by Jason a. Fitzgerald in Training Tips, image by Eneas De Troya

Increasing Hip Mobility for Injury Prevention (and How to Stay Loose All Day!)

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Recently I wrote an article discussing the importance of hip strength in preventing running injuries. The hips help control the leg and prevent excessive (read: inefficient and potentially dangerous) movement during the stance phase of running.

If there is a significant weakness in your hips, you’re going to end up with an overuse injury when you start increasing your mileage or running faster workouts. Even though I think every runner should do some hip strengthening for prevention reasons, those with patella tendonitis or illiotibial band syndrome should especially begin a hip strengthening routine.

Strengthening your hips is vital, but it’s only part of the puzzle. Equally as important is to ensure that you have appropriate hip flexibility. A flexible hip enables you to move through the correct range of motion during your running stride so you can extract as much power as possible from your legs. You will help prevent running injuries and feel better during your daily runs.

If you spend a majority of your day sitting, then you probably have tight hips and hip flexors. For an efficient running stride this can potentially cause you problems (especially if you run after work when you’ve been sitting for a long time).

Fortunately, there are several ways of fighting back against your hip inflexibility. Today I want to discuss three main strategies:

  1. Sitting less
  2. Pre-run dynamic stretches
  3. Post-run static stretches
For most of us, we spend way too much time at a desk, sitting in front of a computer, or driving. All of this time puts our hips in a shortened position and contributes to an inflexible running stride. If you work in an office, sit less by employing some easy strategies:
  1. Print things to a printer on the far side of the office.
  2. Instead of emailing or calling a colleage, walk to their work space and talk (while standing up!)
  3. Take the stairs, use a standing work station, or spend 2 minutes doing mobility exercises a few times a day.

Ok, so now you’re looser after work and are ready to run. But are you actually ready? Not yet. First you need a dynamic running warm-up to get you prepared, which will include exercises like donkey kicks, leg swings, and butt-kicks that all help to loosen your hips.

These exercises have funny names, but don’t be intimidated – they’re actually quite easy and the risk of injury is very low. For more, check out Myrtl, Cannonball, and the ITB Rehab Routine (all have video demonstrations). Alternatively, these can be used as warm-down or strength routines following your run.

So you spent the day trying to stay loose and avoid excessive tightness, you warmed-up properly for your run, and you just finished your planned workout (well done!). What’s next?

If you’re still worried about your hips or need to work on more flexibility, this is the time for static stretching. Post-run static stretching isn’t beneficial before you run, but it can help you recover and loosen when you’re done. Combined with a protein shake, you’ll recover as fast as possible after a hard workout.

For your hip flexors, the old fashioned quad stretch of holding your foot to your butt works very well. Another option is to kneel on one leg and push that hip flexor out in front of you. You may need to support yourself, but you’ll feel the stretch in the front of your leg at the top of your quadriceps.

Now for your hips: sit on the ground with both legs out in front of you. Pull your left leg up and across your right leg and hold onto your crossed leg just under the knee with both arms. Pull your knee toward your chest – you should feel a stretch in your left glute and hip.

Another option is the classic ITB stretch, which also stretches your hip. For your left leg, stand up and cross your right leg over your left. Push your left hip out to the side and bend slightly from the left hip. You should feel a great stretch in your left hip area.

Runner’s Challenge: For the next week, implement ALL of these strategies every day into your running plan. How do you feel? I don’t think anybody will feel worse!

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