Running makes your legs strong, toned, and, often, tight. Every step you take forces your quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips to flex and extend over and over to propel you down the road. As they tire, the muscles and tendons can develop imbalances, scar tissue, and tension, slowing you down and increasing the likelihood for common overuse injuries like IT Band syndrome, and Achilles tendonitis. You’ve probably read many difference opinions about stretching before and after your run. There are two things that are pretty plain:
1. Ask a runner who stretches and they’ll tell you it helps them be more flexible, have more endurance, and feel better after the run.
2. It’s unlikely that proper stretching does any harm.
So why not try it? Here are a few simple stretches we’d recommend for runners.
BEFORE YOUR RUN
- Leg swings. Hold onto a sturdy object, stand on one leg and swing the other leg forward and back. Do 20. Then swing that same leg side to side 20 times. Each swing should build until your leg is close to its full range of motion.
- Walking lunges. Take a large step forward with your right leg, and bend the knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor and knee is aligned with your ankle. Push back upward, draw your left foot even with your right and step forward with the left. Keep your lunges fluid, and focus on proper form. Go slowly. Do 20 (10 per leg).
AFTER YOUR RUN
These stretches target major leg muscles to maintain healthy flexibility. Hold all stretches for 30 seconds to two minutes. Do them in this order for maximum benefit.
- Kneeling hip & hamstring. From a kneeling position, plant the right foot on the ground in front of you, so the leg is bent 90 degrees, with the knee and ankle aligned. Keeping your back straight, press forward into your right hip while keeping your left knee pressed into the ground, stretching your left hip and right hamstring.
- Standing quad. Stand with legs together. Bend your left leg, bringing your heel toward your butt, and grasp your left foot with your left hand. Press your shoelaces into your hand, so that your leg does the stretching instead of pulling up with your hand.
- Standing calf. Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at about chest level. Placing the ball of your right foot up against the wall, heel touching the floor, gently lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your calf while keeping your leg straight.
We offer assisted stretching and therapeutic sports massage to speed post-race recovery. Many of our clients are amateur and professional runners and they have experienced significant benefits from regular massage – especially during training and after an event. Time and again clients report that a routine of stretching, combined with regular massage, makes a real and positive difference in how they feel, think, and focus on their running goals.