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#SundayRunday: 3 Unique Stretches For Runners

“I really should stretch!” is a line I hear all the time from friends and trainers (and, on occasion, even from myself).

In many aspects of our lives, being successful is never a result of one particular thing: it’s a winning combination of elements that build a foundation for success.

In the running world, stretching is one of the key elements of success, and thus crucial to include in your training program.

This week, I am highlighting 3 unique stretches that both mobilize and activate our muscles prior to running. They can also be beneficial when performed on recovery days or before strength training.

Side Lying Plank Reach And Rotate

What this stretch works: This stretch warms up the body’s diagonal rotational pattern (the movement you make when running!)

  • Start in a side plank position.
  • Hook your top foot back into a quad stretch position. Avoid arching in the lower back!

Unique Stretches For Runners

  • Reach your top arm around in a long swing across body. Continue the swing until your arm has gone full circle.
  • While maintaining a neutral spine, rotate your top shoulder under your chest until you can no longer continue rotating.

Unique Stretches For Runners

(front view)

Unique Stretches For Runners

(back view)

  • Hold this position for 2-10 seconds, then slowly rotate back to the starting position.
  • Repeat 5-10 times

Straight Leg Lifts

If you have tight hamstrings, this one is for you!

What this stretch works: Sagittal hip mobility, Thoracic stability, Bracing spinal stability

  • Sit with a neutral spine (tall/straight back) on a slightly raised platform (I used a step without any risers)
  • Point your toes towards your shins, keeping your legs straight.

Unique Stretches For Runners

  • Engage the quad muscle and elevate your leg off the ground. Ensure that you tighten your core muscles and avoid rounding the upper back as the leg lifts!

Unique Stretches For Runners

  • Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and lower. Repeat on the other leg.
  • Repeat 4-6 times

Note: If you are activating the correct muscles (by following the above steps) this should not feel easy. Think slow and controlled.

Standing Calf Stretch

These two stretches can be performed against a wall or a doweling rod (pictured).

If the calf is tight, it can alter the movement of our feet. Feet influence the movement in our knees, hips and low back, so compensating for tight calf muscles has the potential to lead to pain or injury.

What this stretch works: Flexibility of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles (the different parts of our calf muscles)

Gastrocnemius Stretch:

  • Stand about three feet away from a wall.
  • Place your left foot behind you, ensuring your toes are facing forward.

Unique Stretches For Runners

  • While keeping your heel on the ground, lean forward with your left knee straight.
  • You can rotate your toes in and out slightly to target the medial and lateral parts of this muscle separately.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds and switch feet.
  • Repeat 4-6 times

Soleus Stretch:

  • Stand away from a wall.
  • Put your left foot behind you, ensuring your toes are facing forward.

Unique Stretches For Runners

  • While keeping your heel on the ground, lean forward at the ankle but bend the left knee.
  • Because the knee is flexed this time, tension is taken off the gastrocnemius and placed on the soleus.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds and switch feet.
  • Repeat 4-6 times

Recommended Read: Chad Benson, Steve Nash's Director of Fitness Education, gives a more in-depth overview of other effective mobility/stability training techniques.

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