Stretching plays a vital role in running, in order to avoid running related injury. Muscular imbalances also plays a vital role in running injuries (find exercises here and core exercises here). Another great resource on runner knee injury guide can be found at this link. Some great stretches runners should do after they run and after warming up before beginning your work out are listed below:
(sorry if the descriptions are confusing, you can easily web search any of these for pictures to make it easier)
- Flamingo – Balance on left leg, raise your right leg behind you at the knee, and grab your foot with your right hand. Pull back slowly feeling a stretch in quadriceps, bringing leg to butt. Hold for 20-30 seconds then switch sides.
- Calf Stretch – Standing put right foot forward, against wall or post, and lean forward towards wall or post, feeling stretch in calf. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch sides.
- Butterfly – Seated on the floor bring legs in front of you folded in a diamond shape, with both heels touching each other. Sit as tall as possible. Place your hands on the top of your feet and press elbows toward inside of thighs, pressing thighs toward floor. Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Chinese swan (or Piriformis stretch)- In seated position on floor, bend knees. Cross right foot in front of left knee, leaning slightly backwards with hands behind you, pulling core towards bent knee to feel stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch sides. You can also lay down, bending knees bringing right knee over left knee, clasping hands behind left leg, pull forward.
- Pigeon –In seated position on floor, bring your left knee forward, and extend right leg on the floor directly behind your right hip, resting top of foot on floor. Hands should be in front of left leg. I come onto my elbows and hold stretch for 5 inhales and exhales. You can also extend hands and arms, reaching forward with chest on top of your left foot. Switch sides.
- Pyramid – Stand with right foot about 2 feet in front of left foot. With both legs straight bend at hips and place right hand on outside of right foot, twisting core forward, reaching left hand to the sky, looking up at hand. Hold for 15 seconds and switch sides.
- Standing forward bend toe reach- In standing position, with legs straight, cross left leg over right leg. Bend forward at hips and reach toward the ground. Try to place palms on ground right in front of feet, or touch your toes. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch legs, with right foot crossed over left foot. Should feel stretch in hamstrings.
- Seated single-leg forward bend- In seated position on the floor Bend left knee and bring towards right inner thigh. Extend right leg straight forward. Reach arms toward right foot, hold foot if you can reach it or ankle, bending forward slightly. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Single-leg forward bend- Stand with right foot about 2 feet in front of your left foot. With both legs straight, bend at hips, and place hands, clasped behind your back. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch sides.
- Hamstring stretch- Lie on floor with legs extending. Lift right foot, so its 90 degrees, or as close to that as possible and grab foot with right hand, keeping leg straight. You can also wrap at resistant band or towel around leg and pull leg forward until you feel a stretch, holding stretch for 20-30 seconds and switch sides. Eventually, you’ll be able to bring leg to 90 degree angle.
- Hip stretch: Come into low lunge with left leg straight behind you lifted off ground and right leg bent in front. Place elbows on the floor, with right elbow against right leg. Hold for 5 deep exhale and inhales and switch sides.
Yoga is great for runners. Many studies have shown this. A great book for doing yoga on your own is Tara Stiles book “Slim, Calm, Sexy, Yoga.” Doing yoga uses all muscles, strengthening your muscles and drawing on your core, while providing a stretch. It’s been used to prevent running related injuries, and it improves muscular endurance and range of motion. Yoga will make you more flexible and gives you better balance. It’s great for post run.
Yoga Moves Every Runner should Try:
- Down dog- Start on all fours. Make sure wrists are under shoulders and knees under hips. Lift hips up and back, and extend legs. Press palms against floor a few inches in front of feet, and relax neck. Walk your feet back, lift your hips, and press heels toward floor. Keep shoulders and head relaxed. Hold for 5 deep inhales and exhales.
- Pigeon- In seated position on floor, bring your left knee forward, and extend right leg on the floor directly behind your right hip, resting top of foot on floor. Hands should be in front of left leg. I come onto my elbows and hold stretch for 5 inhales and exhales. You can also extend hands and arms, reaching forward with chest on top of your left foot. Switch sides.
- High lunge- Come into lunge position, with right leg in front, left leg behind. Raise hands overhead. Keep right knee at 90 degrees, and left knee almost touching ground. Hold this position for five deep inhales and exhales, and switch legs.
- Twisted Lunge- Return to lunge position with right foot forward, and bring hands into prayer pose in front of chest. With core tight, rotate torso to right, raising right elbow to ceiling, and left elbow to outside of right knee. Hold for 5 inhales and exhales and switch sides.
- Low lunge– Step forward with right foot. Press fingertips on floor, with one hand on each side of your right foot. Bend knees slightly and step back with left leg into long, low lunge. Right leg should be bent deeply, and left leg should be straight. Hold for 5 inhales and exhales, then switch sides.
- Warrior Three- Stand tall and bend at hips, lengthening torso forward so it’s parallel to floor. Reach arms forward past ears. Shift weight onto your right leg and lift your hips, raising left leg behind you until it’s parallel to floor, with left foot pointing down. Hold for 5 exhales and inhales. Switch sides. This helps balance as well.
- Pyramid- Stand with right foot about 2 feet in front of left foot. With both legs straight bend at hips and place right hand on outside of right foot, twisting core forward, reaching left hand to the sky, looking up at hand. Hold for 15 seconds and switch sides.
- Twisted Pyramid- From pyramid position, twist torso to opposite side, with left hand placed on the ground/floor outside the right foot. Reaching right hand toward sky. Hold for 5 deep inhales and exhales and switch sides.
Use a foam roller. Foam rollers should be apart of your running life. Believe me, they work. It hurts, but it’s a “hurts so good” kind of pain. I would start with a softer foam roller to get used to it, and then get a firmer one. I love the longer foam rollers, because you can do more with them. It’s great to foam roll your glutes, IT-band, quads, calves, and back after running. When I strained my IT-band while training for Boston, foam rolling saved my butt, literally. I foam roll after running and stretching, especially after long runs. It helps with recovery time, and avoiding and treating injury!!
The Roll Recovery: The greatest running related gift for recovery I have received to date. It’s smaller so easily more portable, and really works out those kinks. It’s a little more spendy, but so worth. Your muscles will thank you!!
Invest in a Bosu Ball: These are amazing!! If you don’t go to the gym regularly (all gyms should have one), I suggest investing in one of these. They are pricey, but if you run a lot, you’ll use it. It is great for correcting muscle imbalances, by strengthening all muscles around hips (which tend to be weak on runners, because we focus on other muscle groups) and helping our balance. Runners need great balance, and surprisingly most of us don’t have as great of balance as we would like to think. Here you can find exercises to use on a bosu ball.
Invest in resistant bands – These are so helpful for preventing injury and helping to recover from injury. There’s different resistant strength’s and I would invest in all different levels of resistance, so as you get stronger you can still be challenged. They also help with stretching as well, and they are fairly inexpensive.
Use golf balls – Believe it or not, they work wonders for achy muscles. Put them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. I roll the bottom’s of feet while working at my desk or sitting down to watch a movie. Also, they are great for massages. It hurts like heck, especially if you’re really sore, but man does it feel great the next day. They are great for massages and do help alleviate soreness.