9 simple mobility exercises for runners

For you as runner, taking care of your mobility is one of the key determining factors affecting your running performance as well as whether or not you are able to avoid running related injuries lurking on the sidelines. Ensuring good mobility will enable you to maintain good running form and improve the efficiency of your running. And the best part? Taking care of your mobility is actually not that hard or time consuming at all.

Many of us are used to doing long and static stretches trying to push as far as we can all the way of feeling uncomfortable. Recent studies have shown that instead of static and sustained stretches, a runner is better suited with short and highly dynamic stretches.

Dynamic stretching is a movement-based type of stretching. In dynamic stretching, the movement is the key and each stance are not kept for long. It uses the muscles themselves to bring about a stretch. It's different from traditional "static" stretching because the stretch position is not held. This form of stretching improves speed, agility and acceleration. It involves the active tightening of your muscles and moving your joints through their full range of motion. These functional and sport-specific movements help increase muscle temperature and decrease muscle stiffness.

Dynamic stretch exercise

  1. Ankle mobility. Sit on the floor, legs straight in front of you and back upright. Start rotating your ankles from outside in and go for the broadest trajectory viable. Switch the rotation direction.
  2. Calf stretch. Start by standing upright and step your right leg forward. Maintain a straight alignment of the legs on both sides. Start moving your hips forward and at the same time let the right leg bend from the knee. You should feel a stretch on the upper part of your left calf (gastrognemius). Slowly move your hips back and let your left knee bend from the knee. You should feel the strecth on the lower half of the calf (soleus). Slowly return to starting position and repeat the whole cycle 5 times. Switch legs and repeat. This move is particularly good for runners, because it also stretches the soleus-muscle, of which tightness is connected to the arch being too low, thus among other things exposing you to plantar fasciitis.
  3. Front thigh stretch standing up. Stand upright and bend your other leg behind you. Grab your foot with both your hands, and bring you heel slowly towards you buttock. Switch sides and repeat.
  4. Hip flexor stretch. Place your right knee on the ground and the left leg in a 90- degree angle in front of you. Pay attention that your pelvis or the lumbar spine don't compensate for the tenseness of your hip flexors. See that you extend your back straight upright, don’t arch it. Don’t allow you navel to be too far in front of you, take care that your core is under control. Tilt your pelvis backwards, sort of like you are pulling a tail between your legs. Then push your pelvis slowly as far front as you can and then revert it back. You can time the movement with inhalation and exhalation. Let the hip flexor stretch during exhalation and return during inhalation. Boost the exercise by adding movement for the arms. During the stretch lift your arms straight up, or slightly on your sides. This practices elasticity of the frontal fascia lines. See that you core is controlled, and your back is straight. Repeat 5 times, switch legs and repeat 5 times to the other side.
  5. Hamstring stretch. Place your right knee on the ground and extend your left leg in front of you so that the heel touches the ground. Slowly bend your upper body towards the left knee, making sure that your back remains straight. You should feel the stretch on the left hamstring near the knee. Continuing the movement let your left knee bend, notice how the stretch now feels on the upper part of the left hamstring. Slowly repeat the extend-bend cycle on the left leg 5 times. Switch legs and repeat for the other side.
  6. The cross stretching of the body. Lay on the floor on your back. Move your other leg across your pelvis to the other side of the floor. Keep your shoulders attached to the floor. As your leg touches the ground or you reach your maximum range of movement slowly come back to starting position and repeat on the other side. 
  7. Adductor stretch. Start by standing upright. Take a wide stance and rotate your feet slightly outward. After this bend your knees and descend towards the floor. You can press your knees more outward with your forearms, that should enhance the stretch. See that you core is controlled, and your back is straight. Slowly return back up and repeat 5 times.
  8. Thorax and adductor stretch. Sit on the floor legs spread to the sides. Rotate your upper body by moving your left hand toward your right ankle. While doing this, also move your right hand back and up. Follow your right hand with your look. Repeat on the other side.
  9. Buttock stretch while sitting. Sit on the floor leaning backwards against your arms. Bring your left ankle on top of your right knee. Push slowly with your arms to change your position to be more upward and feel the stretch on your left buttock. Let your arms bend again to release the stretch and repeat 5 times. Switch legs and repeat for the other side.

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