Flexibility, hip flexors and running.
I used to be flexible. I was an ice skater and could do spirals with my leg up high and spins with my leg raised in the air. That is definitely no longer the case. As I have gotten older and become a long distance runner I have struggled with flexibility especially in my hips. My hip flexors are always extremely tight. When I go to a yoga class I always struggle with hip openers and in triangle pose my hips always give off a loud pop as I struggle to get into the pose. When I run my hips feel tight and I know that I am not able to maximize my stride length but what’s a runner to do?
What are your hip flexors and why are they important for running?
Hip flexors are a group of muscles in the pelvic region and upper thighs that help drive up the knees. Your hip flexors keep the pelvis and thighs aligned when you are running. Your hip flexors will help you maintain good running form and are also important for stride length.If your hip flexors are tight you will have limited hip extension and your stride length can decrease making injury is possible and slowing down running times. Your running form and posture will begin to deteriorate as you begin to overcompensate for hip flexor weakness and tightness. When this group of muscles is not as flexible it will cause underutilization of the gluteal muscles which work hard to propel you forward.
Ways to improve hip flexor flexibility.
If you watch elite runners like Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan run, their stride length is long and fluid and their hips look loose. I am not sure what their secret is but there are specific stretches and exercises that you can do to work on your hip flexor flexibility. And, hey, I can run like an elite in my dreams, right?!?
Here are some great ways to stretch out and strengthen your hip flexors!
- Always do a dynamic warm-up before you run.
- Butterfly stretch or Bound Angle Pose
- Pigeon Pose
- Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Reverse Lunge with Knee Drive
- True Hip Flexor Stretch
- Wall SOAS Hold
Hip flexor strengthening and flexibility is definitely something that I am going to focus on this winter. What about you? Do you have any hip flexor strengthening or stretching tips to share?
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