With only a few weeks left before the 2018 Pittsburgh Marathon, I have a lot of runners coming to me with aches and pains popping up. Maybe they didn't quite stay focused on their form during that last 20 miler, ramped up a little too fast, or didn't even know it was possible to run in a less impactful way.
Whatever the reason, it's probably safe to say that not nearly enough of us are taking the time to "pre-hab," of work on our "goats" after a run.
Check out these great exercises from my friend, Katherine Dryer, in her article "Stretching Your Hip Flexors for Greater Stability and Pain Prevention." They're not a silver bullet for ailing achey legs, but they're a good start!
Stretching Your Hip Flexors for Greater Stability and Pain Prevention
by Katherine Dryer
Fervent runners know how important it is to be fully stretched and prepped before hitting the pavement or cross-country ground, yet many fail to exercise the hip flexors fully. While it is easier to remember the hamstrings, calves and quads, we should also take the time to lengthen and loosen our hip flexors. In this post, we highlight the importance of this muscle group and suggest a few easy stretches.
What is the Purpose of Hip Flexors?
Hip flexors are responsible for flexing the hip joint, bending the trunk forward, pulling up knees, ensuring stability in the lower body, and moving legs from front to back and side to side.
When we sit for various hours on end, as occurs when we have desk jobs, these muscles can tighten, with various consequences for our health. For instance, problematic hip flexors can affect our posture, forcing us to arch our back more, which results in back pain.
Tight hip flexors also prevent us from carrying out exercises such as squats with the right technique. Finally, immobility of the hips can contribute to knee and even neck tightness and pain.
Unexpected Symptoms of Hip Flexor Tightness
The symptoms of tight hip flexors are not always what you would expect. You may feel a tightness when standing, a pinching sensation or pain in your glute area, or even have trouble standing up straight. Neck pain can also be caused by hip tightness.
The Connection between a Weak Core and Hip Flexor Tightness
If you notice that even after stretching your hip flexors, your hips continue to shorten, a weak core may be the problem. Core issues result in an inability of the spine to maintain a powerful foundation and a neutral pelvic position. If this is the case, it is vital to stretch your glutes through the rear elevated split squat and other traditional glute-centered exercises.
Easy Hip Flexor Stretches
By simply carrying out lunges and squats, you will already be stretching your hip flexors. Specific exercises include the half kneeling hip flexor stretch. Kneel down on one knee, with the other knee out bent before you at a right angle. Lunge forward towards the raised knee and feel the delicious stretch. Feel the slight ‘burn’ for a few seconds and repeat around five times Repeat with the other knee.
You can also try the seated saddle stretch. Just sit with your legs around four feet apart, with your knees and toes pointed straight up. Inhale deeply and as you exhale, bring your body gently forward. Rest your hands on your feet and hold the stretch for five deep breaths.
Because hip flexors are not visible, many runners and strength trainers fail to give them the importance they are owed. Improve your posture, avoid falls, and prevent pain in the neck, back and glutes, by taking just a few minutes a day to stretch this important muscle group.
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Ken Presutti is a certified ChiRunning instructor, ACE Personal trainer, Spinning instructor, and coach. This blog is a mix of new articles and posts from his original blog, Overkill is Underrated.