As we progress to the cooler fall months, it is more important to make sure we stretch and activate the correct muscles before we run. As a physical therapist, I see 3 common areas in recreational runners that need to be addressed. In this first post I will focus on calf and hip flexibility. Since runners are propelling themselves forward quickly, they will often loss flexibility of their calves and backside of the hips. These two areas need to remain flexible to improve the loading phase of running. If you don’t load well, the propulsion (explosion phase) will not be as efficient or effective. Here are 2 example stretches to improve your calf and posterior hip flexibility. Both are using a step. For the hip stretch exercise you want to make sure to load through your heel and arch while feeling a stretch in your outside hip. Don’t use a step more than 2-4 inches in height at first.
In part 2, I will give a few exercises that use your new flexibility to improve the loading and exploding phases through proper glute activation.