How do you start your morning or evening run? If you are lacing on your shoes and taking off out the door for your run, you are risking your muscles. Learning the proper stretches for runners will help you protect your muscles, and avoid many of the common runner’s injuries.
Before we jump into the best stretches for you to use, it is important to understand when to use them. Do not try to stretch your muscles until you are warmed up. You could start off your running session with a five minute walk or light jog to get the blood flowing and then stop to run through these few stretches. When the muscles are warmed up the stretch further, and easier, enhancing the injury reducing effects.
It is important to get a good stretch into all of your major leg muscles. The first place to start is with your hamstrings. The most popular stretch is the hang ten. You keep your feet fairly close together, keep your legs straight but not locked. Bend over at the waist as far as possible hanging your arms down, and letting your head relax downward, too. For most people their hands will be dangling just above their shoe tops. For more flexible people their hands may actually be on the ground. Hold the stretch for at least 45 seconds. Do not bounce. You want to stretch until you feel the tension, maybe slight discomfort, but not pain.
Another popular stretch is the Splits. Spread your feet as widely as possible, while keeping your feet pointing forward. Again bend down as far as possible. This will stretch completely different muscles in your legs, especially the adductors.
The Flamingo stretch is one of the most common exercises you will see runners doing at street corners waiting for traffic. Standing on one foot you grab the opposite foot with your hand and pull the foot up to your buttocks. This stretches the muscles throughout the front of your leg, keeping them ready for those intensive miles.
You must keep your calf muscles well stretched and limber to prevent getting cramps and having lower leg injuries. The heel drop is the most important of the stretches for runners to improve lower leg flexibility. It is most easily accomplished at a stairway or curb. Standing on the ball of one foot on the edge of a stair or curb, simply let your heel drop downwards below the level of your toes to stretch the calf. It feels great and will improve your running.
The last of the stretches for runners we will discuss is the lunge stretch. This stretch is the most inclusive of all muscles. Stretching deeply into a lunge position will stretch the calf muscles, and all of the upper leg muscles. It helps to lengthen your stride. Make sure to include it in your regular stretching times.
By using these few stretches for runners you can greatly reduce your chances of injury, and enhance your running ability. Taking these few extra moment in your running session is going to increase your enjoyment of running dramatically.