Mobility essential for runners

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I am holding a 10-pound plate while trying to keep my chest up, knees out and weight on my heels in a low squat.

It’s as comfortable as it sounds.

Beside me is Kelly MacDonald, a Crossfit Level 1 coach and co-owner of Pure Fitness Red Deer, who is chatting with ease about the importance of a good squat.

Runners, she tells me, are notorious for being inflexible. Kelly can easily spot the runner across the crowded gym floor.

Tight hamstrings. Tight quads. Tight ankles. You name it. She has seen it all.

“I think running is great but only running can be hard on your body,” said Kelly.

“If you are putting in 50 km or more a week, your body will start to wear down. You need all the proper hydration and proper nutrition but also ensure you are strong enough to maintain those miles.”

I expected Kelly to champion the benefits of lifting crazy amounts of weights when I asked about strength training and running. (After all, she owns a gym.)

But she steered me in the direction of mobility. Kelly explained having a full range of motion in our joints and limbs is essential for running and in everyday life.

There’s no such thing as a day off when it comes to mobility, she said.

As we get older, our bodies need a little more TLC.

Ideally, Kelly said, people should aim for at least 10 minutes doing a form of mobility every single day.

It all begins with the basic squat.

“We squat every day,” she said. “You squat to sit on the couch. You squat to get on the toilet. You need to be able to squat below parallel. Many runners do tend to lose that ability to squat properly. Squats not only strengthen you, they work on your flexibility and range of motion.”

So here I am desperately trying to listen to her sage words, not grimace at the camera, keep my legs out, head neutral and back straight in my version of low squat. (It didn’t help that my co-worker Jeff Stokoe was continuously snapping pics while claiming he needed one more shot.)

Call me the poster runner for tight hips, quads and hamstrings.

Sure I … ahem … stretch after running but I clearly need to loosen up in a big way. I think most runners will agree with me that the last thing I want to do is stretch after pounding the pavement or navigating the trail for two or three hours.

My body has paid the price in injuries because I have not listened to it.

Kelly says if a runner could sit in a squat for two minutes after a run, it could go a long way in their running journey. It should be the part of every runner’s routine.

But that’s just one piece of the fitness puzzle.

I know runners should look at the whole picture – strength, endurance, flexibilty and mobility. Then there’s the whole nutrition side of it.

My head aches when I think about all the things I could be doing to extend my recreational running career.

But like Kelly says, it only takes two minutes to make a difference.

In my next column, I speak with Red Deer’s Mark Johnson, a competitive vegan ultra runner.

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