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BEST Running WARM UP for TIGHT HIPS & CALVES

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Warm ups can be a SNOOZE FEST.

(there, I said it. maybe you were thinking it).


But they don't have to be.

There's nothing wrong with high knees.

Or butt kicks.

Or donkey kicks.

Or leg swings.

Maybe even hip CARS (if you're being really fancy).


But 2 warm up questions you MUST ask yourself:

  • Are you doing the SAME warm up for EVERY RUN?

  • and then once you're done running, are struggling with the SAME tight hips and calves?

If you answered YES to those,...

or maybe you regularly struggle-bus with tight hips and calves...

I have your NEW, best, fast, 4 minute running warm up rooted in running performance that specifically targets tight hip flexors and tight calves.


Let's jump in.


A NEW WAY TO WARM UP

Rule #1: Your warm up is allowed to change.

  • You may find this particular warm up helpful before your long runs but it doesn't do the job when it comes to speed work. THAT'S OK.

  • Allow your warm ups to be tailored to your individual, specific, unique needs. By doing this and Daring to Train Differently, you're tapping into the power of running performance.

Rule #2: You don't have to use this entire circuit

  • Does one these rock your world but the rest leave you feeling "meh"? That's ok!

  • What you've just discovered is what works for your body and what doesn't...and that's more powerful than all the free exercise circuits in the world.

  • Take the exercises that serve you; leave the rest.

Rule #3: PRO TIP...

  • The last exercise of this circuit is specifically for tight calves. If this is something you struggle with on the regular, it's time you take things up a notch. By letting it be easy.

  • Use this exercise BOTH before and AFTER your run!

    • These exercises are rooted in running performance AND corrective movement. Meaning, use these exercises to help create a healing environment for you body, reminding it where it needs to live.

  • You're essentially trying to create a new habit for your body, to let go of tight calves and replace that with comfortable muscle tension.

    • You're not ready to run marathon after one training run. And neither is your body ready to ditch a "bad" movement habit after one exercise. Rinse and repeat.

WHY THESE EXERCISES

Circuit: (5x ea // 1-2 rounds as needed)

  • shin box with torso rotation

  • crawl to squat sequence

  • world's greatest stretch with torso twist

  • hook lying with quad pump (3x ea side; to fatigue)


Shin Box: (hip internal and external rotation)
  • encourages you to access end ranges of hip mobility (hip internal and external rotation) which are required at top running speeds (and all running speeds)

  • adding the torso twist furthers your hip internal rotation

Crawl to Squat Sequence: (hip flexion and external rotation)
  • requires your body to explore end ranges of hip flexion coupled with external rotation in a functional squat position.

  • While we don't run in a squat position, the beginning stages of this sequence looks like running and the beginning of a stride

World's Greatest Stretch with Torso Twist: (hip flexion coupled with internal rotation, opposite leg hip extension)
  • This one definitely looks the most like running, requiring end range hip flexion with the forward leg, and hip extension with the trailing leg, really opening up your runner's stride and requiring core activation and some single leg balance all the same

  • the definition of "work smarter, not harder"

  • by adding the torso twist, your further work into hip rotation, required for if you want to run fast.


Hook lying with quad pump (Tight CALVES EXERCISE)
  • this one is unique.

  • very briefly, this exercise relies on reciprocal inhibition.

    • You can "trick" the calf into a more relaxed state and not feeling tight by activated the quad, it's opposite.

    • Think of it this way: your quads make your knee and lower leg kick out straight. Your calf, in addition to helping you point your toes, also bends your knee. Can you see how the quad performs the opposite job of the calf?

    • By adding in quick, fast pumps, you're inviting your core and entire posterior chain to the party too.

  • All of this to say: you're recruiting MORE TEAMMATES so your calf doesn't have to go it alone.


WRAPPING UP

Make your running warm up YOUR OWN.

At the end of the day, no one knows your body better than YOU.


For 1 or 2 weeks: write down in your training log which warm up exercises you performed on which day, workout, etc and begin to collect data.

  • how did you feel?

  • clunky? or smooth like butter?

  • did your hips and calves feel tighter or looser than normal?

  • how did your run the next day feel?

Be your own Body-Scientist.

You'll be amazed at what you'll learn.
Because, I promise, your body is talking.

Take the time to listen and Dare to Train Differently.

Until next time running fit fam,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit


P.S. Have you grabbed your FREE strength guide for runners yet? Grab your copy HERE!



 

References:


Gidu Diana Victoria, Carmen, E.-V., Straton Alexandru, Florin, C., & Daniel, D. (2013). THE PNF (PROPRIOCEPTIVE NEUROMUSCULAR FACILITATION) STRETCHING TECHNIQUE - A BRIEF REVIEW. Science, Movement and Health, 13(2). Ebsco, SPORTDiscus, INDEX COPERNICUS JOURNAL MASTER LIST, DOAJ DIRECTORY OF OPEN ACCES JOURNALS, Caby, Gale Cengace Learning, Cabell’s Directories.

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