Stretching is something that most runners do in one form or another. However, often stretching is done rather haphazardly as runners are unsure regarding which is the best technique, how long a stretch should be held, and what you should feel.
First of all, every stretch should be comfortable; you should never stretch into pain. A longer, mild to moderate stretch is infinitely more effective than a short-lasting strong stretch. Thus you should be looking to hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeating each stretch twice, all the while feeling a comfortable stretch in the muscle.
Technique and positioning are also essential to effective stretching. Stretches should always be eased into (and out of) and should be held consistently – never ‘bounce’ a stretch. Also make sure you are in a stable position as trying to stretch and balance leads to inefficient stretching / falling over. Stretching pre exercise should be particularly gentle and should be preceded by 5-10 minutes of warm up. Stretching post exercise is most effective when done shortly after you finish rather than an hour or later on when you have cooled down.
The 5 stretches below are simple yet effective. Most people would have seen them before and perhaps already do them. The key with these exercises is technique. Technique is everything. So make sure you read the technique tips for each exercise to maximise their effectiveness. And of course if you have any questions, shoot us an email.
- Kneeling hip flexor stretch
There are several components to making this an effective stretch. Firstly, place a pillow or something soft under the knee you are kneeling on otherwise your kneecap with get sore. Secondly, make sure you squeeze your glutes and tuck your tailbone under to position the pelvis correctly. You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip or down the front of the thigh; either is fine.
- Step calf stretch
For this one, place the foot you are stretching on the edge of the step so that your heel is hanging off the step. Your other foot should be completely on the step. Slowly lower the heel on the stretching leg – transferring weight to that leg, until you feel a stretch in your calf.
- Standing hamstring stretch
Place your foot on a step or a low park bench. Have your standing knee slightly bent. Keep your back straight and bend forward at the hip until you feel a stretch down the back of the thigh. Repeat with the knee straight and the knee bent.
- Lying quad stretch
Nice and simple. Lay on your stomach and pull your knee towards your bottom until your feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. To get a better stretch gently contract your Gluts to push your hips into the floor.
- Foam roller
Strictly speaking not a stretch but the best way to loosen off the pesky ITB. Have the leg you are rolling straight and the other leg bent forward at the hip and the knee with the foot on the ground (this takes some of the weight off your rolling leg and makes it more comfortable…….slightly). Slowly roll up and down, stopping before the roller gets to the bony outer part of your hip and the outside of your knee. You only need to repeat this 7 or 8 times on each side for it to be effective. Be aware that it will be a bit painful for most people though and consult your doctor or physio if you are taking blood thinning medications.
Obviously these are general exercises so if you want a full and thorough assessment and an individualised programme, combined with expert guidance, book an appointment with us at Bespoke Physiotherapy in Covent Garden. Individualised care is especially important to those returning to running from an injury, or those increasing their training.
Make sure you explore the other blog posts in our runfit5 series to discover more running injury prevention tips.
If you would like to discuss anything with us directly or learn more about Physiotherapy and running please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Facebook, instagram and Twitter.
Until next time, keep on running and run smart.
Director and Principal Physiotherapist