Now that we are in full swing training season this summer I get a lot of questions regarding what are the best stretches to be doing for running. To be honest, and if you know me well, I am terrible about stretching. There is a lot of evidence that shows stretching before a run can actually hinder your performance. It isn’t always necessary. And on the flip side, stretching isn’t always necessary after a run either.
The most important thing to keep in mind with stretching is that you should always do it on warm muscles. This means sticking to post run stretching when you already have warmed up muscles or even after a hot shower or bath in the evening.
Stretching obviously has benefits and the biggest one that most runners are looking for is some relief of those tight, achy muscles that result from long training runs. Below I have listed some of my favorites that are helpful for working some of the common problem areas we runners tend to run into.
Downward Facing Dog: The best go to for an overall stretch
This one is great for working tight calves, hamstrings, glutes and back muscles. It also works the shoulders and is very helpful for Achilles issues. If there is one stretch I would recommend, this is the one to go for. More often than not, it will get deep into the areas you are looking to work.
Add a twist and reach back to touch a calf and you will get some added IT band relief as well an added upper body stretch.
Pigeon Pose: The best for tight hips, glutes, and back
This is one of my personal favorites. It really relieves hip pain. Take your time and ease into this pose. Let your body take a moment to relax into it and hang for a bit.
Cat/Cow: Great for lower and upper back pain
Notice a yoga trend going on here? I recommend Vinyasa to a lot of my athletes. It is a great way to get deep into your muscles and also work on your balance and endurance at the same time. This pose/stretch works the back and relieves tension where we often hold it during long slow distance runs.
Sit on those toes! Great for Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles issues
This is one of those hurts so good stretches. It really gets deep into your feet and toes and provides great relief after a long week of training. I am also adding a manual stretch picture to this as well. This will help get further into that plantar area and provide relief if you are experiencing issues.
Cross Legged Toe Touches: Great for working that IT band
This is a variation of the toe touches from you physical education classes of yore. Stand with your feet hip width apart and then cross one leg over the other. Reach down to touch your toes and then reach both hands to touch the side of the floor just past the foot you crossed over. Can’t quite get there? Just try to touch the foot you crossed over or even that shin. The added cross leg and turning to the side gets deeper into the IT band to provide relief in one of the most common problem areas.
As always it is extremely important to take some precautions when stretching. Never stretch cold muscles. This can cause more harm than good. Opt for a dynamic warm up before doing any stretching routine. Never ever bounce in a stretch. Take your time to ease into a pose and then hold for 30 seconds. Don’t force the stretch or bounce to get deeper. Be patient and kind with your body!