Loosening up could help you become a better runner

By Migie Felizardo, CSCS, NSCA-CPT | Photo by Scott Broome/Unsplash

Have you ever tried running and felt so tight and heavy that you could feel pain in your joints as well? Well, that could mean that your muscles are tight and your joints lack the full range of motion. The usual causes are improper recovery strategies, former injuries or a sedentary lifestyle. Being more mobile and flexible helps improve running economy. It also reduces energy consumption since your body won’t have to do compensatory movements in order to move well.

Here are exercises that could loosen up your lower body and improve your running. Do these as part of your recovery days or before your actual warm-up routine (except the static back exercise). If you plan to do these on your recovery day, do a quick foam rolling routine before the stretches to maximize the effect.

Quad/Hip flexor stretch

Place your right foot flat on the ground and your left knee on a soft pad/mat with the left foot on a bench. You can also place your back foot against a wall if you don’t have a bench. Lean slightly forward with your torso, tighten your stomach, and contract the glute of your back leg. Maintain this position, then shift your entire body slightly forward. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

ms_training_17_Quad and Hip Flexor Stretch 2
ms_training_18_Quad and Hip Flexor Stretch

Piriformis muscle release and Figure 4 stretch

Place a tennis ball under the outside of your right butt. Sit down with your right foot on top of your left thigh. Hold pressure on the tight spot for 30 seconds. After the release, lie down with your right foot over your left thigh and pull your left thigh to your chest until you feel the stretch on your right butt. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat the entire process on the other side.

ms_training_15_Piriformis Release Ball Placement

ms_training_16_Piriformis Release
ms_training_4_Figure 4 Stretch

Ankle mobility drill

Stand facing a wall several feet away. Stagger your stance and place one foot forward. Place your hands on the wall and lean forward. Keep your heels flat on the ground and begin rocking the ankle of your front foot back and forth. This is not a static calf stretch so just hold the position for one to two seconds and perform 15 reps per side. You want to mobilize the ankle joint and not necessarily hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

ms_training_1_Ankle Mobility Drill 1
ms_training_2_Ankle Mobility Drill 2

Rocking frog stretch

Get down on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under the hips. You should feel the ground pulling the skin of your knee. Point your toes out and get down on forearms then push your butt straight back. Hold for two seconds then release. Perform 10 reps. Stretch should be felt on your inner thighs.

ms_training_20_Rocking Frog Stretch 2
ms_training_19_Rocking Frog Stretch 1

Forward lunge, elbow to instep + rotation

Step forward into a lunge with your left foot. Place your right hand on the ground and your left elbow to the inside of your left foot. Hold the stretch for two seconds. Rotate your left arm and chest to the sky as far as you can. Hold for two seconds. Return your left elbow to the inside of your left foot then straighten your left knee to stretch your hamstrings for two seconds. Repeat the entire process and complete five repetitions for both sides.

ms_training_10_Lunge 2
ms_training_11_Lunge 3
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Stand with your legs straight and your hands on the ground in front of you. Keeping your legs straight and stomach tight, walk your hands forward to a push-up position. Still keeping your legs straight as much as possible, walk your hands back to reverse the movement. Perform five to eight reps.

ms_training_14_Lunge 6
ms_training_6_Inchworm 2
ms_training_8_Inchworm 4
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Sources: Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starret | Pain Free by Pete Egoscue | Every Day is Game Day by Mark Vertegen

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