A Strategic Approach to Mobility

Rules to live by for a long and happy running habit.

When it comes to performing maintenance, there is no one-size-fits-all program for runners. The aches and pains that can interfere with running well can be created by myriad forces, from an inability to get into good positions to specific tissue problems like an inflamed heel. What you need is a system that you can use to attack your particular issues—a system that prioritizes fixing the underlying problems and also addresses the nagging symptoms.

Even better, this systematized approach should be a concrete, everyday discipline (like brushing and flossing your teeth) so that you can prevent problems altogether, well before pain and injuries surface.

There are no days off when it comes to maintenance. Even on the busiest of days, you can commit to finding 10 minutes for mobility work.


Mobility work: guiding principles

But it has to be a focused two minutes. If you see people at the gym haphazardly lazing back onto foam rollers while they read emails on their phones, they are not mobilizing. You’re much better off spending two targeted minutes working intently with a specific mobilization than rolling around without focus for 20 minutes. To make your daily mobility time count, pick one or two mobilizations and go in with total purpose. To effect real change, you need to work smartly and deeply, searching for knots and particularly tight areas. Two minutes for each mobilization can be very effective, but you must work with focus and concentration.

Why? Because it helps you create slack around the joint or tissue hot spot. If you have terrible ankle range of motion, for example, then dedicate some of your mobility time to working below the problem area (your arches, your toes and the tops of your feet) and above the problem area (your calf muscles, your knees, and even your upper legs and hips).

We always advocate for being able to breathe all the way in and all the way out while mobilizing. If you can’t breathe, you are working too deeply. If you can’t breathe in a position of mobilization, you don’t own that position or mobilization.

Photo credit: Darren Miller Photography (hero); John Segesta (inset)