All athletes – and yes, recreational runners are athletes! – need mobility to perform well. Mobility is your body’s ability to move from one position to another; the better your ability, the more fluid your movement patterns and the less pain you experience. For runners, mobility translates to improved form and lower incidence of injury.
These dynamic stretches focus on developing mobility in chronically tight or weak areas for runners: the hips, ankles, and upper back. When done consistently, these mobility exercises will also strengthen the neuromuscular pathways. As those pathways bolster, you will notice better movement patterns in your runs. For example, improve ankle mobility will lead to a better forward lean and less ground contact time.
Perform each of these movements for 6-8 reps per side. You can do them before runs, after runs, or anytime you fit them in. Aim to include these in your routine a few times per week. As with any mobility work, wear comfortable clothing that permits a full range of motion (such as these Adidas Aeroknit leggings!).
Half-Kneeling Ankle Mobility
Whether you are running or doing a squat, ankle mobility is essential for healthy movement patterns. If you suffer from Achilles, plantar fasciitis, or other ankle/foot issues, improving ankle mobility should be a priority.
Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor
A drastic anterior pelvic tilt can increase your risk of running injury. That’s not to say you must run with a stiff pelvic tuck; instead, you want to train your body to naturally posture with a neutral pelvis. The dynamic half-kneeling hip flexor stretch trains a neutral pelvis position while also moving the hips through the sagittal plane of motion (the same plane that running occurs in).
Kneel on the floor with one leg bent in front of you and the other with the knee down directly below your hip. Check the orientation of your hips; your pelvis should be in a neutral position. You can then either gently press your hips forward in this position or grab the foot of your kneeling leg and then gently press forward. Move slowly forward to back, keeping your hips in the neutral position.
Figure Four Stretch
Many runners are familiar with their piriformis – a small muscle that can be a nagging pain in the butt (literally) and trigger radiating pain down the leg as it presses on the sciatic nerve. The figure four pose offers relief for piriformis suffers; it can also be helpful to externally rotate tight hips.
Lie supine on the floor with knees bent and feet on the ground. Bring one leg up and rest the ankle on top of the thigh of the other leg. Grab the grounded leg with both hands and raise it up. You may feel the stretch in your piriformis already here; if not, then push your knee away from your body.
Rather than holding this as a static stretch (which is not always beneficial), you want to gently rock side to side in this position. Alternatively, you can make this stretch dynamic by pulling your legs towards you and then releasing them back.
Thread the Needle Stretch
Many recreational and amateur runners also work day jobs, which involve slouching in front of a computer. The slouched posture of deskwork leads to tight chest muscles, overextended shoulder muscles, and pain in the lower back. For running, this translates to poor form, as it hinders a full arm swing and disengages the core.
Hip Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs)
Whether the cause is running or desk work, tight hips are a common complaint for runners. Enter CARs, or controlled articular rotations. These movements are dynamic stretches that deliberately move a joint through its full range of motion. The desired goal is to return to the joint to its normal ability to move smoothly through its range of motion.
To be fully effective, you want to maintain control throughout the hip CAR. Do not move quickly! These can be also done standing; however, a quadruped stance aids in isolation of each hip and can help you keep more control.
Adidas Aeroknit ⅞ Leggings
With a busy schedule of coaching, motherhood, and my own training, I often sneak in mobility work when I can. Sometimes, this means completing them during playtime or a quick work break. I love these Adidas Aeroknit 7/8 leggings because they are comfortable for everyday wear yet have the stretch needed for a quick midday mobility session. The high-waist is both comfortable and practical; no gaping when you are down on the floor completing these exercises.
The leggings are made from Primegreen, Adidas’s recycled polyester. You do not have to choose between sustainability and performance! The fabric feels lux yet is functional, perfect for wearing when you want to be comfortable after a run.
These leggings also function well for strength training or yoga – any activity where you want breathable, flexible coverage without too much warmth. They have become my go-to for lifting workouts, thanks to their comfort and function. I love a high-waist for lifting, especially one that actually stays put as these leggings do.
If in doubt, go for the larger of two sizes! I wear a size XS to S depending on the brand; I ordered a size small here and it fit me well. (I’m 5’9.) At first, they appear small, but they stretch when you wear them to move with your body.
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