Top Ten Stretches for Runners
By Rick Morris
So many stretches; so little time! Yep, there are a lot of stretches out there. So many that it would take you hours to do them all. Do bad your time is limited. Then again, maybe not. I know that I really don’t want to spend much time with stretching. I’d rather be running. While we don’t want to spend our valuable running time with stretching, flexibility is still an important part of performance, injury prevention and overall fitness. You don’t need to do them all, just the important ones. Here is our opinion of the top ten stretches for runners.
Dynamic Warm Up Stretches
These dynamic warm up drills are a type of stretches for runners that are an excellent way to get your muscles up to operating temperature and increasing your functional range of motion without creating any excessive, performance sapping and injury causing muscle laxicity.
- Take a long, exaggerated step forward with one leg. Drive your knee high and reach out as far as possible.
- Slowly flex your forward knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. At the same time lower the knee of your trailing leg toward the ground. Don’t allow the knee of your forward leg to extend in front of your foot. The knee of your trailing leg should stop approximately 2 inches above the ground, not touch the ground. Your upper body should remain in a vertical position.
- Forcefully push off with our forward leg, keeping most of your weight over your forward heel. At the same time cycle your trailing leg through and perform the same motion as described above.
- Keep performing these cycling motions so that you are moving forward with a walking lunge. Keep going for about 20 meters.
High Knees Drill
- Using a short stride and bouncing on the balls of your feet, take a step with an exaggerated high stride. Keep your stride very short – about 18 inches.
- Drive your knee as high as possible on each stride. As you drive your knee high bounce up on the toes of your opposite foot.
- Keep cycling your legs through this motion so that you are moving slowly forward over the ground with the exaggerated high knee motion and bouncing on your opposite foot.
- Keep your foot in a dorsi-flexed position (toes up) throughout this drill. Your foot should land in a flat footed position – not heel first. Keep moving for about 20 meters.
Heel Kick Drill
- Begin by performing a slow jog. Using a short stride of about 18 inches and a dorsi-flexed foot position, kick your heels up as high as possible behind your body. Attempt to bounce your heels off your buttocks.
- Most of the movement should be with your lower leg. Concentrate on raising your heels as high as possible and maintaining a very quick light stride.
- Your foot touchdown should be flat footed with your foot maintained in a dorsi-flexed position. Keep moving forward for about 20 meters.
Have you ever seen old clips of solders marching in formation with stiff, straight legs? It may look funny but they were actually doing a good dynamic drill.
- To do this dynamic running exercise walk straight ahead while kicking your straight leg up in front of your body. As you kick your leg forward bring your arm and hand out and try to touch the toes of your raised leg.
- Keep your legs as straight as possible and kick as high as you can. Keep marching for about 25 meters or so.
Walking Side Lunge
- This drill is similar to the walking lunge exercise except you will be moving to the side instead of forward.
- Take a long, exaggerated step sideways with one leg. Slowly flex your lunging knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. At the same time your trailing leg should remain straight and close to the ground. Your upper body should remain in a vertical position.
- Forcefully push off with your lunging leg, keeping most of your weight over your forward heel. Stand upright and bring your feet back together.
- Keep performing these motions so that you are moving sideways. Keep going for about 20 meters, then repeat going the opposite direction.
Static Cool Down Stretches
- Lie on your back in a supine position. Keep your right foot on the ground with your knee bent at 90 degrees.
- Raise your left leg up, grab it below your ankle and pull it toward your shoulders.
- Pull your leg until your feel a slight pull. Hold that position for about 20 seconds. Switch your leg positions and repeat.
- This exercise will stretch the iliopsoas muscle on the front of your hip.
- Move your right leg forward until your knee is directly over your ankle. Your left leg should be stretched out behind you with your knee on the ground.
- Now lower and push your hips down and forward to create a gentle stretch. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch your leg positions and repeat.
- This is a great stretch that improves the flexibility of your piriformis muscles which externally rotate your hip muscle on the front of your hip.
- Start in a kneeling position on your left leg with your right knee and leg in front of your body.
- Position your right leg so that your knee is directly in front of your body and your lower right leg and foot is slanted to the left.
- Now lean forward until your chest is nearly touching your right knee. You should feel a strong pull on outside/rear portion of your right hip.
- Your left leg should be stretched out behind you with your knee on the ground.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch your leg positions and repeat.
- While standing on your left foot, pull your right foot up toward your right hip. Keep your lower leg aligned with your thigh. Do not pull your lower leg to the right or left.
- Pull until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch leg positions and repeat.
- This is an exercise that will stretch the adductor (groin)muscles of your inner thigh.
- Start in a sitting position with your knees out and the soles of your feet together.
- Grab your toes and pull them gently upward. At the same use your elbows to gently push outward on your knees. You should feel a slight stretch on your inner thigh. Hold this position for about 20 to 30 seconds.