Hello Ski Post,
If you are like me, it takes a lot of work to stay loose and feeling physically pain free during hard summer training. Even rollerskiing and biking, while they have less impact overall than running, can leave the body feeling tight and stiff. This weekend, a few members of the GRP raced the Vertical Uphill Championships at the Loon Mountain Race in New Hampshire. Loon was a fun race because we got to race head to head with some really fast runners. It also made me more acutely aware of how important it is to stay on top of lower body PT maintenance.
(Suffering into the finish of the Loon Mt. Race. Photo by Joseph Viger)
I wanted to share with you some of my go-to mobility exercises and stretches that I try to do everyday to keep my hips from getting too tight. I try to have a longer stretching routine that targets more than just the hips but when I am short on time, or want to get the most reward for my stretching, I focus on my hips - when they are tight, they can affect so many other places on the body, including the back, hamstrings, IT bands, knees and more.
Mobility: I like to do these exercises before I train, especially prior to running and strength training. They help get my hips activated so that when I start my workout, they are ready to go and I don’t feel as stiff. You may notice a few grimaces in the photos, which is a telltale sign I need to step up my mobility game!
1. 90/90s: This mobility exercise combines internal and external rotation to increase hip mobility. Sitting on a yoga mat, adjust your legs so that they are each at a 90 degree angle, with one leg in front of you (knee rotated out) and one leg beside you (knee rotated in). Your sit bones should be firmly on the ground, as should your lower legs and knees. Gently rotate your legs side to side, keeping the 90 degree angle and trying to keep your back straight and your butt on the ground. Hold the position on each side for however long feels good, usually ~ 10 seconds. ( If you are really tight and your hips ‘catch’ during the rotation, you can just hold the end position, and reset to stretch the other sideinstead of rotating.). The key to this exercise is not to rush your movements. Be deliberate with the external and internal rotation of the hips and don’t forget to breathe into each movement.
2. Seated Leg Raises: Sitting on the yoga mat, place your legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart with your heels on the ground. Alternate straightening each leg from the knee while keeping your other heel firmly on the ground and your back flat. You will want to lean back but try to keep your upper body upright as you lift each leg.
3. Deep Squats with Arms Overhead: This one is pretty simple, just perform a normal body weight squat while keeping your arms extended straight overhead and your back flat. Because this is a mobility exercise, I do a full squat to activate my full range of motion.
Here is a link to a video I use for more ideas on keeping my hips flexible and loose:
Stretches: Most of you will probably be familiar with the following stretches. This is for good reason! They are some of the best stretches to loosen up your hips, but also your psoas, IT bands, and quads. I usually rotate through these stretches about three times each.
1. Figure Four: Laying flat on your back, cross one leg over the other, resting your heel just above your knee. Wrap your hands behind you unbent leg and pull towards you. You can also use a hand to press against your folded knee for a deeper stretch. You should feel this in your outer hip.
2. Pigeon: Cross one leg in front of you at 90 degrees, with your opposite leg stretched straight out behind you. You can lean forward so that your elbows are on the ground if you would like a deeper stretch.
3. Couch stretch: Elevate your back leg on a chair or couch, with your knee touching the ground. Place the other leg in front of you in a lunge position. Keeping your core engaged, press your elevated leg forward, extending your arms above your head to deepen the stretch if desired. You should feel this in your hip flexors. You can also press your hips back so that your butt touches your heel to focus the stretch on your quad.
With any stretching or mobility, it is important to focus on breathing through each movement. This will help focus your attention and allow you to deepen into stretch. Consistency is also important if you want to see tangible results!