Taking Care of the Back of Your Legs

I am not quite sure how it happened but I definitely strained my hamstring. This past weekend I ran with my runner-girl and had a very hard time climbing not-so-steep hills. I knew that I might have hurt something in the back of my leg but didn't know the severity of it until trying to run through it. That's when I realized I strained my hamstring. The fact that I could still run indicated that it was not pulled but it hurt enough to know to stop.

So, I am here to tell you how to keep your hamstrings healthy, strong and injury free! It's not that hard, doesn't take a lot of time and it will save you a lot of grief in the long run...literally.

The hamstring consists of three posterior muscles, the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. These muscles work together to flex the knee, extend the hip and rotate the knee. We need our hamstrings for running, walking, climbing and jumping. When the hamstring is injured, you may experience a pulling feeling or tightness in the back of the leg. You can determine the severity of the injury by how much you can move your leg forward and backwards.

Common causes of hamstring injuries, such as strains or pulls are caused by the following:

  • not getting enough of the right nutrients,
  • muscle imbalances
  • dehydration 
  • over-training

It's important to maintain a proper diet, stretch your muscles before and after any workout, drink lots of water (3.3 liters for men and 2.2 liters for women/daily) and stick to the training plan. Adding more to a workout will bite you in the ass sooner or later...no pun intended.

For me, it's a couple of things. I am guilty of not stretching ENOUGH before a workout, over training and having poor biomechanics. I have an anterior pelvic tilt...yep...I'm a "crooked kind of girl"! My hips pull forward and my butt sits back, so I am a victim of chronic back pain and hamstring strains from time to time.

When training for your next event or simply working out, make sure you actively stretch before your workout and static stretch (holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds) after your workout. Getting in shape and maintaining can be a lot of work but fun. It's not fun getting injured. Your training slows down, your mentally frustrated and getting BACK in shape seems like it takes forever! So make sure you take care of yourself throughout the training process and work with fitness professionals who can instruct you on how to do each exercise correctly.

Nicol A Hodges

Nicol A. Hodges aka "Nic" is fitness professional (NASM, CPT/PES) and product designer living in San Diego, CA. Nicol's athletic background started in her hometown of St. Charles, MO where she earned her 400m state ranking 3 years in a row. Later, at the University of MO, Columbia she earned 8-Big 12 Track and Field titles and a championship title. Nicol currently continues her love for running by competing in local and national running events.