Whether you’re a short or long distance runner, properly stretching before and after exercise makes all the difference in your performance, ability to avoid running injuries, and post-workout stiffness. Sure, you may do a quick forward fold at the hips and pull one heel at a time to the glutes for a quad stretch, but you may be missing out on these awesome stretches every runner should know.
Stretching the IT Band and Opening the Hips
Sit on a folded blanket. With foot flexed, take the outside of your right ankle and place it in front of your left hip. Then flex your left foot and place the ankle directly above the right knee allowing the left knee to gently lower toward the right foot (not lowering all the way is totally normal). If the top knee can lower, you can increase the intensity by leaning forward. Notice the stretch in your IT bands running down the outside of the hips. Need more release through the glutes? Try a single pigeon by tucking your right leg in further and swinging a straight left leg behind until you are resting on top of the left thigh.
Calf and Shoulder Stretch
Yes, it’s yoga, but it’s also great for runners! Place hands and feet shoulder width apart with about four feet between hands and toes. Try to create a straight line from your head to tailbone as you lift it upward. Bend through one knee and press the opposite heel into the floor. Notice the release of your calf muscles as you switch from one side to the other eventually pressing both heels toward the floor. If it’s too intense for the shoulders, place your hands on the seat of a chair instead.
Stretching the Hamstrings, Groin, and Quadriceps
Stretching the hips by placing one foot in front with your knee aligned over the ankle and the other foot back with toes tucked under is a common stretch. Take it to the next step by dropping the back knee and the top of the back foot down to the ground. Notice how this increases the intensity from the groin all the way down the front line of the leg. Next, shift your hips backwards until your front leg straightens. Lean your chest over the front leg and say hello to your hamstrings!
Half Reclined Hero
Sit square with one leg extended straight, foot flex, and the other leg tuck to the outside of your hip. Begin to slowly reach your body forward to stretch the hamstrings. Place your hands behind the hips and begin to lower onto elbows to stretch the quads.
Stretching the Side Body
Stand with feet hip width apart. Reach hands over head keeping arms straight or interlock fingers keeping your thumb and pointer fingers extended. Take a deep breath in and then reach the body to the right side as you shift the hips slightly to the left. Notice the stretch through your lats, obliques, and the entire side body.