Stretches Every Runner Should Know

Posted: Oct 20 2014

Most people tend to skip stretching before a workout because they don’t realize stretching is equally as important as the workout itself. Without stretching your body is at a higher risk for injury. Not all stretching is created equal, either! What most people don’t realize is how static stretching (holding a stretch for a long period of time, past 15 seconds) will actually increase the likelihood of injury and reduce flexibility. Don’t bounce or push deeper into a static stretch (ever have someone push you “deeper” into a stretch) it can set you up for injuries once you begin exercising.
Active stretching, on the other hand promotes flexibility, increases circulation and decreases risk of injury. This stretching should be done before workouts. Some active stretching includes light walk, brisk jog, light cycling, and yoga-like stretching. Active stretching gets your blood flowing and heart rate up, getting your body warmed up for the higher intensity workout ahead.
It’s not only important to stretch before a workout, it’s also important that you do a cool down to bring your heart rate back down after a workout. Stretching after a workout does not crucially reduce muscle soreness, which has been an on going rumor, but if an area is sore when you are done with your workout, take the time to stretch it out gently. It doesn’t take long, and you don’t need to stretch your whole body every time you workout. Remember, stretching has been proven to increase flexibility, and flexibility has been proven to increase performance. So when we stretch, we win!
Some Active Stretches for your legs:

Gastrocnemius (outer calf): Sit with both legs straight. Loop a rope around the ball of one foot and hold each end of the rope. Pull rope towards you. Push foot away from body. Hold each foot for 15 seconds. Preform two times for each calf.
Downward-Facing Dog: With your feet hip-distance apart, lift your knees off the floor. Begin to straighten your legs. Don’t lock knees. Lift your tailbone towards the ceiling. Press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths (or 15 seconds). This can be done 2-3 times.

Seated Wide-Legged Straddle: Sit on the floor with your legs in a straddle position with about three to four feet between your heels or whatever is comfortable for you. Make sure your toes and knees are pointing straight up. Sit with a straight spine, extending the top of your head away from your hips. Hold at a comfortable stretch for 15 seconds, and release slowly. Do 2-3 repetitions.

Walking/ Side Lateral Lunges: (walking) Step forward with your right leg and lower your body to a 90 degrees angle. Keep your back straight and chest up. When lowering your body your feet should be far enough apart that your left foot is on its toes. Lean body weight on heals. Don’t let your knees touch the floor. Step with left foot, lower body at same angle. Continue this for 20 lunges. (10 each leg) Lateral lunges are a side-to-side movement. Place feet hip-width apart with toes facing forward. Keep your chest up and butt out, bend your right knee into a lower lunge. Do the same for the left side. Hold for 15 seconds. (10 each leg)

Lower Back:
Prone Press Up: Begin by lying on your stomach with your elbows bent underneath you and palms flat on the surface. Keeping your hips and pelvis in contact with the surface, lift your upper torso up with your arms, keeping your back muscles relaxed, and hands flat on the floor. Only go as high as you are comfortable. Perform 10 repetitions.
Single Knee to Chest: Begin by lying on your back with both knees bent. Bring one knee up towards your chest. Alternate legs. Perform 2-3 repetitions. You may feel a stretch along the lower back or buttocks area. You may also perform this with both legs straight up towards your chest if you are flexible enough.

Pigeon Pose: Stretch your right leg out behind you, and bend your left knee so that your left foot is near your right pelvic bone with your toes pointed. Lay chest on folded leg, placing elbows on the floor. Switch legs and repeat for other side. Hold the stretch for 3 to 5 breaths (about 15 seconds) then release. Preform 2-4 repetitions.

Now go get warmed up, and start running!

By: Holly Kravetz