We have limbered up after PART 1 per se, and have established stretching and mobility is not the golden ticket to running performance enhancement, nor is it the magic pill to injury prevention….
Do I still think it’s a worthwhile addition to a well-balanced run program? It’s a hard yes.
To be clear, stretching should not replace strength, prehab or muscle activation sequences. I think of it is an additional tool to gain mobility through range which I think can help runners with technique, efficiency and even recovery. It is a way for the body to PRIME pre run and a way for the mind and body to UNWIND post session.
What kind of stretch/mobility is best for Runners?
I think a variety of mobility tools gives you the best and most holistic outcome. Like anything in life, the body adapts quickly to routine and it’s good to shake up the WAY we try and gain joint mobility and tissue length. I believe a combination is best and my preferential order is:
- Dynamic moves (pre run)
- Foam rolling and static holds (post run)
- A weekly yoga/mobility session to re-set the body and mind after putting lots of km’s in the bank!
How should I incorporate mobility/stretching?
Mobility and stretching shouldn’t feel like a chore. I have learned to actually look forward to it! I know in myself I always feel less of a 90 year old if I take time to do a stretch warm up and also don’t pull up as stiff the next day if I factor in some post run mobility work.
I am really passionate about keeping it ‘lifestyle friendly’. You should be able to slip in a few mins pre and post run session easily without thinking of it as another arduous task to add to your schedule. One main longer mobility session as a re-set each weeks helps boost the solo work you do yourself and I think this is the key.
What I recommend weekly:
(In addition to weekly strength/prehab and strength activation work)
- Pre Run: 5-7mins max. I advise a combination of pre run drill based exercises. Helps to mobilise specific running joints/tissue to help with technique and fluidity of movement during the session.
- Leg swings-side ways and forwards
- Multi-directional lunges to warm up the hips in different planes of movement
- Quick calf raises on the edge of a step
- Lumbar rotation (lying on your back with one knee bent and take it across the body moving smoothly from one side to the next to make it mobile.
- Walking hamstring reaches (bending down to try and tap the outer edge of one ankle while the other leg is straight and repeating both sides.)
- Standing single leg hip “hurdle drills’
2) Post Run static holds/foam roll (5-8mins max): Post run slow release. Deep holds to help alleviate tension in the fascia and connective tissue around the joints. Held each for 30sec-1min each side.
- Hip flexor lunge (kneeling lunge with the option to hold the back foot up to target the hip flexors and quads.
- Pigeon: to target the glutes and deep lateral rotators of the hip. Can be done on the floor or with leg up on the couch/chair with the stretching knee bent to at least 90deg and a slight trunk tilt forwards.
- Calf drop: on edge of step/curb: (drop one heel off the edge of the step with a straight and then bent knee to target the calves, achilles and plantar fascia. Holding 30secs each side)
- Foam rolling (can do in addition to or instead of above holds). The main areas to target are the quads, hamstrings, ITBs, glutes and the back (a max of 2mins each leg and and additional 2mins on the upper and lower back. Flow through each lower limb muscle group- literally just flush out the legs and back to assist with circulation and recovery)
- Thoracic open books (side lying with knees bent and arms stacked on top of each other, opening your top arm like opening a page of a large book to rotate through the mid-back, holding each rep at the end to absorb the ice upper back twist. Both sides 3 reps each.)
3) Weekly Mobility Session (30-45min stretch routine). Ideally x1 week to fully re-set the body and to get a bit more “detail” on the stretches and isolate specific body parts. I do ‘stretching for runners’ sequence every Friday afternoon. This focuses on spinal mobility, hip opening stretches, the lower limb, shoulders and pelvis. This is a combination class involving different techniques to help loosen stubborn tissue:
My favourite combos in your weekly mobility session:
- Hold relax/active techniques. Contracting and relaxing target areas to gain great length in the muscle tissue
- Neural dynamic stretches (flossing the nerves in the lower limb to help reduce neural tightness- the sciatic nerve is the main one down the back of the leg.) Static holds (allowing time under tension length for the tissue/ fascia to adapt and lengthen.)
- Movement flows (whole-body functional moves to help holistically mobilise the spine and legs). This may include things like slow lunge work, downward dogs/pikes and roll downs. These moves are slow and active and target multiple joints and muscles at once.
The above techniques are all done in a series to maximise tissue and joint mobility in different ways to leave you feeling re-set and loose and ready for the weekend of running!
Additional Benefits of stretching and mobility:
An additional and rewarding benefit is these sessions also help calm your body and mind down after a busy week. The longer weekly session helps form good stretching habits which keeps you motivated to maintain your short and consistent mobility work through the week.