3 Stretches Every Runner Should Do
Running is one of the most common forms of exercise. Whether you are a marathon runner or just like to casually jog around the block, all you need is your body and a pair of shoes. Either way, incorporating stretches into your running routine will help prevent soreness and running-related injuries.
Runners typically will experience tightness in their hip flexors, thighs, and calves. The repetitive motion of running shortens these muscles, which over time can lead to stiffness and injury.
Here are three stretches you can do to reduce these risk factors:
1. Calf Stretch
Your calf muscles include the gastrocnemius and soleus. They connect your knee joint to your Achilles tendon, which is at the back of your ankle. The Achilles’ tendon plays a vital role in walking and stepping, without which would be impossible. If the calf muscles are tight, they will shorten the Achilles, which could pose for a tear or rupture. To prevent this, try stretching your calf.
Place your hands on your hips and step one foot back behind you. Bend your front knee and press your back heel into the ground, leaning slightly forward. This variation primarily stretches the upper fibres of the gastrocnemius. To target the Achilles and soleus, bend the back leg and straighten the front leg, shifting your weight back. Hold for 30 seconds in each variation, and then change sides.
2. Hamstring Stretch
The hamstrings are located at the back of your thigh. They attach the back of the pelvis to your knee and are primarily used in flexion of the knee joint. These muscles include the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. The constant motion of stretching the leg out in front of you quickly while running will create overuse patterns if the hamstrings are not stretched properly. Try this active hamstring stretch to alleviate any concerns.
Lie on your back with a strap or belt handy. Bend one leg into your chest while keeping the other leg extended on the floor. Loop the strap around the sole of your foot and extend the leg up toward the sky. This stretching technique requires you to be active; this is not a passive stretch. Press through your hamstring away from the body. Then release the muscular tension and pull the leg closer toward your chest. Repeat this five times on each side. This is a PNF stretch, which stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular firing.
3. Hip Flexor Stretch
Hip flexors are chronically tight in runners due to the high impact contracting motion they take during the repeated take-off action. The hip flexors connect your torso to your legs in the front of your hips. These muscles include the iliopsoas, iliacus, rectus femoris, and pectineus primarily. Tight hip flexors can cause lower back spasms and dysfunction. To prevent this, try this deep stretch.
Lay on the end of your bed so that your hips are right on the edge with your legs dangling off. Let one leg hang while the other leg bends into your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, then change sides.