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 always a running style that can suit you, and a location to do it. Strengthening and lengthening the key muscles used during running will allow you to maintain your form and avoid running injuries. You will therefore be able to perform faster and longer as your training progresses. Below are four exercises that can be integrated into your warmup to improve mobility in your hips and ankles and maintain an 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.

Ankle stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall with the toes of one foot directly up against the wall or door frame.
  2. Place your hands on the wall for support, and shift your body weight onto your front heel.
  3. Allow your body to glide forward by bending your front knee until you feel a stretch on the back of your ankle and gently pulse in and out of this position.

Tip: If your front knee can easily touch the wall when bent, scoot your back foot back in small increments until your front knee can no longer touch the wall when bending.

Check out this ankle stretch from yoga and fitness pro @sarechaederra.

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.

Chin tuck

  1. Lie on your back or stand up straight with your neck in neutral alignment to your spine.
  2. Activate your neck flexors by performing a nodding motion with your head to tuck your chin.
  3. Lift your head slightly higher and hold this position for a 2-second count before relaxing your neck and lowering your head.
  4. Repeat this motion 6 to 8 times while maintaining the natural curve in your neck.

Check out this solid demonstration of a chin tuck from physical therapist @davidreavy.

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.

High knee walks

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.

  1. Stand up tall and prepare to take a step forward.
  2. Flex your hip and bring your right knee to your chest, grabbing your shin to pull your knee close to your chest.
  3. Hold this position and focus on keeping your chest up and back flat.
  4. Relax and release your leg, repeating the motion on the opposite leg as you take another step forward.

For a more challenging version, try it with a powerband, as demonstrated by fitness team @activeaid.

Supine bridge

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent comfortably and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Engage your abdominals to brace your spine, and squeeze your glutes to bring your pelvis off the ground.
  3. Raise your pelvis only as high as your glutes will allow, never arching your back to compensate.
  4. 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.

Let health and fitness coach @nsenese22 show you how it’s done.

Warming up is essential to improve mobility in your hips and ankles and to maintain an upright posture. When muscles and tendons aren’t warmed up, they don’t work as well. This can increase the chances of you getting a strain or partial tear. If you think you have a severe muscle injury, see your doctor. But as a general rule, if your pain is bearable, remember to RICE: rest, ice, compress, and elevate. You should also avoid running until the pain goes away.

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.