Sports therapist, Kieran Boland-Pedley has put together his ‘Top 5 Stretches for Runners’ along with a video to support participants too.
1- Hamstrings – The hamstrings are a very important and often delicate area for most athletes. Keen runners will be fully aware of how it feels to have tight hamstrings and/or an injury to the area. It is vitally important to keep the hamstrings flexible, as hamstring flexibility is responsible for much of the main movement available in the lower limb, both when running and otherwise.
Key stretch: Place feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward, lean your weight forward keeping the knee joint soft (not locked) and lower your hands toward the floor. You can use a yoga block for a guide as to how low to stretch your arms toward the ground. Hold for one minute.
2- Adductors – The adductors are a group of five muscles that are responsible for hip adduction and are located around the inner thigh. Hip flexibility and freedom of movement is key to posture and technique when running, this stops you placing uneven or unnecessary loads on your lower back and knee joints.
Key stretch: Take a wide step (as if preparing to perform a lunge) away from the leg you wish to stretch and with your toes pointing forward, keep your back straight and lean your weight toward your front leg, bending at the knee and keeping the back leg straight. Hold for one minute.
3- Calf – The calf muscles and particularly calf length, have a huge influence on running technique, stride length, foot striking and speed. This is the main area for concern with runners in terms of injury risk and prevention. As therapists, we see a lot of runners and it would be safe to say over two thirds of running injuries we see are calf injuries.
Key stretch: Using preferably a step or elevated platform or surface, step up onto the step with both feet, then with the leg you would like to stretch, step back so that the heel is hanging off the step and drop the heel until you feel the stretch. Hold for one minute.
4- Quads – The quadriceps provide strength and power to the lower limb and are key to load bearing and stabilizing during movements and exercises. As the quadricep muscles often push for explosive movement and maybe most importantly, hold and track the patella (knee) joint itself, this is another major are for technique and injury prevention focus.
Key stretch: Stand straight upright, bring your feet close together, toes pointing forward, lift the heel off the ground of the leg you wish to stretch and bend at the knee, bring the heel up towards your bum, hold just above the ankle and gently pull towards you until you feel the stretch. Hold for one minute.
5- Glutes – Our brief tour of the main players in lower limb anatomy concludes with the Glutes. The gluteal muscles, particularly Gluteus Maximus is known for being one of the strongest muscles in the human body, these muscles are responsible for movement of the hip and thigh and are integral to everyday necessities such as sitting to standing and vice versa and climbing stairs, as well as being vital to posture both when standing and running or performing movements.
Key stretch: This one is seated – use a yoga mat to sit on, lay one leg out in front of you, straight. Bend at the knee of the leg you wish to stretch, placing the sole of the foot flat to the ground, place the sole of this foot across the straight leg, stretching over this leg as an obstacle and finally turn your torso in the opposite direction. Hold for one minute.
Stay flexible, stay injury free, stay fit…STRETCH!
For full details on these stretches go to the Active Potential Therapy YouTube channel by clicking here.
To see Active Potential Therapy’s last post regarding pre-race nutrition click here.