Strength and Prehab: The Myrtl Routine

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I grew up with 14+ years of classical ballet training as a child, and my dancing relied on many of the same body parts I do as a runner: hip flexors, ankles, feet, and all of the little tendons and ligaments from my foot to my hip. I’ve said time and time again that I would have been a better runner if I had started when I was dancing, but of course I hated running. The mile run requirement in gym class made me plot sick days. Perhaps if I did start then I wouldn’t worry about having to supplement my training as heavily with outside strengthening work. It never ceases to amaze me how key the little things are in making running possible (it’s not just a calf + quad business).

I do know, however, that exercises like the myrtl routine have set me on my way to becoming a healthier runner. One of my first running ailments was pain and tightness below and around my hip bones during and after a run; spurred from the act of lifting my knees. The hip flexors, the source of my pain, are a group of muscles in the pelvic region and upper thighs that aid lifting your knees and keeping your pelvis and thighs aligned when running. Weak hip flexors can be responsible for a host of other problems as your body compensates, and you can feel pain in your Achilles, hamstring, knees or IT band.

The myrtl routine was developed by Jay Johnson, a coach in Boulder, CO, and it focuses on the “hip girdle.” It aims to strengthen and help provide a greater range of movement in the area. It took me a little longer to run through the exercises when I first started, but once I got the steps down, the whole thing only takes 6-7 minutes. The pdf version of the routine is really helpful in breaking down the movements and number of repetitions, but you can see the exercises in action in the video.

I like to incorporate the myrtl routine in my cool down after a run (ideally two to three times a week) but a friend actually prefers it as a warm-up. As I’ve improved, I added a few more repetitions to each exercise, especially the clams. Since I’ve started, the hip flexor pain is a thing of the past. A few weeks later, I actually forgot there had even been a problem, but I’ve kept up with the routine to keep it gone.

The myrtl routine:

  1. Clams x8
  2. Lateral Leg Raises (5 neutral, 5 toe pointing in, 5 toe out)
  3. Donkey Kicks x8
  4. Donkey Whips x5
  5. Fire Hydrants x8
  6. Knee Circles (5 forward, 5 backward)
  7. Hurdle Trail Leg (5 forward, 5 backward)
  8. Lateral Leg Swing x10 Linear
  9. Linear Leg Swing x10
  10. Linear Leg Swing (bent knee) x10

Have you tried the myrtl? If you haven’t yet, do you think you’ll give it a try?

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