Summer is over, but for those avid runners among us, it’s still running season: time to hit the road with your properly fitted shoes, and moisture-wicking sportswear. Follow each run with these 7 stretches and you will assure that you’re able to enjoy your jogs, injury free.
Standing Calf Stretch
The calf muscle runs along the back of your lower leg. In runners, this muscle is prone to a calf pull or strain.
- Stand about an arm's-length from the wall.
- Lean forward and place both hands on the wall about shoulder width apart.
- Extend one foot (the side to be stretched) behind you with one heel on the ground and one foot closer to the wall.
- Lean into the wall with your hips until you feel a stretch in the calf of the extended leg.
- Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds and change sides.
- For a deeper stretch, move your foot farther back.
Standing IT Band Stretch
The IT band is a tough group of fibers that run along the outside of the thigh. IT band syndrome is a common running injury that is generally due to inflammation and irritation of this band. Here is a simple stretch you can do while standing.
- Stand with your left leg crossed in front of your right leg.
- With your right arm extending overhead, reach to the left.
- Put your left hand on your hip.
- Push slightly on your left hip until you feel a slight stretch along the right side of your torso, hip, upper thigh and knee.
- Hold 20 to 30 seconds and change sides.
- For a deeper stretch, keep your feet farther apart, bend the knee of your forward foot and keep the back knee straight.
Standing Quad Stretch
The quadriceps (quads), are a group of muscles along the front of the thigh. There are many different ways to stretch your quadriceps, but here is a simple one you can do while standing.
- Stand on one leg (grab onto something solid if you need support).
- Bend your knee and bring your heel toward your buttock.
- Reach for your ankle with your hand.
- Stand up straight and feel a slight pull along the front of your thigh and hip.
- Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, release and repeat on the other leg.
- Be careful not to strain your knee - the goal is not to touch your heel to the buttock, but rather to stretch the thigh.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Because tightness in the low back and hamstrings is often related to muscle pain and stiffness in runners, this stretch can help maintain good running form and reduce the risk of stiffness, pain and injury.
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you with knees straight.
- In a slow, steady movement, lean forward at the hips, keep your knees straight and slide your hands up your legs to your feet.
- Extend as far as you can, and flex your feet slightly to increase the stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, release and repeat two to three times.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that bring the legs up toward the trunk. Runners rely on these muscles, particularly when running uphill.
- Begin in a forward lunge position and drop your back knee to the floor.
- Raise your arms and hands up over your head and look up.
- Press your hips forward and down toward the floor and feel a stretch through your torso, hip, groin and thigh.
- Hold the stretch for about 20-30 seconds, release and repeat on the other leg.
This is a basic shoulder stretch you can do anytime and anywhere.
- Begin standing up straight with shoulders relaxed and back.
- Reach your right arm up over your head, bend your elbow and reach your hand behind your neck.
- With your elbow pointing up to the sky, slide your right palm down to your back.
- With your left hand, grip your right elbow and gentle pull it toward your ear.
- Continue sliding your right palm down your back without straining.
- Hold for 10-20 seconds and release.
- Repeat with the opposite arm.
- Be sure to keep your head up and resist the urge to bend your neck forward.
Plantar Fasciitis Stretch
This stretch is used to relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis by stretching the plantar fascia, a band of tough connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot to the heel.
- Stand barefoot.
- Lift one heel off the ground but keep the ball of the foot and toes flat.
- You will feel a stretch on the underside of the ball of the foot.
- Hold for a count of ten. Release.
- Repeat ten times.