If you are working really hard to run faster, but feel like you are riding a bicycle with stuck brakes, then it could mean that your body needs a little “unsticking” to be able to move freely. Scientifically known as improved mobility.
When runners are feeling tight and not moving easily, the first response is to do a lot of stretching to become more flexible. Flexibility, while playing a role in mobility, has to do mostly with muscle length and how far we are able to stretch the muscle without it breaking. For example, can you lift a straight leg just a few inches off the ground or over your head like a gymnast?
In running we don’t need to lengthen our muscles out in such great ranges and in fact we don’t want to. Long floppy muscles have less forward propelling power. A comparison that I like to make is between a long floppy spring/elastic and and a spring with lots of tension. If you have ever played with a spring/elastic you will know that the one with more tension produces more energy and is more effective. So runners want “tight springs” for more efficient forward propulsion, but well tensioned powerful leg muscles are no good if your leg is stuck at the hip.
This is where mobility comes in. Mobility is the ability to move freely and easily with a greater range of motion. This ability to move freely with great range of motion will have a significant effect on your stride length and reduce the effort required to move your limbs for running. (What is important to note is that you also need good stability around these mobile joints, that is for another blog though).
So ditch the old wall calf stretch and develop a regular pre- and post run routine of mobility exercises.
The big 5 to always focus on are the joints of the feet and ankle, hips, shoulders and spine. Just 10 minutes of mobility exercises before and after your run will greatly improve your performance as you begin to move more freely.
Our lifestyles of sitting are big contributors to reduced mobility, making a daily mobility routine extra important for those runners who spend hours stuck behind a desk each day.
Free your body to move as it was designed to and watch those PB’s fall!