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Save Time (and Become a Better Runner) with These Mobility Hacks

Turn mobility into a habit by incorporating it into your busy routine.

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We all have those micro-moments in our life where we have to multi-task to get the most out of our jam-packed day. Whether it’s catching up on the news while making coffee, doing the daily Wordle while blow drying your hair, or folding laundry while sitting on a work call, it’s become ingrained into the fast-paced mindset of modern life.

And since life likely won’t slow down any time soon, we can use these moments to do the things that will make us healthier and stronger, to prime us for the activities we love. We’re talking, of course, about mobility.

Simply put, mobility moves are ones that will help you move better. They are dynamic exercises that improve your range of motion. 

Runners often shrug off mobility for lack of time or interest.

“A lot of athletes think that adding mobility to their regular training means taking up a lot more time or doing some lengthy new routine, when in fact small and consistent mobility routines that take no more than a few minutes are all one really needs,” says Lindsey Herman, an ultra and trail coach at Running Wild. 

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“The way I see it, consistent mobility is like a ‘secret weapon’ that helps prevent injuries an athlete is unaware are lurking beneath the surface,” says Herman. 

Though Herman notes that every runner will have individual mobility needs, leg swings and band moves are specifically what she focuses on with her athletes. 

“I am in the middle of reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit book, and think that most runners have time to add leg swings and band exercises pre/post run if they can turn it into a habit. These simple habits take less than two minutes, so finding a way to make them automatic is key,” she says. 

Mobility moves can be easily incorporated into your warm up or cool down, but as Herman notes, “more intense mobility should be saved for after the run (time permitting), later in the day, or more than a few hours before running. Too much stretching close to the start of a run can decrease power output.”

We spoke with other runners and coaches to put together a list of ways you can creatively integrate strength and mobility moves into your life to hopefully form it into a habit. 

Balance Teeth

Two minutes brushing your teeth can almost be as long as a minute on a treadmill. This hack helps if you have an electric toothbrush that beeps at you every 30 seconds. For each segment of brushing your pearly whites, stand on one leg and switch every 30 seconds. This engages the core and practices balance and proprioception. It also becomes very obvious if one side is weaker than the other. Try to keep your hips square and focus on a strong leg stance. For pro-level single-leg tooth brushing, try adding in some single leg squats.

Brushing your teeth is something you likely do twice a day with rare exception, so it is a great way to get in any number of mobility moves. If balance is not what you want to focus on, you could instead take that time to roll out your feet using a lacrosse or tennis ball or do some toe yoga exercises.

Another balance option that Herman prefers is to stand on one foot while she puts on her running shoes rather than sitting down. 

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Kitchen Calf Stretches

Place a roasting pan upside down on the floor against your cabinets. Get to prepping any dinner ingredients while you stretch your calves on the pan. (We do recommend washing the pan afterwards, of course).

Like brushing your teeth, prepping or cooking meals is a great time to get in any number of mobility moves. You could also roll out your feet or do toe yoga moves here, too.

Onion Planks

Is it just us, or do all recipes call for some kind of onion/garlic combo? Those recipes usually call for cooking them for five minutes before you can move on to the next step. If you, like us, have little patience to wait that long, try adding in a two minute plank on the kitchen floor while you wait. Then they’ll get to cook for at least a little bit longer than the 30 seconds you might have left them at, delivering more flavor to your meal, while gaining a microcosm more core strength for yourself. Win-win.

Bonus points if you can hold it for the full five minutes.

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Laundry Squats

The load of this hack will be determined by the amount of laundry your household generates. After taking clean laundry from the dryer, drop it on a (preferably clean) floor next to a table you’ll be folding on (you can also leave it in the basket, but reach for the bottom items first). Perform a controlled squat to pick up one item, fold the aforementioned item on the table, then squat for the next. Yes, this is tantamount to cruel, but your quads will have the last laugh on race day.

Antidote to Sitting

When you sit all day, it is important to stretch out, activate your glutes, and utilize your hip flexor muscles. While it seems like Life 101 to get up from your desk and move around, it’s harder than it sounds on a day with back to back meeting schedules. Either set an hourly alarm, or every time you have a few minutes between meetings, get up out of the work chair and do a few glute activations like glute bridges andat/cow yoga stretches. Even a few minutes can add up to keeping your running body in better shape to take on more of life’s adventures.

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Pet the Pups

If you have dogs, you know how excited they are when you return from a run. Give them the greeting they deserve in return by squatting down deep, with your heels on the ground, so you are on their level and able to pet them easily. 

Deep squatting, also known as a sit squat, is a great move for runners because it stretches and calms a lot of typically overworked areas like the quads, calves, lats, low back, hip flexors, and the IT band.

Hold for 30 seconds up to two minutes.

TV Time is for Foam Rolling

Unwinding with a show at the end of the day? Break out that foam roller and get working on those tight areas. While your mind relaxes by checking out of reality for 30 to 60 minutes, your body, too, will benefit from taking away the tension and releasing the myofascia. This helps to keep you loose, reduce soreness, and help prevent injuries.

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