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Correcting muscle imbalances helps you avoid injuries and stay on track in your training.
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Running is one of the most effective cardio workouts you can do for total fitness and calorie burn, but it also puts a high demand on your body. Long miles and repetitive motion can lead to muscle imbalances that cause injuries such as tendonitis, iliotibial band syndrome, knee pain and muscle strains or pulls. By understanding your body as a runner, you can learn to correct these imbalances and stay healthy and on track with your training.
Most of your action as a runner takes place in the core and lower body. The more you run, the more you use a few specific muscles involved in the dominant actions. The muscles can become so powerful that their strength proportionately outgrows less active muscles around them, including muscles that work with them to perform the running motion. This creates what is called a muscle imbalance.
When your muscles become imbalanced, the stronger muscles overcompensate for the weaker ones. Because the weak muscles can't match the strength and endurance of the stronger ones, they fatigue more easily and force the stronger muscles to work harder. Over time, the muscles begin to break down under the strain and develop overuse injuries, which are defined by Core Performance as вЂњrepetitive use of joints that are rendered dysfunctional by muscular imbalances.вЂќ
According to Core Performance president and founder Mark Verstegen, roughly 65 percent of both athletic and lifestyle injuries come from overuse. Weak hips, glutes, hamstrings or quads are responsible for iliotibial band syndrome and a number of knee problems. Overused muscles, especially your hamstrings, are also susceptible to inflammation, strains and pulls.
To prevent running injuries caused by muscle imbalances, do targeted exercises to strengthen your weaker muscles. For underdeveloped hips and glutes, do glute bridges, single-leg squats, standing wood-choppers, and lying leg lifts, which work the deeper stabilizing muscles. If you have weak hamstrings, try hamstring curls, which won't cause unnecessary strain to the muscle. Use planks for your abs to engage your entire core, and do supermans to isolate your lower back. Perform these exercises two or three times a week, and consult with your physician before you begin, especially if injuries are severe.