Don’t Let Long Car Trips Kill Your Fitness

Long road trips are rights of passage for Americans and trail runners are no exception. But sitting in a car for long periods can cause sciatic pain, tight hips and can even contribute to lower leg injuries like Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis.

Before leaving for a week-long running-road trip, physical therapist Jim Heafner of Heafner Health and I devised a routine to keep me mobile, loose and strong for tough runs after long car rides. Here’s what Heafner and I designed to combat the injury risk and tightness associated with long bouts of being buckled in.

Mobility Exercises

Keeping your muscles and tendons loose and mobile is as important as strength. In some cases, tightness stops important muscle groups from functioning correctly. Perform these exercises first to ensure fluid movement and activated muscles on your run.

Exercise one: Downward Dog Ankle Mobility

Dosage: Two sets of fifteen reps on each side

Step one: Start in a downward dog position
Step Two: Drop one heel to the ground to stretch ankle, calves and hamstrings
Step Three: At the same time, round your head and neck towards your knee to stretch back, neck and glutes
Step Four: Recenter neck and heel
Step Five: Alternate legs

Exercise two: Ankle Mobility Into Toe Point
Dosage: Two sets of 15 reps

Step One: Start sitting on your shins with your big toes and heels touching together
Step Two: Maintain this position while sitting back onto your feet
Step Three: Feel the stretch across your foot and ankles. Hold for three seconds
Step Four: Release and repeat

Exercise three: Standing Calf Mobility
Dosage: Two sets of fifteen reps on each side

Step One: Start in a standing position near a wall
Step Two: Lean into the wall to perform a calf stretch
Step Three: Drive your knee forward, over your other knee while intentionally dropping the inner arch
Step Four: Hold for three seconds, release and repeat

Strength Exercises

Heafner believes balance is the key to avoiding injury. Do these strength exercises after getting out of the car to make sure your muscles are firing and the body is aligned.

Exercise one: Single Leg Deadlifts
Dosage: Two sets of 10 on each side

Step One: Balance on one foot with your core engaged
Step Two: Hinge from the hips while keeping your low back straight, strong and neutral
Step Three: Lean forward while maintaining stable, level hips
Step Four: Engage glutes and hamstrings to return to the single-legged starting point

Exercise Two: Side-to-Side Skaters
Dosage: Three sets of ten on each side

Step One: Start by standing on one leg with a slight knee bend
Step Two: Jump from one leg to the other while maintaining balance and keeping a stable upper body
Step Three: Maintain proper alignment through the hips, knees and ankles
Step Four: Land as soft as possible on each foot. Imagine are landing on eggshells

Exercise Three: Calf Raises
Dosage: Three sets of twelve reps

Step One: Stand on flat feet, keeping your heels together
Step Two: Press up onto your toes
Step Three: Actively push through your big toes
Step Four: Release heels to the ground and repeat