There are countless articles mentioning the detrimental effects of sitting, whether it be for sport or life in general. The static posturing that consumes our life essentially immobilizes us. In general, the pressure in our low back increases, our thoracic spine (mid back) stiffens, and our hip flexors shrink. Sitting at work only compounds the problem. Add the time up. Go ahead. You sit to for three meals a day, to drive to and from work, while at work, and to relax before sneaking into bed. Somewhere in the middle you ambush your body with a high functioning skill like running.
Despite being under attack from your chair, you still run. The complexity of our anatomy allows it; however, step after step can cause stress to the system and eventual failure. Tight hips can easily be linked to low back pain and countless overuse injuries. The overuse injuries aren’t limited to the hips either. A good clinician can link tight hips to injuries as far away as your foot. Injuries aside, the tightness can also result in slower running. To produce force your bones must move through an excursion. Tightness at the hips can limit your proximal stability (as seen through this article) or even cause excessive upward oscillation in your running. Runners with tight hips typically have a bouncy stride.
It’s always great when you can get faster without having to train more, right? For some, simply freeing up a restricted joint or enhancing movement can allow the body to move more freely. A body that moves well can generate more force while asking for less help from surrounding areas. Really, you’re getting a two for one deal. You’ll run faster and also help reduce your risk for injury.
Are my hips tight?
A few motions are cause for concern when checking hip mobility. Generally, you’ll want to evaluate your hip rotation and extension (hip flexion is rarely tight). The best option is to have a skilled clinician evaluate your hip mobility. Flying solo can be tough. The hips are sneaky and may litter your movement with compensations, disguising your tightness.
If you don’t have someone to check your hip mobility I suggest finding a physical therapist to lend a hand. For those of you DIY’ers out there you can use these few positions for a self-check (although we suggest you find someone to explain the results, as well as any corrective exercises).
How does this affect performance?
The key here is to identify if your hips need to be stretched. For some, their issue is strength, not flexibility. Identify your weakness and movement errors to be a faster, more durable runner.