England Athletics Coach Jemma Arbon shares some exercises to help keep you in condition during lockdown
So you’ve started your Couch to 5k in lockdown and you are seeing progress, perhaps you’ve even downloaded Strava and are tracking your activities. Well what next? Yes you could progress to a C210k program, but now is the perfect time to introduce some strength and conditioning that is going to benefit your running and help keep you injury free.
These aren’t really just tips for runners either. Have you ever really considered that squats are exactly the movement you perform when you are going to the toilet? (TMI?) Anyone who has ever had a lower back injury or suffers from sciatic pain will tell you how much you can be affected by losing that simple function.
These tips can be added at any time of the day, 20 toe taps while the kettle boils, heel rises while brushing your teeth or squats while you are waiting for the bath to run. Or save this post and set a reminder to get them all done before getting dressed for the day, no fancy equipment necessary.
1. Toe Taps – When we are running we are essentially performing a repetition of a hop from one leg to the other many times over, so working on balance and the strength of one leg at a time is important. Toe taps are going to help fire the hip flexors and are a great drill to perform during your warm up for a run. You can perform this one holding onto a counter top or the back of a chair and progress to balancing yourself over time.
* Standing with feet together, hands on hips we are going to raise one foot so that the toe is lightly touching the floor.
* From this position you are going to lift the knee so that you can comfortably touch the inside of the knee with the opposite hand.
* Try to ensure the toes of the foot are lifting to the ceiling so you end up with a right angle at the hip, knee and ankle.
* You will then lower the leg to the toe to barely touching the floor before repeating with the same leg. Try for 10 on each leg. When progressing move up in sets of 10 and continue to alternate.
2. Squats – Squats are a classic exercise that are in every workout program for a reason! Learning a squat that uses body-weight helps you master the hip hinge movement, using the power through your body that is going to convert to energy in every stride of your runs. It also works almost all your major muscle groups.
* Stand with your hips slightly wider than hip width apart, toes slightly turned out where it feels natural and arms at your sides.
* Tighten your tummy (abdominal) and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you push your hips back and bend your knees as if lowering onto a chair.
* Bend your elbows and bring your palms together in front of your chest (I like to envision I am praying for a nice bottom!)
* Try keeping your weight in the heels for the movement so you should be able to wiggle your toes at the bottom of the movement if you wanted.
Start with 10 repetitions a day for the first week and work up to the age of your next big birthday! (I’m sitting on 40 at the moment but I only have a few weeks till I have to start on 50 a day!)
3. Heel Rises – For those of us who ever took ballet as a child, rising up to our tip toes was something we did often, but as adults it’s something we just stop doing. As you run, your foot will go through the full range of motion as you push off the ground ready to do the next step. So getting some power from that action is only going to help, right? This exercise is one you can start doing focusing just on the balance, and then I suggest adding it while brushing your teeth. For one it will get you doing it twice a day, and the upper body movement of your brushing action will cause an additional challenge to your balance and stability.
* Start with your feet hip width apart on a flat surface. Having your hands on your waist or lightly resting on a stable surface might help you to start with.
* Imagine a helium balloon attached to your hair which is going to lift you up through the spine and eventually lift your heels off the floor until you are on your tip toes.
* Then lower the heels back down to the floor as slowly as you went up, the key is fluidity and progress will show in the form of no wobbles. Aim for 10 heel rises.
* You can progress this movement once you have mastered two feet by lifting one foot off the floor before you start.
4. Glute Bridge – This can help mobilise the hip joint and strengthen the glutes, which is often an area of our body that isn’t as active as it should be, even in runners. This helps you engage your core too and focus on the alignment of your spine.
* Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor about a hand-span apart. Keep your arms by your side for stability.
* Squeeze your glutes and abdominals and push through your heels to lift your hips a few inches off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
* Hold for two seconds and then return to the starting position. To improve, do more reps or hold for longer at the top. I recommend starting with two sets of 10 repetitions.
5. Reverse Lunge – I have already mentioned about training the body’s ability to do single leg movements. By changing your base of support with each repetition on a reverse lunge, you’ll train more than just your glutes and quads, but you’ll be firing up your core and balance throughout. Reverse lunges are typically easier on the knees and you can perform them holding on to a counter top and then progress to doing them without holding on.
* Stand with your feet together with your hands by your sides, on your hips or holding a stable surface.
* Step back about two feet with your right foot, landing on the ball of the foot keeping your heel off the floor. Engage your bottom and core and bend your knees slowly as you lower your right knee to the floor. The left knee should stay over the top of your left foot.
* Push though the heel of your left foot to bring your right foot back to the starting position. I prefer to swap legs after each repetition but you may choose to do 10 on one leg before swapping to the other side.
For more tips and advice follow Jemma on Instagram @kokoandkind or join her VIP group here where many of her brand ambassadors share tips on health, fitness and activewear.
Jemma Arbon is an England Athletics Coach and mum of three. She coaches endurance running and jumps in Nottinghamshire, under-11s up to the young at heart and still competes herself. Jemma sits on the Regional Council for England Athletics and recently was runner-up in the National Volunteer Awards. Jemma’s background in dance and movement has led to a lifelong love of kinaesthetic analysis of movement. She has recently set up an active wear line focusing on supporting runners in function, fit and fabulous prints @koko+kind.