It’s quite impossible to get away with NOT doing your stretches as a runner. Because you WILL feel the effects of it sooner or later. Stretching helps with blood flow, flexibility of muscles, injury prevention, and tones the muscle. It’s very important and should be part of your running regimen. Be sure to make time for it.
It’s also important to stretch on your days off. Really, everyone should be stretching even if they don’t exercise regularly. It’s good for the body and the soul!
There are 5 stretches that I believe every runner should do to stay loose and prevent injury. I picked these stretches because these are the muscle groups that are most used while running and can sometimes be forgotten.
5 Stretches for Runners
1. Hip Flexors
This muscle group is often forgotten about, but can cause a lot of problems when it gets tight. It can contribute to runner’s knee and the shifting of the pelvis which can get things all out of whack. Hip flexors do exactly what they’re named: flex the hips. This area is also known as the groin area.
To Stretch the Hip Flexors:
- Kneel on your right knee. Place your left foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent.
- Lean forward, stretching your right hip toward the floor.
- Squeeze your butt; this will allow you to stretch your hip flexor even more.
- You should feel the stretch in your groin area where your upper thigh and pelvis meet.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- Switch sides and repeat
You can also come off your R knee as shown in the picture.
Common injury with tight Hip Flexors: Hip Flexor/Groin Strain or IT Band Syndrome
Hamstrings are the muscle group at the back of the thigh. These muscles help extend the hip and flex the knee. The hamstrings are commonly strained because they get too tight. This is an easy stretch.
To stretch the Hamstrings:
- While sitting on the floor, extend your right leg straight out or at a 45 degree angle.
- Bend your L knee to rest your L foot against your right leg where comfortable.
- While keeping your right leg as straight as you can, reach with both hands, as far as you can, down your leg. Trying to grab your ankle.
- Hold for 3 sets of 15 – 30 seconds.
You can also do this stretch standing up.
Common Injuries with tight Hamstrings: IT band Syndrome, Hamstring Strain
The Piriformis is a deep butt muscle that helps to rotate the hip. It can get tight and cause nerve irritation commonly known as sciatica and other nerve pain down the leg. Most people have a tight Piriformis.
To stretch the Piriformis:
Seated in a chair:
- Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your right ankle on your left thigh, close to the knee.
- Bend over and try to touch your left foot with your left hand. (Don’t actually grab the foot, just lean over til you feel the stretch).
- Hold stretch for 30 seconds.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Place your right ankle on your left thigh.
- Lift your left leg and grab the back side of your left leg with both hands and pull toward you.
- Hold stretch for 30 seconds.
Common injuries with a tight Piriformis: Sciatica, Radiating pain, IT band Snydrome, Sharp Buttocks pain.
Don’t forget the calves, or the lower leg muscles. They help to flex the knee and plantar flex the foot. These muscles are commonly sore in runners, probably all the time. One of my biggest fears is tearing my Achilles tendon, so don’t forget to warm up and stretch your calves.
To stretch your calves:
- Start in standing position.
- While keeping your right leg forward, foot flat on the floor, extend your left leg straight back, placing your heel flat on the floor. Don’t bend your back knee.
- Lean forward until you feel the stretch, use a wall for support if you need to.
- Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
- Start in downward facing dog position. (Hands and feet flat on ground, butt in the air).
- Make sure legs are as straight as you can get them. Try to place heels on ground.
- Place left foot/toes on right heel and hold.
- Hold for 3 sets of 10 seconds on both legs.
Common injuries with tight calves: Plantar fascitis, Achilles tendinitis, Achilles rupture, calf strain
5. Quadriceps Stretches
Quadriceps, which are commonly referred to as Quads, are the muscle group that make up the thigh. They are called Quads because there are 4 of them that make up the whole group. It is probably the most commonly stretched by runners, but is still important. The quadriceps help to track the patella and extend the knee.
To stretch your Quadriceps:
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Make sure you have good balance, if not, stand by a chair or something easy to grab in case you lose balance.
- Bend your right leg up toward your buttocks and grab your ankle with your right hand.
- Pull your ankle up and toward you until you feel the stretch.
- Hold for 3 sets of 15 seconds.
Common Injuries of a tight Quadriceps: Strain, Patella tracking or Patella-femoral syndrome (runners knee), IT Band Syndrome.
Tips and Tools about Stretches
There is no such thing as stretching TOO much. Holding the stretch for several minutes is even better than 30 seconds. Stretching morning and night and on your days off is even better!
You can get an even stretch when you use stretching bands. This will definitely take your stretching to the next level and make it easier on you.
This is my FAVORITE thing ever. I mean it can also be the devil if you’re really sore, but it’s awesome. These are foam rollers. You can use them to roll out your muscles. You lay on it, and roll across it to massage and loosen up your muscles. I suffer from IT Band Syndrome and this has saved my life many times. It’s great! I highly recommend you get one. Here’s an example: