The muscles that run down the backs of our thighs bend our knees lengthen our legs, propel us up hills, and give us the ability to kick across the finish line. So, we recognize when our hamstrings are too tight or weak to execute correctly. In the past year, 7% of poll respondents claim their hamstrings have been bothering them.
WHO’S AT RISK?
Hamstring problems are common because these muscles are weak—often due to being overly long or short. As strange as it may sound, those who are incredibly flexible are more prone to hamstring injuries because their excessively stretched muscles are more open to harm. People who can barely touch their toes or who sit for lengthy periods, on the other hand, are at risk. Muscles that are tight and short are tenser. Muscle imbalance is another element to consider: Quadriceps dominate hamstrings in many runners, putting them at risk of injury.
CAN YOU RUN THROUGH IT?
If the pain is sudden and severe and the region bruises, you may have a simple pull, which may require months of rest before you can run again. You can typically run if it’s a less severe chronic overuse injury, but it’ll take some time before you’re back in the green zone. “Hamstring problems stink,” says Price. “It takes a long time for them to recover.” Attempting intervals or hill repeats is typically more difficult than running at a slow pace. Alternative activities include bicycling, pool running, and swimming.
One-legged hamstring curls (raise the bar with both legs, then carefully drop it one leg at a time) and one-legged deadlifts will strengthen your hamstrings. Merrill recommends using a foam roller to relieve tension before and after a run. Active release technique (ART) and deep-tissue massage may be required in chronic situations.
PREVENT A RELAPSE
Bridges will keep you strong: Lie on your back with your feet on a chair or an exercise ball. Raise one leg into the air after raising your hips. Using the supporting leg, slowly drop your hips to the floor. Bring that leg back to the ball. Rep with the opposite leg. Compression tights can also help blood flow during or after a run.
When U.S. champion miler David Torrence’s hamstring tightened up, he went to his chiropractor the next day.
“My pelvis was misplaced, putting extra strain on my hamstring,” he explains. “I took it easy for a few days, iced the hamstring four times a day, and was better in a week,” says the athlete.
Hamstring Signs: How to Proceed
- Stop running: if you suffer intense, quick, and severe pain, as well as a snap or pop sound. The affected region is bruised.
- Caution: If you have a persistent chronic ache and tightness that requires you to slow down and shorten your stride, proceed with caution.
- Run: If you don’t have any pain while climbing hills or doing speed work, and your hamstring isn’t harmed by sitting for long periods.