This is the second post in a four part series geared directly to runners, prepared for us by Allison Feldt, DPT Physical Therapist and Owner of Body Motion Physical Therapy.
The Importance of Mobility Training for Performance and Injury Prevention
Let’s talk mobility. As a runner your body is used to enduring, and let’s be honest, the longer, harder, and faster you go gives your brain that little extra releases of dopamine that reinforces the hard work. While mobility training and self-release might lack the “hit” or commonly known as the “runners high,” it can give you the ability to train harder, longer, and stay injury free while improving your performance.
One of the most common self-mobility type of work is foam rolling. A well-known release technique is using the foam roll for the IT band (iliotibial band). The importance of doing this is that you help loosen the attachment between your iliac crest and your knee. When tight, the IT band can cause knee, hip, and back pain, among other issues. The pressure that the foam roll places on the IT band allows it to loosen. It’s simply like giving yourself a massage. You will come across stretches for the IT band but in reality this is an extremely hard area to stretch as it is just a fascial band and not a muscle.
That brings me to what is fascia. Fascia is what encases the muscles and helps tie those muscles to the bone. There are multiple layers of tissue but let’s consider muscles, fascia, and skin when talking about self-release and mobility work. I like to describe fascia as wearing a really tight shirt or pants – if there is an area that is knotted up, that is going to affect the range of motion and mobility of the whole system. Imagine putting on a jacket that is too small and is so tight that you can’t even raise your arms over your head. You’re going to have trouble getting something in a cupboard or maybe even driving. So imagine you have areas of tightness like this jacket in your fascia from all the training. Just imagine how much better it would feel to not have to work against that resistance. Those areas of continued resistance often lead to pain and dysfunction throughout the body.
As a physical therapist and someone who’s trained for their fair share of races, I would like to share some of the key mobility releases that can be done to limit injuries and improve performance. Realistically, if you can fit mobility work into your routine at least three days per week, you will notice positive effects and ward off unwanted injuries.
ILIOTIBIAL BAND RELEASE
Using the foam roller, place the roller horizontally along the outside portion of your leg (perpendicular to your leg). Roll up and down from the hip bone to the knee. As you roll up and down you can stop and hold painful and sore areas for 30-60 seconds. It is also important to roll your body forward and backward to get all boarders of the IT Band. It is good practice to complete this techniques on each leg for 1-2 minutes per day.
This can be done on a foam roll or a lacrosse ball. I want to note the importance of this release before telling you how to complete it. If you struggle running up hills and you feel tightness in the back of your legs this is going to be your best friend. You can actually improve your ability to tackle hills by working on elongating your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus muscles). These muscles join to create the Achilles tendon and attach on the back of your heel. Take the lacrosse ball and place it in the center of your calf. You can then roll the ball up and down the calf muscles to work on elongating the muscles and loosening up the fascia. You also want to take the ball and roll it horizontally across the muscle (in a side to side motion). Again, this can be done for 1-2 minutes per leg.
Runners notoriously have very tight hip muscles because the hips are use to going in only one plane of motion and that is forward and backward (hip flexion and extension). Therefore, loosening up the hip stabilizer muscles is very important in keeping the proper stride length throughout your run, which is going to help you maintain a consistent pace and help you ward off additional aches and pains that are associated with tight hips. Here you will sit on the foam roller. Cross one leg over the bent knee, shift your weight to the leg that is crossed and roll up and down releasing the hip muscles. You can hold if you find a particularly tight place. You can complete 1-2 minutes on each hip.
If you need additional guidance please contact [email protected]. We are very excited to offer SCRAPE & STRETCH sessions and packages to help athletes improve body recovery and enhance performance. If you find yourself sore, stiff or fatigued and are craving recovery, this can be very beneficial. It includes muscle release tailored to your specific body, myofascial release including manual techniques, cupping and instrument assisted massage and stretching.
Allison Feldt, DPT, is the Owner of Body Motion Physical Therapy, where she specializes in sports, orthopedics, and women’s health. Her practice services the Greater Seattle area and Northern suburbs, with a focus on accelerating the rehabilitation process by bringing the physical therapy experience to your home or office, with a significant focus on manual techniques to help restore the body’s function.