The ankle is one such vital component. You flex and extend your ankle each time your foot hits the ground; it is the spring that propels you forward. Improving your ankle mobility helps in that department. Here are some exercises you can try out.
The Gas Pedal
This exercise simulates the motions your ankle needs to go through when it is in full flight. Lie on your back with one leg down while keeping the other bent at 90 degrees. As you hold the bent leg behind the knee, bring that foot as far towards your shin as possible, as if you pointing with your foot. Then, press it down as if you were stepping on the gas pedal (hence the name). Do 20 repetitions before switching to the other leg.
This is a useful exercise that engages all your lower leg muscles, helping you run with a stronger and more fluid stride. Start in the same position as you would the gas pedal. Then, rotate the foot of your bent leg 20 times clockwise and anti-clockwise before repeating with the other leg.
Dynamic Sumo Squat
Most of us work day jobs at the office with little or no time spent away from the computer and by extension, the chair we spend hours glued onto, resulting in many runners having a hard time getting into a proper squat. This exercise not only re-teaches you the proper movement pattern, it opens your hips and loosens your legs in preparation for running.
Stand upright, feet hip-width apart. Grab a hold of your toes and squat as low as you can while not overstraining yourself. Ensure that you do not let your knees pass your toes and that your back remains straight. Keeping a grip on your toes, straighten your legs until they are fully extended, and walk your hands to a push-up position, back kept straight. Then, engaging your glutes, hamstrings, and core, slightly lift one leg off the ground and perform a push-up. Repeat this with the other leg, and finally, walk your legs up until they meet your hands before coming back up. Repeat this for 6 to 8 times.
" You flex and extend your ankle each time your foot hits the ground; it is the spring that propels you forward."
Knee-to-Wall Ankle Mobilisation
This is but one of the many different ankle dorsiflexion exercises that you can utilise to increase ankle mobility; it is fairly simple too — all you need is a wall. Remember the old tekan exercise back in the army, where your encik (warrant officer) would make you push against a pillar whilst shouting, “Help, the wall is falling!”? Similarly, place your hands on the wall, pushing it while bending your knees, almost like you are pushing against it. Feel the strain on your calf that goes all the way to your ankle. That would count as an effective push.
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