All runners MUST stretch before and after their runs. It is also suggested that runners also stretch on their days off training. Stretching is important in order to keep the muscles nicely lengthened, and prevent muscle shortening, muscle imbalance and muscle spasm. When a muscle is in spasm, or is tight, it pulls on its attachments, altering bio-mechanics, causing compensatory changes and potential injury. Here are some vital stretches.
1. Hamstring stretch
Standing with your hips parallel and facing an elevated surface, place one foot up on the surface – assuring the foot you are standing on is pointing forward and not turned out to the side. Reach forward towards the foot that is on the elevated surface with your hands, bringing your chest down towards your thigh. Remember, the higher the elevated surface, the stronger the stretch.
2. Quadriceps stretch
Standing tall – using a stable surface for support if necessary – pull one foot towards your bottom with one hand. Make sure your knees remain centered and together.
3. Gluteal stretch
Standing with your hips parallel, cross one foot over the opposite knee. Bend the leg you are standing on and lower your bottom down and backwards towards the floor. Use one hand to push the other knee down to increase the stretch. You may have one hand on a stable surface for support.
4. Iliotibial band stretch
Lying on your back with one leg straight, cross the bent leg over the straight leg and have the sole of this foot on the ground. Use the opposite hand to pull the knee over towards the floor, keeping the sole of the foot on the floor throughout the stretch. To increase the stretch have the other arm lengthened on the floor and turn the head towards this arm, away from the side you are stretching.
5. Calf stretch
Standing at the edge of a step with the ball of your foot, push your heel down towards the floor. This should be done with the knee both in a straight position and then in a bent position in order to target both the calf muscles during the stretch.
All stretches should be held for approximately 20 seconds and performed on both sides, both before and after running. Performing these stretches daily is recommended.