Show Your Bum Some Love
Do these pants make my butt look big? It’s a question echoed by women throughout North America on a daily basis – and not surprisingly. Society can be quite judgmental and focused on the shape and size of one’s rear end. More often than not, it seems, when a woman speaks about her bum it carries a negative connotation.
Perhaps female runners can help change this narrative by embracing their backsides and understanding the vital role their glutes play in overall performance and injury prevention. The bum (glutes) should be valued no matter what shape or size, however many women still cringe at the thought of strengthening this area of their body.
Physiotherapist Chelsea Guebert, at Summit Sports and Health in Saskatoon says the majority of her clients who resist working on glute strength are women.
“Anytime you say strengthen, the lights go on and the first response is ‘I don’t want to get big,’” says Guebert. She tries to ease her clients’ concerns by explaining that getting strong doesn’t necessarily mean getting bigger.
“To bulk up takes a lot of work. You have to be training at a super high volume and taking in a ton of calories.” That’s a different goal than simply trying to build strength. What’s more likely to happen when working on strength is the body will become more toned, more defined and there will be “increased efficiency and strength with movements,” explains Guebert.
Understanding the positive impact strong glutes have on performance can go a long way in motivating runners to work on the area. It’s not just about running efficiency and stride turnover or speed and power, which are obviously beneficial to runners. “It’s also about injury prevention,” says Guebert. “A lot of repetitive strain injuries can be prevented with proper glute and core strength” – this includes: patellofemoral pain syndrome ( pfps) also known as runners knee, iliotibial band friction syndrome ( itbfs), plantar fasciitis, shin splints and patellar tendonopathies. “It’s all about muscle balance and load sharing”, says Guebert. “A muscle
doesn’t have to be big to be effective.” However it does have to be strong, responsive and able to fire, over and over again – and that takes work. This can be a challenge for recreational runners with already busy schedules. Most will opt to get their miles in rather than fit in a strength session on a hectic day.
Guebert suggests looking at strength work as an investment rather than lost time on the road.
“If you want a healthy, long-lasting running career, or a season, your ability to sustain that is dependent on the strength work you put in. How many miles do you put on your vehicle before you take it in for an oil change, or tune up?” asks Guebert. “It’s kind of the same thing. You have to be doing maintenance on your body to make sure it can withstand the pressures and withstand the loads. If you want to minimize pain and reach your goals, you have to do a little ground work.”
Investing time in strength training is just like any other investment: you want to get the most out of it. In order to do that it’s important to ensure workouts are done efficiently and effectively. This means focusing on what you’re doing and not simply going through the motions.
“It’s important to have body awareness, and to understand what you’re working,” says Guebert. “The key to maximizing the benefit from any exercise is to understand what you’re trying to accomplish and what muscle you are trying to activate. Body awareness is huge, and a lot of people just don’t pay attention.”
It all may sound quite demanding, but there is room to have fun too. It can be beneficial on some days to go for a swim, grab your rollerblades or take the dog for a hike, rather than lift weights or log miles.
“It’s all about balance. You can’t get caught up in any one thing,” says Guebert. “Variety truly is the spice of life, so make time in your routine for crosstraining and strength and core exercises.”
a Side Plank: Hand and feet (arm extended)
Set-up A • Position yourself on your side as shown • Have your knees, hips and head in a straight line
Execution B • Push up onto your hand and lift hips off the floor • Raise your top arm straight up and out to the side
Bridge: Alternating leg raise
Set-up A • Lay on your back with feet flat. • Band around your knees
Execution • Lift hips into bridge position B • Straighten one knee, alternate legs c
Hip Abduction Eccentric (band) Set-up • Stand with good posture, feet shoulder width apart • Hold onto a support for balance if needed
Execution • Lift your leg out to the side • Stop when your trunk starts to
lean or bend • Slowly return to the starting position
b Side Stepping (band)
Set-up A • Stand with feet shoulder
width apart, band at knees Execution B • Squat with good form • At the bottom of the squat, step to one side • Bring trailing leg back into good squat position
Runner’s Step Up
Set-up A • Stand in front of a box or step
that is below the level of the knee
Execution B • Step up onto the box and bring the
opposite leg up towards your chest • Lower down in a controlled manner • Repeat, alternating legs