How to Run 13.1 Miles: Strengthen Your Weak Parts

Every runner has a weak spot. Our blogger's hips don't lie

by Jennifer Braunschweiger • Deputy Editor
That's the part I'm talking about.
Photograph: Image courtesy of Tiplyashin Anatoly /

If I have a weak spot, it’s my right hip. When I run, it’s the first place I hurt. And at the end of the day, lying in bed, it’s often the source of a dull, can’t-get-comfortable ache. I’m not exactly sure how I injured it, but it happened around the time I was working at a job two hours away. I blame the crummy seats on New York’s ancient commuter trains.

A doctor I consulted about the pain told me that the culprit, in my case, is a short, squat, deeply buried muscle called the piriformis. It’s practically impossible to reach the thing to give it a nice massage. You can rub your feet when they hurt; your piriformis, not so much. The only thing that makes mine feel better is the yoga pose called pigeon. (If a yoga teacher has ever told you that you have “tight hips,” then you know what I’m talking about.)

The doctor sent me to a physical therapist, who gave me a collection of exercises to strengthen the muscles around the hip. I love this idea—exercises to support my weak parts. These days, I do the regimen every Monday as part of my weight training. I suffer through 30 leg lifts on both sides, then lying on my front and back, and then a rather torturous little exercise called a clamshell. Ouch. Doing the exercises consistently has helped—I no longer get shooting pains down my leg (shooting pains = get medical attention ASAP).

I’ve been moaning about my hips for long enough—mostly to blank stares from my non-running friends—that I felt incredibly vindicated when I read the story in the March 2012 issue of More about how important the hips are. The story opens with a 40-year-old woman whose hips are giving her problems, and I wanted to reach out and hug her.

I feel your pain, sister!

It turns out that weak hips are often the source of lower back and knee pain because of the role our hips play in keeping us balanced and aligned. The story suggests two easy exercises, standing variations on the movements I’ve been doing. Next stop, I surrender to resistance bands. Stay tuned. (That was a message to my hips.)


Read Jennifer's Training Week 1: Handling a Setback

Read Jennifer's Training Week 2: The Pros & Cons of a GPS Watch

Read Jennifer's Training Week 3: Finding Time to Train

Related: Back, Knee or Ankle Pain? A Surprising New Cause

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First Published Wed, 2012-01-25 13:30

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