Stretching for Runners

Warm-Up and Stretching for Running

 

Dynamic Warm-Up

The below video is an example of a dynamic warm-up designed for running (taken before the Parkrun of our very first Couch to 5K group back in 2012). You should complete this type of warm-up before every run. A good warm up of at least 3 minutes is important as it will reduce your chances of injury and prepare you for running by

  1. Gradually raising your body temperature and heartrate
  2. Triggering the release of synovial fluid to mobilise the joints
  3. Activating the important muscle groups involved in running
  4. Getting you mentally "in the zone" for running

 

 

 

Remember, the faster you intend to run, the longer your warm-up should be - i.e. sprint intervals or a 5km race require a longer warm-up than a long steady run.

 

Static Stretching

Static stretching should be completed after each run in order to maintain and/or improve flexibility. This will not only reduce your risk of injury but also improve your mobility and hence running efficiency.  If you are relatively new to running, try to get into the habit of stretching after each run as soon as possible so it becomes automatic.

The stretches illustrated below are particularly recommended for runners as they focus on the muscle groups that are most involved when running.

 

Hip Flexor Stretch

Hip Flexor Stretch for Running

 

  • One of the non-negotiable stretches that you should complete after every run.
  • The hip flexors lift up your leg during the swing phase of your run.
  • Very common area of tightness in runners
  • Once in position as pictured, you should feel the stretch at the top of the front of your back thigh.
  • Remember to hold for at least 10 seconds on each side - or 30 seconds if they are particularly tight.

 

 

 

Gastronemius (Upper Calf) Stretch

Running Gastronemius Stretch

  • The calves are involved in the push-off phase of running, as you push off your planted foot and move the ankle into plantar-flexion
  • Push down through the heel of the back foot, keeping toes tucked under.
  • You should feel the stretch in the fleshy upper part of the calf on the back of your lower leg.
  • The greater the angle of dorsiflexion (toes towards shin), the deeper the stretch.
  • Remember to hold for at least 10 seconds on each side - or 30 seconds if they are particularly tight.

 

 

Standing Quadricep Stretch

Standing Quad Stretch

    • Quadricep stretches are a great way to reduce knee pain and prevent injuries. 
    • The quadriceps control how the knee straightens and are particularly important for running.
    • Pull your heel towards your bottom until you feel a stretch at the front of the thigh.
    • Keep your body upright and knees together as you push forward the hip of your bent leg.
    • Remember to hold for at least 10 seconds on each side - or 30 seconds if they are particularly tight.

 

 

 

 

 

Standing Hamstring Stretch

Standing Hamstring Stretch

 

  • Tight hamstrings can limit your range of motion, which can affect running stride and speed.
  • Stand upright with both feet pointing forwards, one foot in front of the other keeping feet hip width apart.
  • The front leg should be straight an the back leg bent.
  • Bend forward from the waist ensuring a flat back until you feel a stretch behind and above the knee.
  • Remember to hold for at least 10 seconds on each side - or 30 seconds if they are particularly tight.

 

 

 

 

Standing Soleus Stretch

Standing Soleus Stretch

 

  • Increased flexibility and lengthening of your soleus will enhance your ankle mobility and running gait.
  • Stand with one foot in front of the other with both feet facing forwards.
  • Keep your back knee bent, sit back slightly with torso upright and push your back heel to the floor.
  • Push your hips forward until you feel the stretch on your back lower calf and achilles as you push your back heel down.
  • Placing your hands up at shoulder height is a useful quide to ensure your posture remains upright and strong.

 

 

 

Cat Stretch

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Improves spinal flexibility and abdominal control
  • Similar to the yoga move "Chakravakrasana"
  • Contributes to improved running posture and prevention of back pain
  • Start on all fours with neutral spine
  • Simultaneously round your spine, drop your head and take your gaze to your navel (see first photo above)
  • Hold for at least 15 seconds, then reverse the curvature of your spine by dropping your navel downwards and gazing upwards (see second photo above)
  • Hold for a further 15 seconds minimum
  • If you need a live demo, watch your cat do it :-)

 

Adductor Stretch

 

  • The adductors are a group of muscles on the inside of the thigh which draw the legs together and help stabilize them when running
  • Firstly, stand with both feet facing forwards
  • Take a wide step out to the side, keeping the inside leg straight and the outside leg bent
  • You will feel the stretch on the inside of the thigh of the straight leg
  • To increase the stretch, take the feet further apart and bend the knee more
  • Repeat on both sides for at least 15 secs per side (more if time permits)

 

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