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Top 3 Exercises for Runners

Top 3 Exercises for Runners

By Lauren Evans


There are no guarantees in sport (in life for that matter), but my top three exercises are as close to a guarantee that you can find to reduce your risk of injury during your running life. The best part is that they will take less than 5 minutes of your day. 


A common theme throughout is that all of these exercises are aimed at flexibility and stability in the hip area. “Happy hips” are increasingly hard to find in today’s inactive culture! Problems with tight hip flexors and a weak core are frequent and their results can be debilitating. Often, immobile hip flexors and a weak core can result in many common injuries today. These include slipped disks, groin injuries, ITBS, and ankle injuries among many others.


I often tell my athletes that “I am counting on them” to complete these exercises 3-7 days per week. As I continue to learn in my coaching career, these exercises have proven increasingly critical in keeping runners’ healthy. 


Do these exercises post-run and once a day for greatest effectiveness. 


Exercise 1 – Deep Lunge

Perform a deep lunge.

 - From a regular stance, step forward up to 3 feet or more and bend your knee into a deep forward lunge. Keep your hips upright, pretending that they are a bowl of water that you cannot let tip. This will very deeply engage your hip flexors. Hold the stretch for 3-30 seconds. Then switch legs. Repeat as many times as possible. 

 - *Note: I’m sorry to break it to you, but you are probably not perfectly symmetrical. Problems like leg length discrepancies, spending many hours in the car, and sitting in an asymmetrical position while working, can cause chronic tightness in one hip flexor while the other remains relatively flexible. It is encouraged to stretch the tighter side more than the other side. The goal is to arrive at an equilibrium, with each side being equally flexible. 


Exercise 2 – Leg Swings

Perform front-to-back and left-to-right leg swings.  

 -Stand upright, facing a wall or fence. Put your hands on the wall in front of you (the wall should be about 2 feet from your feet. Starting with your right leg, raise it just inches in front of you, and, keeping it straight, swing the leg from right to left (like a pendulum). It should remain straight throughout the exercise. As you increase in flexibility, your leg will open to your right to a level on par with your hip, and then swing and rise to your left to equal height. Do this 10 times, then repeat with the left leg. 

 - Next, turn with your entire right side of your body facing the wall. Put your right hand on the wall. Raise your right leg and swing it, keeping it straight, from front to back. Again, it should rise to a height that is on par with your hips as you increase in flexibility. Then, turn with your left side of your body facing the wall, left hand on the wall. Repeat 10 times as you did on the right side. 


Exercise 3 – Plank

Perform a simple plank. Lie with your stomach on the ground. Place your elbows under your shoulders (your head and shoulders will rise to accommodate this movement, with a slight arch in your back occurring; this is often called “cobra pose” in yoga). Now, tighten your hips, thighs, buttocks, and core, and lift your hips in line with your body. Remain very erect in this position. Hold for 30 seconds – 2 minutes (progress up to 2 minutes). Repeat as many times as you have time allows!


With the multitude of research, interpretations, and opinions in running training, it’s rare to come across a recommendation of just three top training exercises to keep you running day-in-day-out. 


Now that you know them, it is your responsibility to do them. This is your assignment: 5 minutes per day, no more than 7 times per week. You can do it! 


See you on the roads…

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