Originally posted on https://stretchcoach.com/articles/stretches-for-running/
Improve your running and minimize injuries with 3 of the best running stretches.
By incorporating a number of regular running stretches into your running training, you can improve your personal best times and help reduce the chance of those annoying running injuries.
Muscles used in Running
Among the primary muscles, the quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and vastus intermedius), the hamstrings(semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris), gluteus maximus, iliopsoas (iliacus and psoas major) and calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) are at work during running.
While it may seem that the legs are doing all the work there are a number of supporting muscles that are also very important, including: the shoulders and upper arms, the upper abdominals and the lower back muscles. The external and internal intercostal muscles also function during running.
Most Common Running Injuries
Runners are prone to a wide variety of both acute (traumatic) and chronic (overuse) injuries. The high impact nature of running causes considerable stress to muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as making such athletes vulnerable to strains, sprains and stress fractures. Some of the more frequently encountered injuries include:
- Lower back strain;
- Chondromalacia (Runner’s knee);
- Hamstring strain;
- Hip injuries, including Illiotibial band (ITB) syndrome and Iliopsoas tendinitis (hip flexor strain);
- Lower leg injuries, including shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome), ankle sprain, calf strain and Achilles tendinitis;
- Plantar fasciitis; and
- Stress fractures.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Many running injuries can be avoided through proper conditioning and attending to correct running technique. Additionally, runners should:
- Always warm-up properly prior to training and especially racing.
- Allow time for a complete cool-down period after training and racing.
- Improve cardiovascular fitness with cross training.
- Add strength training to build resistance to injury.
- Incorporate flexibility training to improve range of motion and reduce injuries from tight and inflexible muscles.
- Practice balance, agility and proprioception drills to improve knee and ankle stability.
- Build up running distances and speeds in gradual stages.
- Select comfortable, well fitting and supportive footwear.
- Have your running gait analysed and use orthotic inserts if needed.
- Using ankle supports (braces, taping, strapping, etc.) can reduce the incidence of ankle sprains.
- Avoid running in extreme temperatures, inclement weather, or on uneven or wet surfaces.
- Keep the body well hydrated, especially in hot weather.
- Apply sunscreen to protect the skin, when running in bright sun.
The Benefits of Running Stretches
Proper running stretches are crucial to overcome the rigors of running. Incorporating regular running stretches will improve your flexibility and increase your range of motion, leading to an increased stride length and a greater freedom of movement. Stretching as part of a cool-down also helps to flush out waste products, like lactic acid, and enhances recovery.
Regular running stretches can also help prevent injuries. And finally, even the most basic running stretches can just make you feel better.
The 3 Best Running Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.
Below are 3 of the best stretches for running; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Kneeling Hip and Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.
Standing High-leg Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch: Stand with one foot raised onto a table. Keep your leg bent and lean your chest into your bent knee.
Standing Toe-up Lower Calf and Achilles Stretch: Stand upright and place the ball of your foot onto a step or raised object. Bend your knee and lean forward.
Watch the Running Stretches video
Click on the play button below if you prefer to follow along to a 10 minute video of the best stretches for running.
These running stretches are best done after your run training (or racing), as part of your cool down. They can also be done as a stand-alone stretching session to improve your running flexibility, but make sure you’re fully warmed up before starting the stretches.
Want more Running Stretches?
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you’ll get a lot more benefit when you add the right stretches to your training program. With the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM) you’ll…
- Improve your sporting performance;
- Do away with stiff, tight muscles and joints;
- Improve your freedom of movement and mobility;
- Get rid of injuries, aches and pains; and
- Take your flexibility to the next level…
You’ll get 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretches for every major muscle groups in your body. Plus, the DVD includes 3 customized sets of stretches (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core. And the Handbook will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly and safely. Plus, you’ll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly.
If you want to improve your flexibility so you can to train harder, race faster, recover quicker and move better, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.