All runners know that stretching is part and parcel of a well-rounded training plan. Regular stretching feels good, increases flexibility, releases tension, corrects muscle imbalance, and improves technique—all of which make running more enjoyable and efficient.
That said, mobility training is also important. It’s actually one of the keys to training longevity as it helps reduce injury risk, keep the joints healthy, and ensure optimal performance.
Yet, so many runners miss out on its benefits, whether they don’t know much about mobility’s impact on performance or are simply unwilling to invest time doing mobility drills (I understand, we’re all busy, but that’s no excuse).
Here’s the truth: Improving your mobility doesn’t have to burn off long hours from your day. In fact, as little as 10 to 15 minutes a day is enough to reap physical performance gains.
In today’s article, I’ll explain what mobility is all about and share a few mobility drills as well as how to incorporate mobility work into your workout routine.
Before we go into the many ways mobility training improves your athletic performance, let’s take a look at what mobility actually means.
Flexibility VS Mobility
Most runners know what flexibility is, but they often confuse it with mobility. Understanding the difference is key as mobility training is much more than just stretching.
Let’s see which is which.
Flexibility stands for the ability of the soft tissues to stretch in a specific direction. It’s the lengthening of muscles in a passive way.
For example, if you can reach your toes from a standing position without bending your knees, or scratch every part of your back unassisted, you’re pretty flexible.
Mobility, on the other hand, is about how freely you can move a joint through a range of controlled motions, before being limited with control. It’s your ability to exert force throughout a greater range of motion.
For example, if you can press dumbells behind your neck, get into a deep squat with weights on your back, or do gymnastics, you have good mobility.
Now that you have an idea what mobility is all about, let’s look at how it can help improve your running performance.
The Benefits Of Mobility Training For Runners
Whether you just took up running to lose weight, are preparing for your 5th marathon, or just running for the joy of it, working on improving your mobility could give you a big performance boost!
Good mobility helps us pay more attention to our bodies and our range of motion, leading to improved running technique and fewer injuries.
Let’s see why…
Poor mobility limits your ability to run at a faster pace. The main goal of mobility training is to improve the position of the joint, which helps increase power output, resulting in efficient performance.
When you have a good range of motion, you can push move much more efficiently. This translates to a faster pace and improved athletic performance.
Reduced Injury Risk
A lack of mobility makes you prone to pain and injury, especially as you ramp up your training.
For instance, research shows that limited hip mobility may lead to patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, and a host other overuse injuries.
Better Awareness & Technique
Mobility training can make you more aware of how your body moves and your range of motion, which results in better running form.
The Mobility Workout Routine You Need
Here’s a 15-minute routine to improve the range of motion in all major joints and strengthen the surrounding stabilizing muscles. You can perform these movements as part of your dynamic warm-up or your cool-down.
Perform it two to three times a week to take your running efficiency and power to the next level.
Squat to Stand
A great movement for mobilizing the inner thighs and hamstrings.
Begin by standing, feet slightly farther than shoulder-width apart.
Next, while bending your knees much as needed, bend over and grab the bottom of your feet, pulling yourself into a deep squat position.
As you assume the bottom position, focus on pushing your knees out, forcing your chest up, and keeping the heels low as you lower your body toward the floor. Hold for a moment, then push your hips upward until you feel the stretching in your hamstrings.
Try to keep a slight arch in the lower back, chest up and knees out the entire time.
Shoot for 8-10 reps.
Chest Stretch With Broomstick
This drill mobilizes the upper back. It improves shoulder mobility and stretches the arm and chest muscles.
Stand tall, assuming an athletic position. Then grab with your hands the end of the broomstick, using a pretty wide grip.
While keeping your core engaged and elbows straight, lift the broomstick up and over your head. Next, while keeping arms straight, slowly rotate the broomstick up, overhead, and behind the hips (or as low as possible). Widen your grip if you’re having issues getting the pipe overhead.
That’s one rep.
This move not only opens up your hips but also improves mobility and relieves tightness in the core, back, and groin.
Place your front foot on the floor, knee bent at 90 degrees angle.
Bend your right knee and place your shin along the back cushion of a chair or a couch with the toes pointed upward.
While keeping your right thigh in line with your body, place your left foot, aligning the knee over the ankle. Engage your core, elongate your spine, and keep your hips square.
You should feel tension through the hips flexors and quads on that right leg.
Wall Ankle Mobilization
A great drill for improving ankle mobility.
Start by facing a wall, toes of your right foot against the wall.
While keeping the right heel planted, try to shift your knee toward the wall, having it go past the toes. Next, straighten your front knee and slide your foot back a bit so that your toes are roughly an inch away from the wall then repeat.
Continue on moving back gradually until your kneecap is barely touching the wall. Your knee should go straight forward and not inward, the heel remaining on the ground the entire time.
You should feel a stretch in the posterior lower leg. It’s a good idea to back off if you feel pinching in the front.
Perform 8 to 10 reps on each side, preferably in minimal footwear, to complete one set.