4 strength training exercises to help you avoid winter running injuries

Winter is a tough time to run outside, especially if you are far enough north like we are in Stockholm and experience snow and ice on the ground. It is also a time when vulnerabilities in muscle strength can be exposed, and injuries can occur.

For me, running last winter was the trigger of ITB problems and knee pain, leading to a frustrating period without running and extended rehabilitation. My physiotherapist suggested that the extra muscle stability required for running on slippery surfaces combined with my pre-existing muscular weaknesses and imbalances contributed to this injury.

Throughout the last year I have been reading widely on the best strength exercisers for running, and have been improving my leg and core strength in the hope to safeguard against future injuries. There are literally hundreds of potential exercisers you can do to improve strength, and if you have particular areas of muscle weakness you should focus on strengthening those, but for those who want some general exercisers to safeguard against typical running injuries, what should you do?

Here are four exercisers I would suggest adding into your weekly training program or including in your warm-up, whether you have been injured or not. I should note that some of these are not easy, and starting on two legs rather than one is a good idea if you have not done a lot of strength training before. However running is performed on one leg at a time, so eventually you need to be stable and strong with only leg on the ground.

1. One legged squats

What are they good for?

  • Gluteus (buttock) and hip strength, balance and lateral stability.

Here is James Dunne from Kinetic Revolution to show you the correct technique for a one-legged squat. The knee moving inwards is the classic sign of poor control and weak glutes.

2. STATIC lunges / SPLIT SQUATS

What are they good for?

  • Hamstring and glutes (buttock), core strength

Here is an instructional video on how to perform a static lunge from StrideUK. You can also do this exercise with a slightly narrower back foot extension. Try and have both knees at 90 degree angles at the bottom of the lunge.

3. SINGLE leg bridge

What are they good for?

  • Glutes (buttock), hamstring (working leg) and quadriceps (raised leg), core

Instructional video courtesy of Howcast. Concentrate on squeezing your glutes and ensure you protect your back by engaging your core.

4. Side plank with straight leg lift 

What are they good for?

  • Obliques, hip strength and stability

Here is an instructional video from fitnessblender.com. Make sure you are aligned properly, as the tendency is to allow your hips to tilt outwards (or inwards) to make the leg lift easier.

These are four of my favourite strength training exercisers, and all can be performed using only your bodyweight, meaning they can be performed anywhere, anytime.

For most runners staying injury free is one of the biggest challenges, so don´t wait until your body breaks down before you start including strength training in your weekly routine.