Use Walking Drills To Supercharge Your Mobility

Walking drills, which take only a few minutes, can help increase mobility, boost recovery and reduce your risk of injury.

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Walking drills are slow, forward-moving mobility exercises that you can use to get ready, or to stretch after a big run. These key mobility drills were an integral part of my training at the University of Utah, and are a way to jump-start the recovery process post-run.

Maybe it was the immediate results of increased mobility and flexibility or maybe it was the fact that these drills were treated as one of the most important pieces of our training sessions, but from that day forward walking drills have remained a staple for me.

In more detail, the walking drills include a series of dynamic movements to be done after a run that focuses on the regions of the body that are likely to get the most use during running. Hips, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and even ankle mobility are all some of the most likely culprits to become stiff and sore after an effort. By frequently focusing on stretching these injury-prone areas in a dynamic way after every run, a greater range of mobility and flexibility is promoted. This great range of motion and strength in these areas in turn leads to a very effective injury prevention measure.  It is said best by my college coach himself:

“[Walking drills are] an opportunity to begin the recovery process actively and work on a range of motion in all of the anatomical planes. We spend nearly all of our time running in the symmetrical plane due to the primary demands of our training so we should welcome any opportunity to work the other planes in an effort to become more flexible which can lead to a greater overall athleticism and allow for an optimal stride length and frequency,” says Kyle Kepler,  University of Utah Head Coach.

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Cooling down from a workout is certainly not as glamorous as warming-up for one. To prove this point, go ahead and google “walking drills for runners” and you will notice that all that comes up are articles and videos on warm-up routines and drills that claim to make you faster. Sure, being fast is super sexy, but so is staying healthy and mobile. So while I can’t claim that these drills will directly make you faster or shave 30 seconds off of your 5k PR, they will certainly benefit your running career and lead to a better quality of life in the long run.

Anyone who’s ever finished a long run and then hopped right into the car for a long drive home can attest to the fact that it’s a recipe for sore, stiff legs. Regular walking drills will help you stay mobile, limber and less sore after longer efforts.

Here’s how to get started. They always say to focus on the little things and well this is one of the littlest things you can do with some of the biggest benefits. The risk to reward here is off the freaking charts. The drills won’t take up more than an additional 5-7 minutes post-run (that’s like one mid-run snack break!) and will save you hours and hours of physical therapy and crying over injuries later on.

RELATED: Alleviating Knee Pain Through Ankle Mobility

The Walking Drills Routine

Complete 10-20 reps of each of the following drills post-run. Take your time and go SLOW, being fast is not the key here, that’s what your run was for. Focus on intentional stretching and mobility.

    1. Walking hip flexor stretch- Every couple of steps, grab your ankle and gently pull it back towards your glutes while reaching the opposite arm high towards the sky to enhance the stretch. Make sure to keep your pelvis tucked under your trunk in a neutral position. Hold the stretch for a few seconds then release, take a few steps, and repeat for the other leg. The goal here is to stretch and open the hip flexors and obliques for a full side-body opening.

    2. Knee to Chest- Using both arms draw one leg up and hug it towards your chest. Hold for a couple of seconds and then release. Take a few steps and then repeat on the other leg. This exercise works on stretching out hips, glutes, and hamstrings.

    3. Standing Pigeon– This one requires some good balance! Place your ankle just above the knee of your other leg creating the “pigeon” or “figure 4” stretch and gently lean forward into the stretch. Be careful not to press too hard on the knee of the leg being stretched to protect your knee from twisting. Hold the stretch for a few seconds then release and repeat on the opposite side. This is a very targeted hip-opening stretch.

    4. Oil Driller (one-legged toe touch)- Reach both arms down towards the ground while simultaneously letting one leg come up so that you end up balancing on one leg. If you can’t reach all the way to your toes that is okay! Don’t go too fast to protect those hamstrings from pulling. Take a few steps and then repeat on the other leg. The purpose of this is to lightly stretch your hamstrings.

    5. Heel-toe roll- Walk forward slowly and focus on having the entire length of your foot, from the heel to the tiptoes, roll across the ground. You should be ending each step in what feels like a small calf-raise because you are up on your tiptoes, it might feel a bit bouncy! Repeat for 15-20 steps. This exercise is for ankle and foot mobility to encourage a wider range of motion. –

  • Bask in your new mobility/flexibility!

Grayson Murphy is a professional runner for Saucony, a part-time engineer, and loves just about anything that involves playing outside. 

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