How weak glutes affect your running

[00:00:00] They may be super trendy on Instagram or really not trendy, but evergreen and ever-present. But they’re particularly important for runners and often neglected. So today, let’s talk about the elephant in the room talking about butts.

[00:00:25] If you haven’t been with me here before, I’m Jesse Funk, the founder of Solpri.com and the host of this show Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running from anything from just a 5k getting going all the way through doing a full distance Ironman, anything in between. Fair game on this channel. New episodes come out every Tuesday and Thursday, so you’re going to want to stick around and hit subscribe. So you get that on your home page when you come back to YouTube every single time.

[00:00:51] So today we’re going to talk about butts nice to look at, but more importantly, very functional and very important for runners. But because of our modern ailments, I guess I’ll call them the way we live our lives in chairs like these, sitting around offices like this one, they are often neglected. They play a large role in running, and it is a largely a role of stabilization. They do. They are involved in power.

[00:01:25] But stabilizing your hips is a huge role that your butt plays or your glutes. If we want to be more anatomically correct, play in your running. And why is that important? Why is any given muscle group important? In this particular case, I almost kind of linked in with your abs and this is in my own head.

[00:01:48] So take this with a grain of salt. But I’ve talked about this before where we talk about the chain of running or the chain of your body. So it is important that your entire body is in shape, not just your legs, because your body is a chain. So when you are running, you’re doing that forward motion, you are taking energy, using your legs to push against the ground. The ground pushes back against you, and then you’re trying to propel your whole body forward, which means energy needs to go from the tip of your toes all the way up to the tip of your head.

[00:02:25] And if you’ve got a weak link in your chain, be that your abs or your glutes, which do that hip stabilization, then you’re like a limp spaghetti noodle, which is much harder to move than something that’s maybe a dry spaghetti noodle. Just imagine that in your mind as you try to push a spaghetti noodle forward and it is limp and wet, it doesn’t really do much. Or if it’s dry then you can push it forward much easier.

[00:02:51] My business mentor often refers to this analogy as trying to push a rope uphill. It’d be much easier to push a stick uphill, then push a rope uphill. And so that’s another visual for you. The important part is that you’ve got to spend time on your glutes, and one of the ways that we neglect them is through sitting too much, basically.

[00:03:12] Where we’re sitting on our glutes, they’re not really engaged and they become weaker over time. They’re very, very important for running itself. But our general biomechanics throughout the day, walking, sitting, going to bed and lying down doesn’t really mean that we engage our glutes. So what can happen is that the other parts of your running chain, your hamstrings, your quads, your calves, all the other parts that are very important, the major movers in your running chain can get stronger than your glutes, which means they begin to overcompensate for the hip stabilization that your glutes are no longer doing.

[00:03:59] The problem with this is largely one of the biggest enemies that we face as endurance athletes, as runners, and that’s overuse injuries. So when we have a weak area, other muscles begin to overcompensate, loads begin to shift. That’s why often people complain about shin splints and it can be an overload symptom, meaning that your muscles are simply not strong enough to deal with the load that you’re putting on them.

[00:04:29] So you’ve increased mileage too quickly, you’re running too hard of surfaces, those kind of things. In this particular case, when your glutes become too weak and they’re not becoming engaged, then you have a tendency to get Achilles tendonitis, IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, those kind of things. Why? Why those in particular? Well, let’s think about it. If we think about the human body and we think about what muscles do, physically speaking, what happens to important muscles, things that we use a lot, they get bigger, right? The things that do the most work get bigger.

[00:05:13] It doesn’t matter whether you’re a large person or a small person, however you want to define that in your particular anatomy, the things that do more work are larger. Which is why, like our legs are large. They move us around most of the day. We don’t walk on our arms, so our legs are larger. It’s one of these kind of simple things that, if you think about it, you go, “Well, duh, okay, great.”

