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Friday, November 18, 2016

Runners (and others) With Weak Butts: Don't Avoid the Hills!

Here's some advice for runners: When you have a weak butt, don't avoid the hills.

A few years ago when I was struggling with ongoing injuries in my left leg, pain in my lower back, hip problems, etc. I was told by a doctor that I just couldn't run up hills anymore. He told me I had to do my long runs on a track or a flat road. 

A flat road?

If you run in Pittsburgh, you'll know how ridiculous that sounds. We don't have flat roads. 

Even super flat races like the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run have little hills here and there, like right before the finish line!  

I've always had IT band issues and having kids didn't help my pelvic region. And I worried I'd be stuck running six, seven, eight miles around tracks. Ugh.

But thanks to some awesome help from coaches, trainers and functional movement specialists, I'm not. And I don't avoid hills anymore. In fact, you can usually find me doing hill repeats once a week in my neighborhood. 

Here I am breathing hard at the top of a hill right around the corner from my house. Not shown is the steeper portion that slopes away farther down the hill. My hill workout when I took this photo was 5x 1:15 minutes up hill followed by 6x :30 uphill followed by 15 minutes of strength. Yep, I worked my butt off.

The best part is, I know my butt is stronger now. When I'm really cruising and running well, I can feel those glutes kicking in and powering me upward and onward.

My coach Anne-Marie schedules hill work and calls it 'speed work in disguise.' She also schedules lots of strength training designed to strengthen my weakest muscles. I asked her to get tough and really pick the top 3-5 strength moves that benefit my weak backside. Here's what she said:
Wow - this is a good question to really narrow it down!  I think there's lots of good ones but here's what comes to mind... 

  • Step-ups 
  • Lateral Lunges 
  • Forward/Backward Lunges
  • Squats (with/without weight)

She's not joking. I do each of these moves at least once a week. I don't mind the squats and step-ups very much. I admit I'm not a fan of the lunges. But I will do them because I know they pay off when it comes to race day. 

I'm so happy I'm not stuck running on a track. I'd miss this cool carpet of fall leaves in the park by my house! 

So get out there and run those hills but don't forget to strengthen your butt. 

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