I've trained my share of long distance runners, triathletes and Iron Man competitors, and no matter how fit these die-hard enthusiasts are, they often find their way to my Pilates studio due to a running injury.
Runners have strong quadriceps, hamstrings and calves, and rarely incur injuries in these powerful sheaths of muscle. Instead, running injuries almost always occur at the hip, knee and ankle due to an imbalance between the large propulsion muscles and the smaller stability muscles surrounding the joint structures of the leg. These smaller muscles are critical for a runner's ability to lift the energetic load of the torso off the legs, reducing the pounding downward impact on the body's lower joints.
So what can we do to decrease risk of injury while increasing running performance and endurance?
To prevent hip injuries ... strengthen the abdominals and gluteals.
This simple exercise strengthens the transversus abdominis, the deepest abdominal muscle and most effective for lower back and pelvic stability.
On the hands or forearms, hold plank position for one minute. On each exhale, narrow the waistband by squeezing your navel up and into the back. Rest and repeat for another minute (or longer).