[00:05:36] But if we don’t spend time on our glutes, that large muscle that’s doing that stabilization is now weaker, and that’s where that overcompensation comes into play. So when your glutes are unable to do that stabilization, that load get placed elsewhere. Where does it go? Somewhere else in that chain. Often on the backside that is glutes, hamstrings, calves, Achilles tendon. That’s where you get Achilles tendonitis. Ask me how I know. 

[00:06:06] It’s something I’ve been dealing with this last year, six months, something like that. I’ve been rehabbing through this whole chain where I made this small adjustment to my running and then glutes became weaker, or maybe they became weak. And that made the adjustment as a lifestyle of living in the office now running this business. And then that created kind of a causal chain of problems where that led to Achilles tendinitis. The tendinitis leads to hamstring issues, and the hamstring issues further hinder the glutes, so and so forth.

[00:06:42] And then you’ve got to work it all backwards, strengthening everything in concert. So making sure that your glutes are strong for that stabilization is a huge component to avoiding some of these very common injuries, where overload in that offloading is going on to smaller components like your tendons, your IT band or your knees. So what can we do about it? Well, the number one thing I’m always going to go to, regardless of whether it’s your glutes or any other muscle group that gets injured and needs some kind of attention, strength, work, always going to be strength work for soft tissue injuries.

[00:07:24] If you have access to a physical therapist or some kind of trainer, always go with them and their recommendations for you. I give you recommendations based on my experience and the things that the people, the licensed people that have worked with me and my particular issues have helped me with. But if you have the ability to work with somebody in person on your particular situation, always going to be better than the kind of more general advice I can give you based on the things that I’ve went through.

[00:07:56] But this kind of goes for any kind of injury. Strength training is the number one thing to go to isolate that muscle group and help make it stronger. And it probably is going to take a minute, especially with a major mover like your glutes, if they become weak because it’s so rare, relatively speaking, because they’re so strong and they become weak, it might take a minute really to get them back to full strength of where they should be. So you should be fully engaging them while you’re running.

[00:08:29] But once you get to the point where you are, your glutes are strong, you’re not having pain while running, you’ve dealt with any other injuries. Then you continue that strength training and then you move to say like multi-joint movement squats, box jumps, step-ups, lunges, all that kind of stuff where you’re starting to use all of those muscles in concert. The reason you don’t typically start with a multi-joint movement if you’re rehabbing an injury is because you want to isolate.

[00:09:05] We’ve talked about this earlier, the idea about overcompensation. When a group becomes weak, other muscle groups compensate for it. So running is clearly a multi-joint movement, meaning we’re using all kinds of muscle groups to do this particular motion, not just a single motion, not just a single muscle group. And when we’re running, that overcompensation is what led to the injury, weakness, overcompensation, injury, more weakness. It’s kind of a vicious cycle.

[00:09:33] So to get out of that cycle first, isolate, strengthen, then move back to multi-joint movements in strength training. Lastly, then we go back to running. And in your running routine, this is where it’s important to add things like speedwork and heel training.

[00:09:53] Both of them are going to engage your glutes much more than just a simple, long run. Well, this isn’t to say that a long run is not important. It is clearly very important. It should be typically 80% of the training that you’re doing, developing your aerobic base, using it as a recovery and active recovery period. Very, very important if you want to be a successful long distance runner.

[00:10:19] But if you have glute issues in particular or you want to prevent them. Making sure that you’re going harder to speedwork or going uphill, which is going to be engaging your glutes more for that drive upwards is going to be very important to make sure that that functional portion of using your glutes is still being activated. And this goes for anybody. I like to do 5k, 10k in particular, which means I need to do these things more often.

[00:10:47] But even if you’re doing marathon and beyond, making sure that these are strong components in your causal chain and your running chain helps prevent injuries, especially as you go longer because you’re going to be using muscles more and more and more and fatigue builds up over time.

[00:11:06] So what questions do you have for me about running, about glutes, maybe leaving the comments below? If you’d like to see more episodes, always subscribe or check us out on our website Solpri.com/blog. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.

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