If you’re a runner the I know two things about you, you have tight legs, and you probably don’t stretch enough ;). I know this because I have been a runner for 10 years or so. I have always been a mid distance runner but have done some sprinting, but regardless of distances, we all need to stretch the same muscle groups.
Over the years I have picked up a number of injures from running whether it be the results of running and over use it’s self or injures from tripping over or turning an ankle while out running.
One of my biggest injures was to my right knee and ankle about 7 years ago. On a country lane, an on coming car didn’t pull out enough to pass me, forcing me to jump up on to what I thought was an grassy bank, but I found out was a 1 foot deep drainage ditch. This twisted my ankle and knee leaving me in a heap, mr car just kept on driving up the road leaving me 4 miles from my destination. Following this and a useless doctor, I have had issues with my ankle and knee on going. My knee was then further aggravated when I competed in a London to Paris charity cycle ride, cover 100miles each day for 4 days in a row, my knee just gave up.
These days I have to manage the amount for running and cycling I do, I now break this up with swimming as this is low impact. However doing all these sports I have found that stretching does help prevent injury and can help a great deal in managing older injures.
Many years ago I went to a specialist running shop, they introduced me to Asic trainers, a brand at that time I wasn’t really aware of. Up until then I’d always used Nike or Adidas running trainers, however believe me, Asic are in a different world when it come to running trainers! I wear Karrimor Free Runs to the gym and they are great, but when you hit the road, slip in to a pair of Asic trainers. When buying trainers think about what shoes you’re wearing – and think practicality over style or brand name! Asic do some loads of awesome trainers these days.
Being a runner I know the basic hamstring and quad stretches but never really focused on my lower legs, my back or even upper body. If you’re tight at the front of your lower leg and ankles you’re probably going to be more prone to shin splints, so a physio told me.
Back to the subject, over the last couple of years thanks to my wife, I’ve learnt a great deal about Yoga and it’s benefits for stretching that can be applied to any sport. I’m not going to going to list every variation or contraindication (list of reasons/injuries to not do a certain stretch), you know your body better then anyone so don’t do something if you know it’s going to aggravate an injury. Take it slow and listen to your body and be careful with your knees.
Below are a few stretches specific for running that I have learn’t from experience. Keep in mind a runner needs to work on their overall full body flexibility, it’s not just about legs. There are plenty of quad, hamstring and glute stretches out there, but these are some that I find work well.
NOTE: If you are stretch from cold, go slow and not to your limits straight away.
Always consult a medical or sports professional before commencing any exercise regime.
Piriformis stretch – Pigeon pose (hips and glutes)
Hero and reclined hero pose (good for tops of feet, ankles and quads)
Pyramid pose (intense side stretch pose)
Butterfly stretch (easily one of the best flexibility stretches)
Yoga can help you with any sport, so don’t be affraid to give it ago. A good stretch will breath new life in to your favourite sport.