There are runners out there who don’t warm up, never crosstrain, and barely touch a foam roller or percussive mobility gun. Lace up and go is their motto, and still, they don’t seem to get injured. Those are unicorns. For the rest of us, we need to support our running habit with sport-specific workouts, recovery, occasional rehabbing, and of course some running warmups to fend off injury and make for better technique. And we’ve got you covered.
How do these moves supplement my running?
The point of these movement patterns is twofold. One, when you lock in your running technique, you motor more efficiently, which means you are able to go further and longer for the same amount of energy output. Have you ever watched world-class runners go? They are machines, with footfalls, arm motion, and body position that are completely locked in. Their torsos are tipped a little forward, which means they’re constantly catching themselves — helpful for maintaining momentum. They essentially “kick” the ground, gripping with their toes, and propelling forward, while pumping their arms for additional force. The hips are stable and rotating, and need to take on different amounts of force during turns or when the terrain changes. It’s mesmerising.
Second, it contributes to your quest for running injury-free. These moves wake up your fast-twitch muscles that help with balance. They lubricate your joints so they’re ready to move freely when you hit the road. If you are running in the midst of another sport —such as soccer, tennis, or flag football — you won’t just be running forward. Being nimble and traveling in 360º is essential. These moves help with that, too.
Let’s get laced up
We know, enough talk, time to hit the pavement. We’ve picked seven moves that are easy to learn and perfect for incorporating into your workout once or twice a week.
First, start with a warmup. Walk for 10 to 15 minutes, increasing in speed so you’re jogging by the end. Then do some small hops to feel the force on your legs, and do some light stretching (draw your knee toward your chest, getting in an easy hamstring stretch). Then get to the routine. Do each movement for one minute, resting 20 to 30 seconds in-between.
Trains: coordination, balance, ankle mobility, hip extension
How to do it: Run in small bounces, raising forward knee and doing an exaggerated double-bounce as you go. Extend and flex the ankle with each step. Swing arms back and forth as you go. Skip swiftly, but leave yourself enough time to fully move through each rep.
- High knees
Trains: balance, hip flexors, knee joints, IT band, glutes and hamstrings
How to do it: Jog lightly on the balls of your feet while pulling the forward knee as high as you can, at least to hip height. The step length is short and choppy.
- Butt kicks
Trains: coordination, hamstrings, calves
How to do it: Jog with torso upright, chest out, elongating the back kick so your heel taps your butt. The step length is short and choppy. If you don’t quite have the flexibility, go as high as you can, and every 10 steps, stand and hold your back foot toward butt.
Trains: coordination, hip mobility, spine flexibility
How to do it: While jogging sideways to the right, keeping torso still, cross the left foot ahead of the right, then the right leg goes to the right, and finally the left foot crosses behind the right, then the right leg goes forward. Go one direction for 10 to 15 seconds, then switch directions and switch feet, so you’re facing the same way the whole time. Start slowly to understand the movement pattern, then speed up when you’ve found your footing.
- Side jumps
Trains: foot muscles, inner thighs, glutes
How to do it: Start in a jog, then turn 90º to the left, extend your right foot with a straight leg and soft knee and land with your full foot, then bring your left foot laterally beneath you and push off high and far, propelling to the right and repeating. Go one direction for 10 to 15 seconds, then switch directions and switch feet, so you’re facing the same way the whole time.
- High kicks
Trains: abs, hip flexors, hamstrings
How to do it: Start jogging slowly, then engage core, stay tall with chest out and back straight, and begin kicking forward leg up and out, landing on the ball of your feet and switching legs quickly.
- Backwards running
Trains: Running-specific coordination, calf muscles
How to do it: Run normally — only backwards. Take small, choppy steps and vary the pace. Easiest done on a track.
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