4 Stretches for Runners
In my last post, 8 Stabilizing Exercises for Runners, we discussed how important it is for runners to cross train and strengthen key muscles utilized for running! Another form of cross training that is extremely beneficial for runners is stretching! Not only do you want your muscles to be strong enough to handle the stress of longer runs, but you also want to make sure your muscles are pliable, so you can protect your muscles and tendons, and perform optimally on race day.
Jogging and walking consist of continuous, small range movements. Because our muscles don't typically move through their full range of motion during a steady state run, they stretch only as far as necessary. Over time and repetition, muscles can become too tight, creating tension on the attachment and insertion points of the muscles. This leads to tendons rubbing across bone, creating pain, inflammation, and potential injury. If you've ever experienced back, hip, or knee pain after a run, this could be why!* Taking time to cool down and stretch out after your run will not only help you feel better the next day, but it can also help you avoid serious issues such as sciatica, runners knee, and bursitis.
If you're a runner, I highly recommend adding yoga into your workout mix. If you can't make it to a class, YogaGlo.com has some great options for yoga sessions specifically geared toward runners. Although it would be ideal, I'm not always able to practice yoga immediately following a run. So instead of skipping out on stretching completely, hopping in the car or on to my next task, I make sure I stretch out the major muscle groups involved! I've been guilty of skipping these a few times, and trust me, it makes a huge difference in how I feel later in the day!
I know time is often limited, so here are four simple stretches that you can easily do after your run to prevent potential problems! Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat the sequence as needed! Remember, stretching should NOT be painful. Go to a point of slight discomfort and stay there until you feel your muscle relax before going further.
1. The Revolved Triangle
This is one of my favorite stretches and yoga poses. It stretches out muscles in your hip joint, hamstrings, and the IT band. Make sure your knees are soft (not locked out) and your hips are square and facing forward. If you lack hip flexibility, place your hand on a bench or chair instead of placing it on the floor.
2. Side Lunge Stretch
Starting in a side lunge position shift your weight to one side keeping your opposite leg straight, stretching the inner thigh.
3. Low Lunge
Start in a low lunge position and make sure to flex the back foot so your toes are on the ground protecting the knee. Then, keeping your torso upright, move forward into your front leg, making sure your knee stays behind your toes. You should feel this stretch in your hip flexors on the back leg. If having your back knee on the ground is too uncomfortable, lift it off the ground for a high lunge and keep the back leg straight as you move forward.
4. Hamstring Stretch
Slowly move out of the low lunge by shifting your weight backwards, keeping your hips square. Lean over, keeping your back flat and toes pointed up, to get a good stretch in your hamstrings!
Adding these stretches at the end of your run, while your muscles are still warm, will make a huge difference in how you feel during your next run! Happy stretching!
What's your favorite stretch?
* If you're having severe, acute pain and gentle stretching doesn't alleviate it, consult your doctor. Always better safe than sorry!
Photos by Kelsey Cherry.