Pain in the groin during or after running can take a toll on your performance and overall health. This pain is likely the symptom of a groin strain, or an injury to the one or more of the adductor muscles of the hips.
The adductor muscles are responsible for bringing the leg towards the midline of the body during running. Some adductors are also responsible for hip flexion or extension. All of these actions take place during running and the adductors to perform a significant amount of work to complete efficiently.
Because of the high amount of force, the adductors can become compromised when you're not properly warmed up, unable to recover from a previous run or workout or are overworked because other hip muscles are not working as much as they should.
To prevent this from happening, perform a warm up that brings the adductors through a full range of motion and turns on other muscles that help stabilize the hip, such as the glutes. You'll also want to strengthen the adductors and hips as well as allow yourself sufficient recovery time between runs.
Stretch Out and Mobilize the Adductors
The first thing that you'll want to do is stretch out and mobilize the adductors.
Perform the butterfly stretch for 30 seconds. Sit on the floor with your back to the wall and stay tall through the torso. Bring the bottoms of the feet together in front of you and let your knees drop towards the floor. You can apply a little extra pressure to the inside of the knees, but don't forcefully push downwards.
After the butterfly stretch it's time to bring the adductors through a full range of motion.
Start with quadruped adductor mobility by getting onto your hands and knees. Bring one leg out the the side and straighten the knee. Keeping the back neutral, rock your hips backwards. You should feel the adductors stretching out. Hold the bottom position for 1 to 3 seconds and return to the top position; repeat for six to 10 reps per side.
Next, work you way into the half-kneeling adductor mobility by starting in a half-kneeling position. Bring your up leg to the side at 90 degrees. Keep the hips squared forward as you shift your weight sideways and into the upper leg. Make sure the heel stays on the floor. Hold the bottom position for 1 to 3 seconds and return to the top position, then repeat for six to 10 reps per side.
Strengthen the Adductors
Because the adductors bring the leg towards the midline of the body, and also prevent the leg from going to far out to the side, working on single leg strengthening will help target the adductors. Single leg work also helps strengthen the other muscles of the hips that will help to prevent overusing the adductors during running.
The first exercise to complete is the lateral lunge. Start standing tall with your feet hip width apart. Keep the abs engaged and step out to the side with one leg, bending the knee of the moving leg. Keep the knee of the trail leg straight as you push your hips backwards. Push yourself back to the starting position and repeat for eight to 12 reps per side. You should feel the work taking place in the glutes of the moving leg, as well as a slight stretch of the adductors in the trailing leg.
Split squats are also a great exercise to help strengthen the muscles of the hips, including the adductors and glutes. From a standing position step back with one leg, keeping the feet in line with the hips. You do not want the feet to come any closer than hip-width apart as that causes the hip to shift and overuse certain muscles.
With the one leg back, bend the knees of both legs -- keeping as much weight as possible in the heel of the front leg. Lightly tap the back knee to the floor before returning to the top position. Repeat for six to 10 reps per side, making sure to focus on feeling the work take place in the glutes of the front leg.
Allow Your Body to Recover
Many times the easiest way to prevent injuries of the adductors is to allow them sufficient time to rest.
After long runs, or intense bouts of intervals or sprints, give the legs at least a day off to recover and regenerate. If you consistently place high amounts of stress and work on the adductors you'll begin to accrue micro tears in the muscles, which can eventually lead to strains.
If you start to notice some pain in the adductors, rest the muscles. Never run through pain as a little pain today can easily manifest into a lot of pain down the road.