Ok. On Tuesday we all enjoyed a biology lesson in what muscles come into play when you run. Today we’ll look at some stretches and strengthening exercises that can help some of those areas, as they will be the ones which give you grief after running.
By the way, I’ve found these stretches from my own research, and my own needs. You can add these to your routine – but I’m no sports professional, and what works for me may not work for you. I’ve found these have really helped me, so they’re worth a look!
So here goes:
- Sit down, and write the alphabet with your left foot. Imagine your big toe is the pen. Repeat with your right foot.
- Stand on one leg, and with your other leg bent back at the knee as if you were mid-stride. Aim to balance there for 30 seconds and build up. When you can do it for a few minutes, close your eyes and do the same thing. Repeat with both legs.
- Stand on one leg, and slowly rise up on to your toes and back down again, whilst keeping your balance. At the top and the bottom of the exercise, hold for 10 seconds. Repeat both legs until you can feel it.
- Stand on a step so your toes are on the edge, and your heel is hanging off the edge. Push both feet up into a calf raise, and then stand on one leg. Lower that leg so that your heel drops below the step. Take your time to lower your calf – 10 seconds is good. This will also stretch the Achilles tendon, which supports the ankle.
- Soleus stretch: Place your hands flat against a wall, with one leg forward and one leg back. Lower yourself til both knees are bent and you’re in a ‘seated’ position. You should be able to feel this in your calves, and when you can, hold for 30-40 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
- Soleus stretch: Sit with one leg straight and the other bent. Grab the sole of your bent foot, and drag it towards you as close as you can whilst keeping your heel on the floor.
- Gastrocnemius stretch: sit with your lefts straight in front. Loop a rope (or dressing gown cord!) around the sole of one foot, flex the foot back, and gently pull the rope til you can feel the stretch. Repeat with the other foot.
- Kneel on the floor with your legs together and toes pointed back. Slowly lower yourself and push onto your heels until you can feel a stretch at the front of your leg. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Runner’s World recommends stretching your Achilles if you have medial shin pain (pain on the inside of your shin) or your calves if you have anterior shin splints (pain on the outside of your shin towards your outer leg).
- Whilst standing, lift your right leg and bring your foot close to your butt. With your right hand, pull the foot as close to your butt as you can. Keen your knees together and your stomach engaged to stop your hips swinging forward. For a deeper stretch, use the opposite hand to leg. Repeat on the other foot.
- Whilst standing, step in front with your right leg and straighten your left leg (don’t step too much). Make sure your right knee is in line with your toes. From here, lower your left knee to the floor, and grab your left knee with your right or left hand and pull it towards your butt. Be careful to ease yourself into this stretch.
- Lie on the floor, and put a rope (or dressing gown cord) around the sole of one of your feet. Keeping that leg straight, lift it and pull the rope towards you until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg. Repeat the 2-3 times.
- My pilates instructor told me that the best way to stretch your hamstrings is to stand, and gently lower your upper body over your legs. Your knees shouldn’t be locked into position, but your legs should be straight. Hang there for a while and you should feel the stretch all up your hamstrings.
- Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Bend your right leg and place your right foot over your left leg, so your right foot sits next above your left knee. Reach over and place your left tricep against the outside of your bent, right knee so you feel the stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Lie on your back, bend your knees, and lift them so your knees are towards your face. Cross your right leg over your left knee, placing your right ankle on the knee. Grab the back of your left thigh and gently pull towards you until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Sit on the floor, with your legs together. Raise your knees, and then lower them to the floor so the soles of your feet are together by your body, with the knees out to the sides. Hold your feet with your hands (not the toes), and see how close to the floor you can get your knees. When you feel the stretch, hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Sit with your legs extended in front. Allow the left knee to turn, so that your left hip opens up, and your foot turns to the floor. Bring the ankle towards your body so it sits on the inner right thigh. Breathe in and raise your arms above your head, sitting high from the tailbone. Turn your chest towards the right leg slightly. Exhale as you lower yourself over the right leg, extending yourself from the hips. Grab your shin/ankle/foot with both hands (depends on your flexibility), or use your dressing gown cord against the foot. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
I hope they work for you! And that my descriptions make sense Pretty soon we’ll all be watching tv like this:
Just kidding. That involves back stretches which we didn’t cover here. Otherwise – no probs 😉
I’m clocking up my mileage from my hiatus and am starting to feel like my old self. 5 mile hill session yesterday, 4 miles on Tuesday, and 7 on Sunday. I have been doing some serious work on my Winter layer (read KFC and ice cream) so this is a good yin to that yang!
Hope they help.