What Prehab Type are You?


How to Determine the Best Prehab for You

“Prehab” is a term I learned from the great running therapist Phil Wharton. The idea is that you do prehabilitation to keep your body working so you don’t have to do rehabilitation because you are injured.

Once I implemented the lessons I learned from Phil (and from many of the top therapists in the world while I worked at the Olympic level), the injury rate in my runners went down. And not just a little bit, a lot.

The injury rate for my runners plummeted by over 80%. That’s right: With just a few simple methods, you can reduce your injury rate by over 80%. This is very important, because most surveys show that 50–70% of all runners get injured each year. Injuries stall your fitness development and take you away from the sport you love. In this section, I’ll show you how to virtually erase running injuries from your life.

What Prehab Type Are You?

The first key aspect of prehab training is understanding yourself.

As a coach, one of the first things I do with runners is try to figure out their “prehab type” (kind of like identifying runner type—Speedster, Combo Runner, or Endurance Monster—before settling on a training plan). I categorize athletes into three basic “prehab personality” types:

The Minimalist simply wants to run. Okay, most of us just want to run, but this runner actively avoids anything extra that doesn’t have to do with running. He simply will not invest the time.

The goal for Minimalists is to find one or two exercises that require very little equipment or time and target the runner’s most often-injured areas. This will give him the most “bang for his buck,” and keeping the number of exercises down will help to ensure that he can form the habit and stick with it. I definitely fall into this category.

For the Minimalist, routines like 3HAB and Marathon Legs are perfect. They require less than 5 minutes, no gym equipment and deliver a big bang for the runner.

The Sometimes-er knows she should do strength and mobility exercises—in fact, she probably owns a whole bin full of recovery tools. The trouble is that she isn’t super consistent. Once she gets started on a routine, she enjoys it, but she isn’t always sure what would be the best use of her time, and it’s easy for her to get distracted and then go several weeks without doing anything.

The key for this runner is to “use what she has.” Like the minimalist, the best thing to do is to start with one to two exercises she can commit to after every run and then build from there. Because she isn’t so opposed to this type of ancillary work, it will be easier for a Sometimes-er to add in core and strength routines, especially if they’re part of a program someone else develops and if they apply directly to running (which is the thing she cares about!). At McMillan Running, we offer the Runner’s Core Routine and Magic Mobility programs for this exact type of runner—they are efficient, effective, requires minimal equipment or space, and is specifically geared toward helping runners improve running-specific stability.

The Gym Rat doesn’t need to be convinced to work on strength; she already loves the gym and has a regular routine established. The challenge for this runner is that oftentimes the routine she loves is not geared toward running and is therefore not really helping her progress in the sport. CrossFit, for instance, will get you fit, but not necessarily runner-fit, and because the goal in CrossFit is to take the muscles to failure, it can actually fatigue you to the point where you jeopardize your next running workout.

On the plus side, this runner is usually already familiar with gym equipment and the proper form needed to push, pull, press, or lift it. For this runner, McMillan Running offers a program called Strength in Stride which takes the Gym Rat’s knowledge and skills and applies them to running-specific exercises. (You can find all my prehab routines here.)

So, Which Prehab Type Are You?

So which “prehab personality” are you? Identifying who you are and what you prefer when it comes to strength and mobility is key, because so many runners see what others are doing online and try to fit themselves into whatever looks like the “best” mold. Maybe you’ve read that “all runners should do Olympic lifts,” so you feel like you should do them, too. But you hate the gym, know nothing about lifting, and barely have enough time to squeeze in your post-run calf mobility. If you try to force yourself into the “must do Olympic lifts” mold, you’ll most likely (a) succeed but be miserable every time you have to drag yourself to the gym, or (b) lose motivation, stop doing the lifts, and feel like a failure. Neither option sounds very fun.

Instead, look at what you like and don’t like to do, how much time you have available, and what your body needs. (And remember: Not all bodies are the same! So what works for your friend or your running idol won’t necessarily work for you.) Then, fashion your strength and mobility work around those elements. It sounds cheesy, but finding the prehab routine that works best for you is what will set you up for success.

Written By Greg McMillan
Called “one of the best and smartest distance running coaches in America” by Runner’s World’s Amby Burfoot, Greg McMillan is renowned for his ability to combine the science of endurance performance with the art of real-world coaching. While getting his graduate degree in Exercise Science he created the ever-popular McMillan Running Calculator – called “The Best Running Calculator” by Outside Magazine. A National Champion runner himself, Greg coaches runners from beginners to Boston Qualifiers (15,000+ and counting!) to Olympians.

Read Greg’s Bio




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