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How to Improve Mobility for Runners



An increasing number of runners recognize the value of foam rollers in their own personal maintenance routine. It is evident from their usage of words such as ‘painful’, ‘excruciating’, and ‘unbearable’ that they are not employing the foam roller correctly or getting the full advantage from it. A foam roller can be a great tool which can help runners improve their flexibility without causing any discomfort.

Generally speaking, runners have a few objectives when it comes to stretching and foam rolling. The purpose of reducing pain is usually to ease stiffness or tenderness in muscles. A further target is to build suppleness, meaning the capacity of a particular muscle or collection of muscles to extend over a span of motion. Today I’m discussing how to better the skill of running by increasing the joint’s movement during a variety of motions.

Flexibility and mobility are distinct, yet they can have an effect on one another. If your calves are stiff, it may impede the flexibility of your ankles. Consequently, incorporating both the ability to move and adjust should be a part of your self-care plan.

Tight, inflexible muscles will restrict and resist joint movement. When attempting to improve mobility, we initially evaluate the muscles that are both adjacent to and distant from the joint.

Mobility for Runners

It is best to do these exercises before your run since mobility is critical to running. Do quicker, lighter stretches prior to running to help get your body ready, so incorporate them into your warmup. After you have finished exercising is the moment to focus on static stretching exercises. Your muscles will be relaxed and flexible when you do slower movements, which will tell your body to calm down.

Joint by Joint Approach

The Joint by Joint Approach is a strategy for improving the movement and support of the joints. It highlights the codependent relationship between the joints. Examining your body from the ground up will reveal this inter-dependency. Alternating joints either need to be mobile or stable. Ankles should be mobile, knees should be stable. The sequence is continued up the body with the hip joints being able to move but the lumbar spine (low back) remaining stationary. The thoracic spine (mid-back) can be mobile, but the scapula remains stable.

For example, the knee is a stable joint. If the ankle has stiffness, it will attempt to compensate by taking movement from the knee, which can destabilize it and increase the likelihood of an injury as well as undermining performance. If the hips do not have freedom of movement, it can impact the lumbar spine, joints higher or lower than the hips, or the knees.

Considering the relationship between running and knee pain, it may be caused by a lack of mobility in either the ankles or the hips. The whole physique is connected in this fashion, which is why if any section of the sequence isn’t working effectively, we are more susceptible to harm. A comprehensive approach to fortifying and activating the body is the answer.

The Ankle

As people get older, their ankles can become less flexible due to being unused and earlier injuries, even if the wounds have now healed. Aside from the risk of a knee injury, constrained ankle agility can impair performance as well as bring about ailments like plantar fasciitis and even hip soreness. Having adequate range of motion in your ankles is essential in order to absorb the shock of landing safely. If your ankle mobility is limited, the additional pressure has to be taken up by your knees, hips, and spine. Having limited flexibility in your ankles will negatively influence your squat form.

Assessment

Remove your footwear and kneel down before a wall. Measure five inches from the wall with a tape measure, starting at the big toe of one foot. Bend down, pushing your knee towards the wall and attempting to make contact with it. Can you complete this action without raising your heel, turning your feet inwards, or experiencing any discomfort (stop if you feel discomfort)? If not, you have limited ankle mobility.

Try This

Roll a massage, tennis, or Mobipoint ball on your foot for around half a minute. Roll the ball, arch, and heel. Press and release a few times. Afterward, employ a foam roller to work on your calf muscle for roughly half a minute. Gently roll your calf up and down with a pressure of around one inch and move at a steady speed. Angle a little to target more areas.

Reassess

Try the assessment again. Do you notice any changes? It is very likely that your mobility will have increased by at least one inch within one minute. Do you understand why executing this process prior to your marathon will improve your performance?

Ankle Mobility Exercises

Stretch your feet for approximately 30 seconds each.

Foam Roll your calves. Spend about two minutes or so on each side. Use moderate pressure. Press and hold any areas that feel sensitive with your other leg applying extra force for 10 seconds.

Stretch your calves

Try the heel drop stretch. Stand on a low box and drop your heel. Maintain the position for a few seconds and then raise up to the base of your foot. Repeat in a controlled manner four or five times. Repeat on the other side.

Half kneeling lunge

Begin from a position on your knees and move your right leg forward. Advance your leg so that your knee goes past your toes (as you did in the assessment). You should not experience soreness or hurt when you use your hand to put added force into this movement, but it should not be uncomfortable for your knee. Pull back. Slowly repeat this movement at different angles 12-15 times. At the end, keep the stance for 30 seconds (you can shift the angle while in the pose too). Repeat on the other side. Go relatively fast but make sure you are in control when doing this before a jog. Don’t bounce.

Low squats

Stand with the distance between your feet at the same size as your hips and lower yourself into a squat while pushing your hips towards the ground as much as possible. Position your arms ahead or lightly grab onto the wall for stability if needed. Keep your heels on the ground, and only go as deep into the squat as you can without lifting them. Complete 10-12 squats at a quick but controlled pace. This exercise is also great for hip mobility. Note: Don’t push through any kind of pain.

Make sure to reassess frequently to check on progress!

