Running stretches you should be doing!
Running stretches you should do every day!
No time to stretch? Stretching muscles is a must for runners. There are just too many benefits and not stretching could result in injuries that might well cost you time and big physio bills – how boring is that!
Do these few simple stretches daily to maintain and increase flexibility.
Before you get going – read our article on warming up.
Pre-run stretches will dramatically reduce the risk of injury and you’ll perform better on your run.
Post-run stretches gives you the opportunity to lengthen the muscle and increase general flexibility. It also helps you recover and reduces the stiffness that you might feel the next day after a run
- Make sure your muscles are warm before you begin to stretch
- Never bounce – ease in to stretches and hold for 30 seconds
- If it’s painful, you’ve stretched too far
- Stretch post-run as well as pre-run
- Keep things equal – stretch the same muscles for the same time on each leg
We suggest also stretching your upper body pre-run. You might try some circling of the hips, side slides, shoulder and arm rotations etc. But concentrate daily on the big leg muscles:
- The Glutes – the gluteals are the big buttock muscles
- Quads – the quadriceps are the big muscles on the front of your thigh
- Hammys – the hamstrings are the big muscles at the back of your thigh
- Calves – the calf muscles (there are two of them) are the muscles behind your shin in the lower leg
You can perform these outdoors or indoors.
How to Stretch
The gluteal and piriformis – a muscle that lies underneath the glutes – can be a problem to stretch. You almost need to get in to a yoga position to get a good stretch but it is important that you do. Your glutes work very hard when running and not stretching can lead to sciatic pain.
- Lay on the floor. Cross one leg over the other and rest your ankle on your knee as per the picture below
- Slowly raise that non-twisted leg up towards you, use your hands to help you with this and to control the speed of movement
- You’ll feel the stretch in the buttock
- Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side
- The tension will ease in the buttocks but aim for at least 3x 30 seconds on both sides
The hamstrings are massive. They start up by your bum and run the full length of your thigh finishing below the knee, responsible for bending the knee amongst of things. They help control your body on landing (stop you falling forward!) and tight hamstrings severely impact stride length so it is important to keep them flexible.
- Keep the leg you wish to stretch straight out in front of you and bend the other leg so that the sole of your foot is on your inner thigh. This should help you balance
- With a straight back, slowly ease forward. You will feel the stretch in the back of your thigh. You can ease your hands along the front of your thigh and down beyond your knee (depending on your flexibility) to aid stability in this position
- Hold for 30 seconds then ease yourself back up
- Swap legs and repeat
Again, hold each stretch for 30 seconds and remember to keep your back straight.
Quads are super important for helping you drive along and work especially hard when running up hill.
- Stand and balance yourself – hold on to something like a tree
- Raise your leg backwards and grab the ankle with the hand on the bent leg side.
- At this point, make sure you’re standing straight up (there’s a tendency to lean over to the side) and rock your pelvis forward. You might feel a stretch in the front of your groin if tight.
- Slowly pull the ankle up towards your buttock and you’ll feel the stretch in the front of the thigh.
- Hold for 30 seconds and easy your heel away from your bum and back down to the floor.
- Swap legs and repeat on the other leg.
Suggest at least 3x 30 seconds on each leg.
Calves work hard and they’re hard to rest so look after them. The calvf muscles are made up of two muscles:
The gastrocnemius (outer calf) and
The soleus (inner calf)
They take a pounding on impact helping to stabilise us and they obviously work exceptionally hard when driving off.
You need two different stretches in order to ensure flexibility in the calf area.
Stretching the gastrocnemius
- Take a stride forwards
- Make sure both feet point forwards
- Keep the back leg straight – this is the one you’re going to stretch, and keeping your back straight, lean forward from the hip. The front leg can bend in order for you to lean far enough forward
- You feel the stretch in that lower leg
- You may want to lean against a wall or tree to help you stabilise yourself
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Ease yourself back up and repeat with the other leg
Repeat 3 times or more if you are tight in the lower leg.
Stretching the gastrocnemius. The rear leg is the one that is being stretched.
Do not forget the other calf muscles. the Soleus. Stretching this is vital to ensure good power off and to also maintain that the Achilles tendon remains flexible as this stretch will also stretch the Achilles.
See the picture below. It is the front leg that is being stretched and you can move nearer the fence or tree for this one.
- Move the non-stretching leg backwards to stabilise you and again, have both feet facing forward
- Bend that front leg and ease forward
- You can feel a stretch in the lower calf
- Hold for the 30 seconds then swap legs
Repeat 3x 30 seconds but more if sore in this area.
Don’t forget to repeat these stretches post-run.
These essential stretches for runners will help you stay flexible and injury free. Good luck!