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#1 Exercise Routine that Every Runner Should Know: Prevent Injuries, Eliminate Pain, Run Forever!

by Janae Richardson

*Article originally featured in Run Utah Magazine Spring Edition 2018.  Click HERE to download Full PDF version of the Magazine.

In 1996, Paul Pilkington found himself in Mexico.  By this point in Paul’s running career, he had made quite a name for himself.  Originally from a small town in Idaho, Paul had run track at Southern Idaho and then eventually at Weber State in Ogden, UT, where he earned All-American honors in the steeplechase.  After college he began teaching and coaching and supplemented his teacher salary by winning prize money in road races. He stepped onto the world-class scene when he won both the Houston Marathon in 1990 and the Los Angeles marathon in 1994.  He ultimately ended up being a four-time Olympic Trials qualifier and in 1995 was a member of the United States Track and Field Team representing the United States at the World Championships in Gothenburg Sweden. At this point in his career, Paul had gone to Mexico to train with Mark Plaatjes, who was the World Champion in the marathon in 1993.  Both of them were training hard as they prepared for the next marathon Olympic Trials. As they met up on this one particular day for another intense training session, Paul couldn’t help but complain to his training partner about the pain in his hamstring that had been lingering for several days now. Mark, who was also a physical therapist, said he had a hip alignment exercise that many were using in their PT clinics that would maybe help.  So, he had Paul lay down on this back while he pulled and tugged on his leg in a few unique ways before having Paul stand back up. Paul felt some immediate relief in his hamstring and within a few days everything felt back to normal.

Image: Paul Pilkington, WSU Head Coach

Today as a UtahRunning.com Expert and Weber State’s Head Coach, Paul Pilkington makes this simple exercise apart of his team’s everyday routine. “I have each runner on the team check their hip alignment before we start practice and make adjustments if we need to. Then, we do core strengthening exercises to help prevent the hip misalignment from happening in the future,” Paul says.  “The longer a runner’s hips are out of alignment before they are fixed the easier it is for them to slip out of place again, so we check it often.”

I was fortunate enough to be coached by Paul Pilkington during my time competing at Weber State University and therefore was exposed to this magical hip alignment exercise.  I’ve also picked up some modifications and additions to the hip alignment exercise from UtahRunning Expert and Positional Release Therapist Dr. Tim Speicher (Positional Release Therapy Institute in South Ogden, DPT Jeremy Stoker (Mountain Land Physical Therapy), and PT Missy Allred (UtahRunning.com Elite Racing Team member and Ogden High Head Distance Coach).  I’ve shared it with many of my running friends and athletes I’ve coached.  Thus, the hip alignment trick continues to be passed on from runner to runner.  It isn’t a fix all, but it is a very smart place to start when you have pain in the body.

So what causes this hip misalignment and the pain associated with it?  

 Image Source: https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/si-joint-pain

Usually the root of the problem stems from weakness in the core stabilizing muscles.  As runners we have strong muscles when it comes to the muscles that play a dominant role in propelling us forward, but the stabilizing muscles used more prominently with side to side movements get neglected.  When hip misalignment occurs, it usually manifests itself as a feeling of heaviness or a dull ache in the low back and glutes. It can also cause tightness and pain in the hamstrings, glute area, and the groin. The cause is usually the result of a rotation or an upslip in the sacroiliac joint. The sacroiliac joint or SI joint is where the sacrum and iliac bones meet.  The sacrum is the triangular-shaped bone at the bottom of the spine between the left and right iliac bones, which form the pelvis. The SI joints’ function is to absorb shock, support the weight of the upper body, and reduce pressure on the spine.

Source: https://survivingchronicillness.weebly.com/injuries

How Do I Perform the Hip Alignment Exercise?

Here is how it works. The push and pull on the muscles during this exercise uses the muscles to naturally pull the bones and joints of this area back into their correct position.  In fact, don’t be alarmed if you feel or hear some popping in your joints. This is a good thing. It means they are moving to the position they should be in.

Steps of the Exercise: [or check out VIDEO above]

  1. Have athlete lay on their back.
  2. Athlete then bends knees and places feet flat on ground shoulder width apart, then bridges up by lifting hips to the sky. Then athlete drops hips back down; legs flat to ground.
  3. Then grab both of athlete’s legs by the ankles and pull their legs toward you, sliding them slightly on the ground.  Apologize for giving them a slight wedgy and then continue on. ;-)
  4. Put your thumbs over the inside or medial ankle bone and see if your thumbs line up.  If they do not, then the athlete’s hips are out of alignment and you should proceed with the hip alignment exercise.  (I usually do the exercise anyway if they are having the symptoms, because sometimes the rotation of the SI joint is such that it doesn’t always manifest itself as a leg length discrepancy).
  5. Raise knees so feet are off the ground and there is a 90 degree angle at the knees and hips.  Then push on one leg and pull on the other while the athlete resists. Hold for 10 seconds, release and rest for a few seconds, and repeat a total of three times.
  6. Then have athlete put feet on ground, shoulder width apart. Push against outside of knees and have athlete push out.  Hold for ten seconds and release. Then push athlete’s knees from the inside out while athlete squeezes legs together.  Hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat a total of three times.
  7. Lastly have athlete straighten legs and squeeze ankles against your legs for 10 seconds, release, and repeat a total of three times.
  8. Then pull on legs again and check ankle bones to see if they are lined up.



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This entry was posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2018 at 3:11 pm and is filed under Injuries and Pain, Injury Prevention, Run Utah Magazine, Spring 2018 Edition, Utah Running. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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