I need to be mindful of my knees when doing squats, as arthritis causes me pain when I go too deep. Listen to what your body is telling you and squat to a level where you are comfortable and not straining; be sure to not lift your heels or tip forward excessively.

Yoga for Runners

When it comes to runners doing yoga, there is no definitive answer as to whether it is a good or bad, since many poses can be beneficial for them. We’ve gathered some great yoga poses for runners, which were chosen by Kelly Rotherham a specialist physical therapist.

Downward dog

Kelly Rotherham, a physiotherapist, vocalizes the advantagousness of the downward dog to runners, noting, “It builds both strength and flexibility.” Doing downward dog yoga poses works both your lower and upper body, making your arms, shoulders, back, calves, hamstrings and ankles work at the same time.

The popular yoga posture known as downward dog gives an awesome stretch to the ankle and calf as well as providing a workout for many smaller muscles in the foot. In order to prevent yourself from harm when running, you need feet that can adjust to the terrain, move promptly when changing surfaces, and facilitate the distribution of your weight.

  1. From an all-fours position, place your hands in front of your shoulders and tuck your toes. Spread your fingers wide.
  2. As you exhale, lift your hips and back, making your spine long.
  3. You can keep a bend in your knees if your shoulders are round. You want to lift up and out of your shoulders, with a flat upper back, pressing the floor away from you.
  4. Take 3 deep breaths here. You can stay still or walk on the spot, bending one knee at a time.

Low lunge

Low lunge is a must for runners. According to Rotherham, running enthusiasts should not overlook the importance of lunging, as it can offer various forms of activity and also help with physical training. The low lunge can help improve stability and your body’s awareness of its own position, as well as facilitate movement in the abdominal muscles, hip joints, and ankles. The low lunge position primarily targets the quadriceps, abdominals, and hip flexors and strengthens the gluteal muscles.

  1. From your downward dog, step your right foot forward between the hands, dropping your left knee to the floor. Untuck your left toe.
  2. You can place your hands on either side of your right foot. Keep pressing into your right foot and the top of your left foot while you breathe into the lunge.
  3. As you press into your feet, sink your hips forward and down to stretch the quadriceps on the left leg. Take 3 deep breaths.
  4. Change legs, bringing your left foot forward and right leg back, and repeat.

Intense side stretch 

An intense side stretching pose is a strong, concentrated stretch which targets not only the legs and feet, but also the spinal region.

Rotheram explains the potential benefits of the pose for runners, including decreased tension in their legs and hips, as well as increased flexibility in the hips and spine. The core muscles are active while the head is positioned on the legs. Pulling the shoulders back assists in improving the shape of slumped and sagging shoulders.

  1. Come to stand with your feet around a leg’s distance apart. Turn your right toes out to the short side of your yoga mat and turn your left toes in towards the center of your mat.
  2. Inhale and lift your arms, turning your hips in the same direction as your right foot, and exhale folding from your hips over your right leg.
  3. Place your hands on your right shin or the floor, if you can reach it. You can also use yoga blocks under the hands for support or loop your arms behind you.
  4. As you take 3 deep breaths here, keep turning your left hip towards the right foot so your pelvis stays level.
  5. Inhale, press firmly into your feet, engage your thighs, and lift your arms, coming to stand. Repeat on the other side.

Reclined hero pose

Rotherham claims that runners can reap numerous advantages from the reclined hero pose. The posture of the reclined hero offers a widen range of flexibility and ensures the hips, legs, and knees are all in the right position. She states that the exercise helps to stretch the quadriceps muscles and teaches the body how to move the legs internally, while also reinforcing the lower back.

  1. Come to your knees and turn your feet out wider than your hips. Your knees may or may not stay close together, do what feels best for your knees here.
  2. Roll your calf muscles out with the help of your hands and sit back, between your heels. You can use a block or cushion under the buttocks here for support.
  3. You can start to walk back on your hands, making sure you do not feel any pain in your knees. You want to feel a stretch on your thighs so tucking the tailbone to the backs of the knees may help with this.
  4. Keep going back until you reach a comfortable limit. You may end up on the hands, elbows, or lying back. Find your variation and stay for five deep breaths.
  5. To come out, walk yourself back up using your hands and lift off your heels. Stretch your legs out and give them a shake.

Bridge

Bridge pose is an excellent pose to do after a long-distance run to loosen your muscles and enhance the strength of your hips. Rotheram states that consists of time, running can put an excessive amount of pressure on the hips, thus diminishing one’s performance.

Fortuitously, bridge posture can help construct strength in the hip muscles. It is significant for runners to have strong glutes and this exercise can be used to aid that. This exercise strengthens your abdominal muscles and elongates the hip flexors.

  1. Come to lie on your back, with your feet on the floor close to your buttocks. You should be able to touch your heels with your middle fingers.
  2. Place your arms down beside you, palms facing the floor. Press into your upper arms and forearms and start to lift the hips as you inhale.
  3. Keep tucking your tailbone to the back of your knees and lift your hips higher. Your chest should be moving towards your throat.
  4. Take 3 deep breaths here before releasing back down on an exhale. You can repeat this posture a few times.


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