8 Essential stretches for runners
Strength and endurance are an important part of being a runner. Flexibility and agility are equally important. Most runners spend all of their time building endurance and little to no time working on their flexibility. Make stretching a regular part of you daily routine and you will become a better runner and avoid unnecessary injuries.
Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts of stretching for runners +
8 essential stretches every runner should incorporate into their fitness regimen.
DON’T: Stretch when muscles are cold.
Start with a light warmup around 10 minutes and then execute your stretching routine. Stretching at the end of your run during your cool down is an ideal time to properly and gently stretch those muscles to encourage recovery. If done properly, the more stretching the better!
DO: Gently ease into a stretch without bouncing up and down.
Be gentle with your muscles and lean a little deeper into the stretch as you exhale after a deep breath. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. If you have time, do 2-3 sets of each stretch. You will find you will be able to get a little bit deeper into the stretch over time.
Let your body tell you how far you can execute a stretch on that day. In the beginning you may not feel like you are very flexible. That is OK! Be consistent and within a few weeks you will see significant improvement. Go slow, breathe deeply, and relax into the stretch.
Now on to the 8 essential stretches that are highly effective for runners to increase their flexibility:
1. Hamstring Stretch
Execute this stretch lying flat on your back with your legs straight. Gently pull one leg up towards you. Now bend your knee towards your chest and use a towel or band wrapped under your foot to help you slowly extend your knee until it is straight. Repeat for both legs.
2. Glute Stretch
Lie on the floor a foot or two away from a wall. Place your feet on the wall so that your knees are bent, your feet are slightly lower than your knees, and your lower back is off the floor. You should feel this stretch in the side of your glutes. Adjust the position of your feet, knees and hips to get more out of the stretch.
3. Groin Stretch
Sit on the floor in a butterfly position and grab both of your feet. Once in this position, keep your back and neck straight and tall. Gently press your knees towards the ground as you pull your feet towards your core. Do not bounce your legs!
4. Upper Calf Stretch
In a standing position, keep one leg straight as you carefully step forward and bend the knee of your other leg. Press the heel of your back leg into the ground. As you deepen in the stretch, keep your hips forward and your core engaged and strong. Repeat for both legs.
5. Lower Calf Stretch
Standing near a wall, begin to bend one leg. This will place all of your weight into your other straight leg. Leaning slightly towards and away from the wall will intensify the stretch. Repeat for both legs.
6. IT Band Stretch
From a standing position, place one foot on the outside of the other with both feet flat on the ground. Lean your hips towards the foot that is farthest back to feel the stretch down the outside of your leg on that side. Switch your feet and lean your hips the other direction.
7. Hip Flexor Stretch
Go into a lunge position on one knee. Keeping your core upright and engaged with your hips squared forward, gently lean forward to intensify the stretch. Repeat for both legs.
8. Quad Stretch
From the same lunge position described above, reach your hand behind you and grab your rear foot and gently pull it up words your buttocks. Repeat for both legs.
OTHER TIMES TO STRETCH:
During Your Run
If during a training run or race you are feeling tight or like something is starting to cramp up a bit just take a quick break and do a few of the stretches around the muscle group affected and then ease back into your run. Continuing to pound out the miles could lead to an in injury.
You can even do these stretches on the days you are not running. Start with a brisk walk to get the blood pumping and warm up your muscles first. Movement heals!
If your job involves lots of sitting, take a break in the morning and afternoon and go on a short walk followed by a round of your stretching regimen. You will get back to your desk energized and ready to tackle the next task!
Long car rides and flights crammed into tiny airline seats can be tough on your body. Stop at a rest area and get moving for a few minutes and stretch. Take a lap around the terminal while you wait to get on your flight and stretch while you have the chance. Bonus: Lots of fun people watching!
Remember, listen to your body while stretching. It should feel good and not be painful. If something hurts back off. If the pain persists you may need to see a physiologist or other practitioner to help get you straightened out.
We make group stretching a priority on our marathon trips. If you’d like to join, connect with us! We’d love to see you on our next adventure.