Don’t forget the IT band
One of the most important ligaments you need to pay more attention to
If you’re a runner, you’ve probably experienced tight IT bands. Strengthening and rolling out quads and hamstrings is common practice before or after runs but sometimes the IT band is forgotten. Here’s why you should pay more attention to the IT band and the muscles it attached so in your post-run recovery and training regimen.
“When the IT band isn’t working properly, movement of the knee (and, therefore, running) becomes painful. IT band pain can be severe enough to completely sideline a runner for weeks, or even longer.”
What exactly is the IT band?
Understanding the IT band and the muscles that can cause IT band tightness is key. Your iliotibial band isn’t actually a muscle but a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin. It originates on the hipbone and attaches to the gluteal muscles and the tenor fascia latae (TFL). The IT band is especially important for runners since it attaches to the knee and helps stabilize and move the joint. The main function of the ligament during running is stabilizing the knee during footstrike.
My IT bands are tight, now what?
Even though our first instinct for a tight muscle or ligament is to stretch and stretch some more, over stretching the IT band can just beat up the ligament. The right combo of cold recovery and strength work will keep your IT bands from getting tight and improve performance on longer runs. Understanding this will also help prevent even more severe overuse injuries like IT Band Syndrome.
It’s important to understand what other muscle groups impact how your IT band performs and feels during or after a run. There’s no quick fix but starting to include or stepping up your strength and recovery habits of your glutes, hip flexors and TFM can keep you out on the road or trail. Here are some of the best strength exercises and stretches you can do just about anywhere to make sure the muscle groups that effect the IT band are carrying their weight…
- Pay attention to using good running form and always replace your shoes when you need to. This will help prevent muscle imbalances that can cause IT band tightness or pain.
- Keep the glute muscles and hip flexors strong.
- Use your cold massage roller after each run to recover your glutes, IT bands and hip flexors.
- Warm up properly before a run and cool down and stretch out your major leg muscles post-run.
- If you are experiencing tightness or pain, decrease your mileage and spend more time focusing on simple strength exercises and using your cold massage roller multiple times a day.
If you do experience tight IT bands, which most runners will, your cold massage roller will be your best friend. Most resources recommend ice cupping and foam rolling but using your cold roller can take the place of both and will speed up your recovery. Use it generously on each leg after a run or training session. If you’re experiencing pain and tightness, increase usage to 2-5 times a day to decrease inflammation and relieve pain. Get key muscles like your glutes and quads then move to your IT bands and outer knee where the IT band inserts. Be gentle and don’t overdo it. The cold is great for bringing down inflammation after a run and can help with pain from tight muscles. You’ll see better results in your training and a much faster recovery time.