You’re deep into half-marathon training and want to make the most of your days off. Here are 5 must-do stretches for non-running days to keep aches and pains at bay.
Whether this is your first foray into long-distance race training, or the latest in a long line of marathons and half-marathons, you’ll already know about the stiffness which comes with big mileage. Runners need to pay attention to stretching, both after training and on those rare days off between training runs. And it’s not just the obvious areas you need to stretch (calves, glutes and legs). Hips, back and shoulders will all benefit from regular stretching.
5 Best Stretches For Runners
Quad stretch against a wall
We all know the classic quad stretch, where you stand with one leg bent, the foot behind you and you hold that foot with one hand to deepen the stretch. Here’s an even better version which takes away the challenge of balance and allows you to relax into a deeper stretch.
– Kneel on the floor with a solid wall behind you. It may help to put a mat or towel on the ground (for your knee)
– Get into a lunge position, kneeling on the knee and shin of one leg, with the other leg out in front (bent at a right angle with the foot flat on the floor)
– Inch back towards the wall until the shin of the back leg is flat against the wall
– The foot of the other leg should remain underneath the knee in a right angle/lunge
– The knee of the back leg will be where the floor meets the wall, and the shin and top of the foot will be flat to the wall (point your toes on this foot)
– From here, straighten your torso so the quad (thigh) of the back leg feels a deep stretch
– Make the stretch deeper by leaning back, or ease off by leaning forward a little
– Hold for as long as you can, relaxing into the stretch
– Repeat on the other side
Partner-assisted hamstring stretch
Any stretch for the back of your legs is useful, but if you can grab a partner and get some assistance you can take your hamstring stretches to another level.
– Lay on your back with both legs flat on the floor.
– Ask your partner to kneel facing you, straddling one of your legs.
– Lift the other leg up as in a classic hamstring stretch, keeping the other leg on the floor
– Relax your head and neck back on to the floor
– Your partner should lean in to your raised leg, holding on to it at the thigh and shin, and pressing their torso into your hamstring and calf
– As you exhale, your partner gently leans in further to deepen the stretch, then releases the press slightly after 5-10 seconds
– Repeat this a few times on each leg.
You should find that your partner can press your leg slightly further each time.
Yoga hip stretch
Officially known as “pigeon pose”, this yoga stretch feels great for tight hips and lower back.
– Start on all fours, knees under hips and hands under shoulders
– Take one leg forward so the thigh and knee are in front of the hip
– Take the foot over towards the opposite hip, without the knee moving out of alignment. Flex the foot.
– Extend the other leg out behind you until it is flat to the floor
– From here, begin to move both hands out in front of you along the floor, but only go as far as you can
– Move your chest towards the floor and rest on your forearms if necessary
– Stay here for 10-30 seconds then repeat on the other side
Hip flexor stretch
This is an easier hip stretch but still very effective for the hip and thigh
– Kneel down in a lunge position with both legs bent at right angles
– Your rear leg will be supported on the shin, with the top of your foot to the floor
– Your front leg will be in a lunge, with your foot flat on the floor
– Tuck your bottom under you and think about stretching the hip and thigh of the leg you are kneeling on
– Keep your chest and torso high
– Lift both arms overhead to intensify the stretch
– Repeat on the other side
Calves can get very tight when you up your running mileage. This is an easy but effective calf stretch.
– Stand on a step or bottom stair with the toes of both feet on the step, heels hanging over the edge
– Hold on to the wall or bannister for balance
– Gently lower back onto your heels so they drop below the level of your toes
– Don’t bounce or rise up and down
– Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat up to 10 times
– This should feel like a gentle easing of your calves, not a painful stretch
Keep stretching regularly to ease the aches and pains of half-marathon training. Remember, stretching is best done after running (not before) and on your off days between training runs. Bonus tip: foam rolling and myofascial release for runners.
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