A lot of people tend to get flexibility and mobility mistaken for each other. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle group to lengthen fully. Mobility is the ability to move through a normal range of motion with efficiency and without discomfort. Runners really don’t really need to be especially flexible, but they do need to be mobile. This is why I often will recommend athletes mostly utilize dynamic stretches (which help mobilize your body) instead of static stretches (which help increase flexibility). Static stretches have a time and a place, but we are going to focus on mobility right now.
Runner’s need to be mobile in order to have good running mechanics. Having strong and mobile hips help with running performance by helping improve and maintain hip drive, and also reduce your risk of some common lower body issues, like IT band pain.
Here is a short, simple routine that you can incorporate into your week to help keep the important areas mobile. This is not an all-inclusive list, and is targeted towards mobility, not strength. This is a great routine to add in addition to your current strength regimen. If you do not have issues with tight hips, you might not need to do all of these exercises all the time, though working through some mobility consistently is great for anyone. I recommend running through mobility 3-4 times per week and to never overdo a stretch! It doesn’t need to hurt to be effective.
1) World’s Greatest Stretch
-Start in a high plank position, and then step your right foot to the side of your right hand.
-Try to reach your right elbow down towards your right foot and then bring your right hand overheat.
-Twist your body to the right side and look up towards your fingertips.
-Hold for about 30 seconds or whatever feels right for you.
-Reverse the movement to repeat on the other side.
*If this move is too intense as is, you can lower down onto your back knee. See below!
2) Kneeling Hip Drives
-Place a towel or cushion underneath your right knee with your left leg bent in front of you.
-Put your hands over your head and drive your bodyweight forwards towards your left leg. Repeat 5-10 times.
-Next, move your hands out to the right side of your body, twisting your upper body to the right as you drive forward. Do this 5-10 times, and then repeat with your left side.
-Next, move your hands over your head and lean to your right side as you drive forward. Do this 5-10 times, and then repeat with your left side.
3) Ankle mobility
-While down on your right knee, keep your foot down in place and put your hands around your left ankle to help move your ankle around in circles.
-Move it around in as many directions as you can comfortably.
*Try to keep your toes down on the ground the whole time!
4) Adductor Rock Backs
-Start on your hands and knees and extend one leg out to the side. Keep the entire side of your foot in contact with the ground.
-Begin rocking back towards your bent leg’s heel, staying within your range of motion.
-You should feel a stretch in your adductor (inner thigh) of the straight leg.
-Repeat 10 times and switch legs.
5) Hamstring flossing
-Lie on your back and hold one leg held up in a 90 degree angle with your hands behind your knee.
-Straighten your bent knee until you feel a stretch, and then lower it back down.
-Repeat this a few times and then switch to your other leg.
6) 90/90 hip stretch
*This move is a bit more intense, so if you cannot do it comfortably, start with just sitting in the position before adding in the forward lean. You may need to sit on a pillow or a yoga block to get into the position at first!
-Sit on the floor and place your front let in a 90 degree angle directly in front of you. Do the same with the other leg behind you.
-Bring your chest down towards your front knee, keeping your shoulders square.
-Repeat the chest lowering 5-10 times, holding the rep for a few seconds.
*Note: I'm not the best example for this, because I can't sit on the ground entirely in this position :)