Well, the first few weeks of half-marathon training have been… Mixed. Firstly, what the hell has been happening with the weather? We’ve had ice, sleet, snow and rain, sometimes all in the space of one day. Secondly, as usual, general life has been intruding on my training plan. This has definitely not been a dry January. I’ve had alcoholic beverages coming at me from all angles, from family reunions to friend’s birthdays. On top of this, some charmer has collided with my wing mirror, meaning I’ve been unable to make the drive to the gym for the past week, and I am pining for barbells!
Lastly, worst of all I managed to completely mess up my left hip flexor. To hopefully help you all avoid the joys of anterior hip pain and limping, I’ve researched some hints and tips to keep your hips healthy!
Hip Flexors and How To Avoid Injuring Them
The hip flexors are a set of muscles that bring your knee up into your hip. Flexion is basically when you tense or contract your muscles.
Most runners and other athletes will experience hip flexor pain at some point. One of the issues with the modern lifestyle is that for most of us the majority of the day is spent sitting. In this position, the hip flexors are in a shortened, contracted state. This is then thought to cause issues with the muscle function, but other factors such as over-use of the muscle may also come into play. Overall though, it’s not 100% decided what causes hip flexor pain.
However, performing mobility drills and utilising the full range-of-motion (ROM) of a joint daily are beneficial, easy and low impact methods to keep your joints healthy. Alternatively, even just generally moving around more and using natural movements can also help. Easy ways to minimise the time your hip flexors stay in that contracted state include:
- Getting up and walking around at least every hour
- Dynamic stretching to warm up before a run, and even in the morning to loosen up
- Trying a sit/stand desk. You’ll find when you’re standing you shift and re-balance a lot, keeping your core engaged. Also a great time to develop balancing skills by standing on one leg
Strengthening the muscle will also help in the long run. There are several body weight exercises such as ball pikes and lunges or marching with resistance bands which will engage, isolate and build strength in your hips. You can also increase the overall stability of the hip by working on the glutes (the booty) and other hip abductors (the muscles which swing your legs away from your body to the side). Excellent exercises to build the boot and associated muscles include:
So, basically a summary of all the things I should have really been doing up until this point… Have you ever suffered injuries while training for a long distance run? What are your methods to keep joints healthy and muscles injury free? I’d love to hear in the comments below.