While stretching isn’t strength training, it does play a vital part in helping runners prevent injury and keeping them strong.
Stretching helps loosen up tight muscles and keeps runners limber. Before you stretch, always warm-up first. Never stretch cold muscles – this can do more harm than good. An easy warm-up of 10-20 minutes or 1/2-2 miles should get the blood flowing to the legs and have you ready to go.
When stretching, you want to hold the stretch in a spot where you feel tension, but not extreme discomfort. Try not to bounce in and out of a position while stretching. There are literally hundreds of different stretches for all of your muscles. We’ll just be focusing on a few to get started.
Perform these stretches 10-15 seconds, 2-3 times each.
The hamstring stretch is extremely simple – bend over and try to touch your toes. If you can’t reach your toes, grab you shins as far down as you can and hold it there. You will feel the tension on the back of your thigh.
To perform the quad stretch you will lift you right foot behind you and hold it in your hand. If you don’t have great balance, you may need to hold on to something with your left hand. Pull your heel to your butt and you will feel the tension on the front of your thigh. Once you’ve completed 10-15 seconds, lower and repeat with your left leg.
There are several popular ways to perform a calf stretch. The easiest way is to find a curb, wall or pole and put your toes on it while leaving your heel on the ground. Next, bring your knee closer to the wall or pole (or forward if stretching on a curb) to add tension. Release and repeat with your other foot.
To stretch your groin, sit on the ground and bring your feet together in front of you. Wrap your hands around your feet and use your elbows to push your knees toward the ground to add tension.
To stretch your hips, sit on the ground with both legs in front, take your right leg and place it over your left leg with your foot flat on the ground (your heel should be close to your left knee and you right knee should be sticking up in the air) and pull your knee towards your chest to add tension. Repeat with your left leg.
Often overlooked, stretching the shoulders can help keep them loose throughout the run. To perform a shoulder stretch, stick you right arm straight up and bend at the elbow until you are touching your left shoulder blade. Grab your right elbow with your left hand and pull down to add tension. Repeat with your left shoulder.
By Adam Rabo