You’re out on a run and begin to feel a tightness in the front of your hip joint. Steadily, step by step, it gets worse, until all you can think about is stopping to stretch it.
If you do, though, you’ll only feel better for a little while. Then slowly but surely the tension and pain will start to creep back, and worse than before, until you feel you have to stop again and stretch more deeply.
For the rest of your run you’ll need to stop more and more frequently until you finally hobble back home or–if you had the misfortune to have this happen in a race–across the finish line with a very disappointing time on the clock.
There is an alternative that works much better, and I have finally made a video of it. Instead of stretching, stop and do this exercise.
This exercise will also work for tight hip flexor situations that aren’t as dire as the one I described above. Maybe you can feel that you’re not extending your legs very well, or there’s a tugging at your lower back, or you just got off a bike or up from your desk before your run and you can feel your gait is off. Even just feeling that your quads are overworking would be a sign this exercise would be helpful.
If you’re a triathlete, this exercise will make a big difference when you run off the bike. Do it in your transition.
If you regularly have these kinds of problems, you could do this exercise as a warm up.
Remember, though, that the real question is a larger one: what is it about how you’re coordinating your whole body for running that causes you to consistently tighten your hip flexors too much? Any running gait problem is a whole-body problem, and if you want to simply stop having that problem at all, you need to approach it that way.
My Mind Your Running Challenge will give you an overview of how everything is supposed to work together and should help you begin to get your whole-body coordination on the road to improvement–helping not only your hip flexors but also any other aches and pains, and noticeably improving your performance.
Join the free, one-week challenge here:The Mind Your Running Challenge
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Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.