4 Stretches Runners Should Be Doing

May 5, 2019

 

Running is a great way to stay fit and feel great, but unfortunately due to the repetitive nature of running, it can also be a great way to get tight and stiff muscles. This in turn can affect the biomechanics of our running and make us inefficient and more prone to injury.

 

 

In order for our joints to move well we need to have a balance of flexibility and strength in our muscles so our joints can move optimally.

 

 

Stretching is an important component in maintaining this balance, so it is always a good idea to add a stretching routine as part of your running program.

 

 

Don’t have a stretching program? Or don’t know what muscles to stretch??

 

 

Well you’re in luck because I’ll be going through 4 great stretches that help to release key muscles that are notoriously tight in runners.

 

 

Hip Flexors

 

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that are responsible for bending/flexing the hip and run along the front of our hip/thigh. From the repetitive bending of the hip required during running, this muscle is quite commonly tight in runners. Combine that with all the sitting we do in our modern day lifestyles and it’s a recipe for tight hip flexors. Fortunately there’s a great stretch we can do to release our hip flexors.

 

 

 

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. To stretch the right hip flexor start by coming onto the floor in a kneeling lunge position with your left foot forwards and right knee on the ground (you can place a towel under your knee for more comfort). Make sure to stack your right hip and shoulder over your right knee.

  2. Tilt your pelvis backwards so the curve in your lower back straightens. By now you should start feeling a stretch along the front of the hip and thigh of the right leg.

  3. To increase the stretch you can lunge further forward by bending more at the left hip/knee but make sure to keep the lower back straight as you do this.

  4. Lastly, add a side stretch in your trunk by lifting your arms up and over towards the left side.

  5. Option: curl the toes of the back foot under to increase the stretch.

  6. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat on the other side. 3 sets

 

 

 

 

Glutes

 

The glute muscles are crucial in maintaining stability and control in the hip during running and are the muscles make up our buttocks/bottom area. When these muscles are tight they can influence how our hip moves and cause issues to other areas of our body.

 

 

This next stretch is a great one that covers most of the glute muscles.

 

 

 

 

Supine Glute Stretch

  1. Start by lying down on your back with your knees bent

  2. Bring your right ankle over your left knee

  3. Bring your left knee in towards your chest

  4. Interlock your fingers behind your left thigh to maintain the stretch. You should feel the stretch in the right hip/bottom area.

  5. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat on the other side. 3 sets.

 

  

 

Hamstrings

 

The hamstrings play an important role in the running cycle, they run along the back of the thigh and are responsible for bending the knee and helping to extend the hip to propel us forwards.

 

 

Hamstring injuries are one of the most common sites of injury in runners and therefore an important area to keep flexible and strong. So if you ever feel that your hamstrings are tight after a run this stretch is a great one to do before and after a run.

 

 

 

 

Hamstring Stretch

  1. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent

  2. Straighten your right knee

  3. Wrap a rolled up towel (or something similar) around the ball of your right foot, while holding onto each end of the towel

  4. Pull through the towel to slowly bend the right hip whilst still keeping the knee straight. You should feel a stretch along the back of the thigh.

  5. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat on the other side. 3 sets.

 

 

 

Calf

 

The calf consists of two muscles, the soleus and gastrocnemius, which are responsible for lifting the heel up, so help propel us forward when we run and stop us from falling forwards when we run downhill (so a pretty important group of muscles!).

 

This is another region that is very commonly tight in runners but one that is easy to stretch. Below are two stretches you can incorporate into your routine one for each the gastrocnemius and the soleus.

 

 

 

Standing Calf Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall with your arms straight in front of you and your hands flat against the wall.

  2. With your left foot forward and flat on the floor, step your right foot back, placing your heel flat on the floor. Keeping the right knee straight will stretch the gastrocs and keeping the right knee bent will stretch the soleus.

  3. Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the right leg.

  4. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat on the other side. 3 sets.

 

 

 

 

 

As well as doing the above stretches you can use other methods to help stretch/release these muscles. I find foam rollers and spikey balls are a great way to release muscles as they can be more specific in releasing parts of these muscle groups that can be particularly tight and sore.

 

 

While stretches are a great way to improve your running, remember they are just one piece of the puzzle and should be used in adjunct with strengthening exercises (see my blog on some great hip strengthening exercises to complement these stretches).

 

 

So now that you’re equipped with all these new stretches, add them into your running routine and reap the benefits with your more balanced running technique!

 

 

 

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