Change: Building Strength

I had a chat with a friend that went something like this:

Her: That post about the gait analysis was hilarious. I could just imagine you trying to hide under your chair as they showed the video. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Me: Uh, thanks?

Her: No, really. I like that you really talked about how it made you feel. It was good. But the real question is what did you learn? Was it just humiliations galore, or do you actually have knowledge to share?

Good point. While I may have looked like an extraordinary train wreck on the video, my issues were really pretty common to most runners.

Many runners have a weak core (abs and back) and glutes, combined with tight hamstrings. In my case, I had decent core strength thanks to years of Pilates, but my hamstrings were tight and my glutes and quads were unbalanced, with one side stronger than the other.

Increasing overall strength and flexibility can do a lot for improving running form, particularly later in your run when your body gets tired and form naturally deteriorates.

Core Strength

Start with basic abdominal curls. I prefer Pilates-style curls:

You can include hip bridging:

You can also take it to the next level with the single leg bridge for core, hips and hamstrings:

The analysis also recommends a tripod plank, although it suggests balancing on elbows instead of hands as they show here:


Isometric wall squats are a great way to start building strength:

Once you build good strength and balance against the wall, you can move on to adding a large stability ball behind your back for added core workout, or you can do a free form squat as if you’re trying to almost-but-not-quite sit in a chair. For those squats, make sure that your back is straight, your weight is on your heels and your knees are not extending out beyond your toes when you bend.


Strengthen the glutes (butt muscles) with a basic clam shell exercise:

Single leg squats can increase strength. Doing this advanced maneuver on the Bosu as shown also works the core at the same time:

Hip hikers also increase gluteal strength:

Hamstrings and Hip Flexors

Release your hip flexors with this stretch:

Calf Stretch

All runners need to stretch their calves for flexibility and strength:

In the coming weeks, I’ll talk a little bit about their nutrition recommendations: what to eat in general, how to fuel on long run or race days, and how to refuel afterward.

If you have any specific questions, let me know!

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2 Responses

  1. First: Thank you! This is great information. My question is regarding the one side being stronger than the other. My right leg is apparently much stronger than my left (as I learned while skiing and having no trouble turning using my right leg and lots and lots of trouble turning using my left). I don’t understand how that happens. Sure, my right arm is stronger because I use it for more things than my left, but how is one leg stronger? Which is the rhetorical question that brings me to my actual question: are you supposed to do these exercises more on the one side than the other in an effort to even things out?

  2. Alisa says:

    Good question! As it turns out, my left side is stronger than my right, which is something that hasn’t changed since going for my scoliosis checkups in my teens; it’s also bizarre and mysterious since I’m right-handed, so you would think that my right would be my dominant side.

    Anyway, I asked that very question when I went for my session. The idea is that you want to do reps of each to the point of fatigue — the point of working the muscle to its max, but not the point where your form gets sloppy and haphazard — which could be completely different numbers on each side. For example, maybe I can do sets of 10 reps each on my left, but it may only take eight reps each on my right before my muscles get shaky. The guidance that I got was to do what I can per set (like three sets of eight on the weak side), and then try to do one extra weak-side set to try to balance things out for close to the same number of reps overall, but giving yourself the brief breaks in between to recover.

    Eventually, your body won’t need the smaller sets, and you’ll be able to balance out everything overall. Or maybe we’re all just destined to ski in just one direction. 🙂

    Can anyone else validate this information? I prefer to give information from multiple sources whenever possible, but you’d better believe that I’m not going to another gait analysis clinic anytime soon!

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