5 Non-Negotiable Stretches For Runners:

You come back from a run, you’re hot, tired and thirsty. The last thing you want to do is to get into a long stretch routine. But before you reach for that post run snack just spend 5 – 10 minutes working through the routine below to aid your recovery and to help set you up for your next session.

Not only does stretching increase flexibility but it also releases muscle tension after a workout. As well as the physiological benefits there are also psychological benefits. Your stretch routine is a moment of calm before you get on with the rest of your day. An opportunity for you to reflect on what you have just achieved during your training and to mentally prepare for what lies ahead.

These are my top 5 lower body stretches. Each position stretches out a key muscle used while running. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and then swap sides. Remember to control your breathing. Nice deep breaths in and out. Every time you exhale try to increase the stretch that little bit further.

Hamstrings

Hamstrings assist with the bending of knees when running. Having tight hamstrings can restrict flexibility and range of motion.

Two options – depending if you have a resistance band at your disposal

Option 1:

  • Grab a resistance band or mini band
  • Place it around the ball of your left foot
  • Use your hands to pull your foot up to the sky and to hold it in place
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before swapping sides

Option 2:

  • If you don’t have access to a resistance band you can still achieve the same results by using a doorframe 
  • Place the leg you want to stretch up the side of doorframe
  • Your other leg lies flat on the floor between the doorframe
  • The closer your bum is to the frame the more the intense the stretch will be
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before swapping sides

Glutes

The glutes (muscles in your bum) are the big powerhouse of muscles when it comes to running and play a key role in stabilizing the hips.  There are three glute muscles and they all come into action while running. These muscles can easily stiffen up after a long run.

There are many glute stretches but this is one of my favourite and you can feel it every single time.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent up towards the sky
  • Place your right ankle over your left knee
  • Grab hold of your left ankle with your right hand
  • Grab hold of your right ankle with your left hand 
  • To feel a deeper stretch, really pull your ankles into your body
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before swapping sides

Quadriceps

Quads are a fundamental muscle used in running and are there to support the knees.  If the quad muscles are tight it may lead to misalignment of hips and back, which in turn could cause severe back pain.  The quicker the quad muscles recovery the better your next runs will be.

Two options – depending if you have a resistance band at your disposal

Option 1:

  • Start off in tall kneeling position
  • Lift your left knee up so your left foot is flat on the ground
  • Grab hold of your right food and bring your heel into your bum to feel the stretch down the front of your leg  
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before swapping sides

Option 2:

  • Lie face down on the floor 
  • Place a long resistance band around your left foot keeping hold of the other end in your hands 
  • Use the band to pull your foot towards you keeping your toes pointed up to the sky 
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before swapping sides

Calves

Calf muscles ensure that you extend and flex your feet as you land and push off from the ground.  Ensuring they are stretched correctly will help prevent injuries such as shin splints.

  • Stand with both your feet facing a wall 
  • Place your hands on the wall
  • Step your right foot backwards
  • Ensuring both your heels stay on the ground and bend your left knee forward
  • You should feel the stretch in your right calf 
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before swapping sides

Hip Flexors

Hip flexors connect the top leg bone (femur) to the lower back, hips and groin. When tight, hip flexors, cause your pelvis to tilt back, forcing your torso to tilt forward.  This is not an ideal posture for running or even for walking.  A lot of time sitting down will lead to shortened and tightened hip flexors.  Without regular stretching it could lead to knee and lower back pain.  Stretching the hip flexor muscles to keep them long will dramatically help with your posture.

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands flat on the floor and your arms fully extended 
  • Slide your left knee forwards and towards your left hand
  • Place your left foot behind your right hand 
  • You can either hold the stretch here, lower yourself down onto your elbows or fully extend your arms and lower your chest to the floor 
  • Ensure that your hips stay flat at all times and square with the floor
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before swapping sides

This whole routine shouldn’t take any longer than 10 minutes. If you make time for it after your next training session, I guarantee your recovery rate will increase and your following sessions will be a lot more enjoyable.

Let me know how you get on…

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