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The 10 Best Mobility Exercises For Runners

Kelly Starrett tells you how to stay fast, supple and injury-free.

Kelly Starrett tells you how to stay fast, supple and injury-free.

A couple years ago, Kelly Starrett, DPT and co-owner of CrossFit San Francisco, set out to record a year’s worth of near daily video blogs. Starrett (probably the strongest, most supple finisher ever in the history of the Quad Dipsea trail ultra), in developing an immeasurable bank vault of mobility exercises valuable for runners, not only provides the how but the why. A runner committing 10 minutes a day to Starrett’s “Mobility Workout of the Day,” or MWOD, is destined to bound away with some impressive understanding of mobility, tissue health and how it all ties into unleashing great performance.

Related: Hate To Stretch? BAM! Not anymore.

Six weeks before I was introduced to Starrett’s approach to maintenance, I was struggling with a knee pain and limp that I thought for sure was going to require surgery. In my particular case, the limp disappeared immediately after beginning the daily ritual of dedicated 10 or 15 to just one of Starrett’s gems. Check out this “Ten Best” arsenal of exercises that if practiced with dedication—Starrett says there are no days off when it comes to recovery—has the potential to prevent injury and increase performance in any runner, regardless of background, age or talent.

Photo Gallery: CrossFit Endurance Exercise Demonstrations

1. Unglue Your Sticks

“Today we are focusing primarily on doing some ungluing of the dreaded ‘birds.’ Your bird legs, sticks, gams….We see a ton of matted-down lower leg tissues around the shop and I’ve been hearing about a rash of torn calves from my CrossFit running brothers and sisters. So today, get that fuzz out: Think movement instead of standard, static trigger point mashing. Remember, it’s the movements and end range positions of movement that should guide how you treat yourself.

2. Quads Or Spine?

“Today’s MWOD is about prepping the Anterior Chain Tissues (Quads/Front Wheel Drive Bits) to get ready for any kind of looming quad destruction. In this case, we are talking about any high volume movement (trail running) where an upright torso has to be chosen over a more body forward-leaning (hamstring/posterior chain) type position. The trunk is always going to fail first. Your body knows this and will triage accordingly. So, prep for the inevitable. Hammer those quad puppies. See if you can’t get a good 10 minutes on the worst form of self mutilation you can muster.”

3. The Runner/Split Jerk Dream Mob

“I want to introduce you to the holy grail of hip mobility for the high glute/internal rotation. If you run, and you do, this is for you.”

4. Recovering Your Jumping Calves

“Today’s Mood is rough cocktail’ recipe for recovering your overly brutalized lower legs. Lots of jumping in your life? Lot’s of distance running? This one is for you.”

5. Lower Leg Business

“Today’s mission is to spend 10 minutes working on your forgotten lower leg bits. Get those tissues unstuck and see how much easier squatting and running is.”

6. Heel Cord Love

“Tight heel cords can cause problems up the entire athletic chain. You should think to yourself, ‘knee pain? Foot problems? Stretch my calves.’ If you are an athlete that finds yourself in positions where your knees are coming forward then you had better be obsessing over your ankle/calf mobility. If you have foot problems of any kind, chances are you also are missing some length in the back of your leg. Remember, treating dysfunctional/short tissues can help with your issues, but the real problems may be at the hip or further upstream. Where the rats get in, is not necessarily where they chew. But, you still have to deal with what they chew.”

7. Sumo And Medial Chain Business

“Today’s mission to spend some serious time on that medial chain. Yes, that’s code for your groin and inner thigh. This area gets tight on athletes and does all kinds of crazy things to knee and back mechanics. Once you’ve spent some time with the first couple of mobs, hit the wall portion and really camp out here. Be prepared to re-introduce yourself to pieces of your own body.”

8. Hip Extension/External Rotation

“This episode is all about improving your capacity to extend your hip whilst running. Supple up!”

9. Hamstring Stiffness

“ A full posterior attack on his hamstring tissue stiffness. Grab a band, set the clock to ‘I’m gonna actually change something if I do it long enough,’ and get to flossing those tissues open. See if you can grab a super friend to help you with the hip distraction. Sorry about your poor glued down, grilled cheesed hammies. It’s time for them to change.”

10. Mob Those Lower Leg Bits

“Today’s mission is to set the clock for 10 minutes a leg and to get to work on some of those nasty leg and foot bits.”