Four Stretches Every Runner Should Be Doing
Stretching is vital to being healthy and reducing the risk of injury as well as helping you to achieve pain-free runs. If you run a lot, you need to make sure you are stretching in the right places so that you can perform at your best and not be brought down by preventable injuries. Try these four stretches which are perfect for runners and will keep you nimble and flexible throughout your training.
Pigeon stretch (for the hip flexors and glutes)
One of the most neglected parts of the body when it comes to stretching is the hips. They go through a lot of stress and strain when we run and weak or tight hips can cause any number of running injuries such as IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, or even sciatica. Make sure you stretch your hips by doing this stretch in order to release any tension, and to also get a great stretch through the glutes which also take a hammering during running!
Kneel on the floor or on a yoga mat. Stabilise yourself by placing your hands flat on the floor either side of you, then bend your right leg so that the thigh is straight out in front of you and the lower leg is bent at a right angle. Stretch your left leg out behind you so that the knee and foot are facing the floor. Make sure to keep the hips square and relax into the stretch. You will feel it in the glute of the bent leg and the hip flexor of the straight leg. Relax and breathe into the stretch for anywhere between 30-90 seconds. After this time, slowly swap legs.
Downward dog (for the calves, hamstrings, and back)
The calves are another area that tend to get neglected but really take a pounding when we run. Especially if you are a little heavier, your calves are taking a lot of weight and strain when you run and muscular tension could build up very easily. Your back is another body part which can be difficult to stretch properly, but a sore and aching back could be the difference between a great run and a painful one. Try this classic yoga stretch to feel a great stretch right down the backs of the legs as well as the entirety of the back.
Place your hands flat on the floor and walk your legs back. Straighten your arms and your legs so that your body resembles a triangle. Try your best to keep your heels on the floor, if you can’t, move your feet closer to your hands. Push hard through the palms of your hands to really feel the stretch through the back, and push down through your heels to feel the lovely stretch through the calves and hamstrings.
Forward fold (for the hamstrings)
After a particularly long or tough run, you may well feel your hamstrings are incredibly tight. When we run, our legs bend up behind us and the hamstrings have to work very hard. Combine this with a lot of sitting down at work and you have a recipe for very short, tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings can lead to posture issues, a sore back, and other running-related injuries. Try this stretch to really elongate the hamstrings and look after this very important running muscle.
Start in a standing position with your feet as close together as possible. Slowly bend forward until your hands touch the floor. Take a big deep breath in, and as you exhale, bend forward a little more. Repeat this three or four times until you can get your hands flat on the floor. Keep your knees locked and straight, if they want to bend, lift your upper body a little. Hold this pose for up to 30 seconds. If you cannot touch the floor at first, keep practising until you can!
Wide angle seated forward bend (for the hip flexors and inner thighs)
Our final stretch is another great one for the hip flexors as well as the inner thighs. If you do gym work to supplement your running, there’s a good chance you will get tight inner thighs from moves like squats and lunges. This move will really help you to open up your hips and stretch right through the legs so that you don’t get pain while running.
Sit on the floor and open your legs as wide as you can. Slowly lean forward as far as you can while reaching your hands forward and walking your fingertips away from you. As with the previous stretch, take a big deep breath in and then as you exhale, lean forwards a little more. Repeat this three of four times and hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds. See if you can lean all the way forwards to touch your head on the floor. This is something to aim for in practice!