether or not I make the time for it, and more often than not, I skip the extra stuff and go straight to running.
She says to improve, you don't need to set aside time for extra exercises before and after every single run, though. "If you spend even just 10 minutes a few days each week with these exercises you'll notice a difference," she told me.
The following four exercises that she shared with me are variations of the ever popular glute-strengthening bridge exercise and Winslow says every runner should include them in their strength routine.
"It seems like many runners, just don't train comprehensively. They're under the false assumption that running is the only thing they need to do. But that's not the case. Center of mass— your glutes and hip flexors—development is vital for training and sustained injury prevention when competing at a high level," says Winslow.
1. Standard Bridge
Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms at your sides. Use your glute and core muscles to push your hips up towards the ceiling as high as you can, making sure to keep your core tight at the top of the movement. Lower your hips down slowly and let your bottom hover just above the ground before raising your hips back up. Really make a point to squeeze your glute muscles at the top. Repeat three sets of 10-20 reps.
2. Single-leg Bridge
Again, start lying on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms at your sides. Raise your hips toward the ceiling. Now extend your right knee so that your foot comes off the ground and your leg extends up towards the ceiling, making sure to keep your right thigh parallel to your left. Keep your right leg extended as you use your left to lower your hips back towards the ground, let your bottom hover just above the floor again before using your left leg to raise your hips back up. Repeat for three sets of 10-20 reps on each leg.
3. Marching Bridge
Follow the instructions for the single-leg bridge, but this time instead of repeating reps on a single leg, alternate between your right and left sides for each rep. To simulate a marching motion, flex the elbow opposite of the leg that’s extended so that your hand reaches up towards your ear with each rep. Repeat for three sets of 10-20 reps.
4. Bridge Hold
Follow the instructions for the standard bridge exercise, but instead of lowering your hips back down to the floor, keep them elevated for 30 to 60 seconds. Focus on keeping your glutes and core tight the entire time. Repeat three sets of 10-20 reps.