Running is one of the most popular sport and leisure activities in the world. Whether you enjoy a brisk jog on the treadmill, or are training outdoors for an upcoming marathon, there is a running style that suits you and a location to do it. Strengthening key muscles used during running will allow you to maintain your form and avoid injury to run faster and longer as your training progresses. Below are four exercises that can be integrated into your warm up to improve mobility in your hips and maintain an upright posture.
Ankle Mobility to Improve Upright Posture
A slight forward lean is the most basic running stance. To achieve this, you should be leaning forward from your ankles while maintaining a strong, neutral core. Improving your ankle flexibility will enable you to run with an upright posture, protecting your knees and lower back from injury.
To improve mobility in your ankles, stand facing a wall with the toes of one foot directly up against the wall. Place your hands on the wall for support, and shift your body weight onto your front heel. Allow your knee to glide forward until it touches the wall, and gently pulse in and out of this position. If you can easily touch the wall while keeping your weight on your heel, scoot your foot back in small increments until your knee can no longer touch the wall.
Chin Tucks to Maintain Neck Posture
While running, hold your head upright and maintain a forward gaze. Looking down at the ground in front of you will cause your head and shoulders to fall forward, which ruins your running posture and zaps your energy. Strengthening the deep cervical flexors that support your head and neck will help you avoid this common mistake.
To strengthen the muscles in your neck, lie on your back with your neck in neutral alignment to your spine. Activate your neck flexors by performing a nodding motion with your head to tuck your chin. Lift your head slightly off the ground, and hold this position for a two second count before lowering your head back to the ground. Repeat this motion six to eight times while maintaining the natural curve in your neck.
High Knee Walks and Supine Bridges to Improve Hip Mobility
Proper flexibility in your hips will enable you to utilize your glutes and quads to move your legs while maintaining a strong core and neutral spine. Improving hip mobility is essential for proper running technique and keeping an upright posture and stable pelvic position.
Performing high knee walks will improve flexibility in your hips to allow you to raise your knee in a forward motion while using the opposite leg for stabilization. Stand up tall and prepare to take a step forward. Flex your hip and bring your right knee to your chest, grabbing your shin to pull your knee close to your chest. Hold this position and focus on keeping your chest up and back flat. Relax and release your leg, repeating the motion on the opposite leg as you take another step forward.
To set up the supine bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent comfortably and feet flat on the floor. Engage your abdominals to brace your spine, and squeeze your glutes to bring your pelvis off the ground. Raise your pelvis only as high as your glutes will allow, never arching your back to compensate. Lower your hips in a controlled motion and repeat the movement, concentrating on using your glutes to raise your hips rather than your hamstrings and lower back.
Sarah Dalton is the founder of Able Mind Able Body, a Las Vegas based company offering motivational lifestyle coaching and personal training services. She takes a holistic approach to healthy living, and educates others on the benefits of nutrition, exercise, and emotional health. Visit www.ablemindablebody.com for more info.