Running involves a lot of moving parts. You swing your arms back and forth, take big steps really quickly, and essentially hop from foot to foot as you go. Because of all the mechanics required to propel you forward, fitness trainers strongly recommend that runners do mobility exercises on the reg.
If you’re regularly logging miles, the most important parts to focus on are the hips, knees, and ankles. “Your hips are the key to balance and drive,” Fabbri says. “They impact your running efficiency because they connect the legs to the core.” If your hips are tight or stiff, you’ll notice it right away because it’ll prevent you from achieving your best speed and power, she says.
Of course, any type of knee or ankle pain will also slow you down. Knee aches and tightness are both prohibitive to walking, Fabbri says, let alone running, which is why it’s important to “oil” your knees with a few key moves. The same is true for your ankles, which absorb a lot of shock as you land. “When there is any kind of limited ankle mobility, that extra force transmits to the rest of the joints in your legs — your knees and hips — and creates an imbalance that puts you at risk for injury,” she adds. Again, mobility directly impacts how you run, how you feel while you run, and whether or not you’ll want to run again tomorrow.
Sold on mobility exercises? Here are a few to try before your next jog.
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Baxter, C. (2017). Impact of stretching on the performance and injury risk of long-distance runners. Res Sports Med. doi: 10.1080/15438627.2016.1258640.
D’Isanto, T. (2019). Running and Posture. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise. DOI:10.14198/jhse.2019.14.Proc4.68
Konrad, A. (2021). The Impact of a Single Stretching Session on Running Performance and Running Economy: A Scoping Review. Front Physiol. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.630282.
Konrad, A. (2021). The Influence of Stretching the Hip Flexor Muscles on Performance Parameters. A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(4). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18041936
Pelletier-Galarneau, M. (2014). Review of running injuries of the foot and ankle: clinical presentation and SPECT-CT imaging patterns. American Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, 5(4), 305-316. https://doi.org/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4529586/
Śliwowski, R. (2014). The Effects of Individualized Resistance Strength Programs on Knee Muscular Imbalances in Junior Elite Soccer Players. PLoS ONE, 10(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0144021