Photo Credit: www.CoreyJenkinsPhoto.com
When we run, the joint areas involved are our hip, knee and ankle.
- at the hip: femur and pelvic girdle which form a ball and socket joint.
- at the knee: femur and tibia which form a hinge joint.
- at the ankle: tibia and calcaneus which form a modified joint.
Each of these joints produces two actions, one when the leg is in contact with the ground (driving phase) and one when the leg is not in contact with the ground (recovery phase). Below are 6 stretches:
- Lie prone on a mat with your legs stretched out behind you and your hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Keep your lower back relaxed and don’t engage your glutes.
- Press your upper trunk up off the floor by straightening your arms.
- Keep your pelvis on the mat. Hold a gentle stretch for at least five seconds.
2. Spinal Rotation
- Lie supine on a mat with your arms stretched out to each side in a “T” position, palms down.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Keep your feet and legs together as you drop your knees to one side of your body, with control.
- Maintain control as you bring your knees back up and drop them to the other side.
3. Standing Hamstring
- Place both hands shoulder width apart on a wall or the back of a chair.
- Walk your feet under your hips until your legs are perpendicular to the torso.
- Arch your lower back.
- Hold this position for five breaths.
- On inhale, raise your left leg back a little.
- Straighten your right leg. Your left hip can roll toward the ground.
- Hold this position for five to 12 breaths.
- Repeat with the other leg.
The key movement is at the waist and the ribs. After you create space at the waist, adjust your weight on the standing leg, keep the back arched, and move the left hip down.
Notice what happens at the knee when you lift the outside edge of your foot. As you hold the stretch, drop the hip a little more and breathe easy and smooth. If you’re tight, move your hands up the wall so the lower back can arch.
Stretching can be targeted to address specific areas and create certain effects. Focus on your alignment in these stretches, as they directly correspond to your optimal running alignment. Use this set of stretches and feel better, run like a pro, and race and train forever.
4. Hamstring with belt
- Lie on your back and place a strap, towel or belt around the bottom of your left foot just behind the ball of the foot.
- Hold the strap in your right hand and take your left arm out away from the torso at a 90-degree angle.
- Straighten your left leg and extend your left heel up. Keep the right leg on the floor with the knee bent or straight.
- On exhale, lower your left leg across your body as the left hip moves away from the ribs on the left. On inhale, bring your leg back up to the starting position. Repeat three to five times.
- From starting position, drop the left leg across the body once more and hold the stretch in this position for five to twelve breaths. Roll the left hip/pelvic area away from the ribs on the left side, and use the strap to pull the toes toward the shins. The arm holding the strap stays straight.
- Repeat with other leg.
When you move into this stretch, go slowly. Keep both shoulders on the ground and rotate the hip away from the ribs, bringing a deeper stretch into the hip. Be sure to flex the ankle and straighten the back of the knee. This position lets you release the tension in the side of the leg and hip. Moving the leg closer to the floor isn’t the point. Take your time to make small adjustments in the leg position. Relax and notice the effects as you move out of the stretch.
5. Calf with belt
This is vital in running because mobility starts at the lower leg. Athletes like this stretch because it’s passive and effective.
- Lie on your back and place a strap, towel or belt around the arch or ball of your left foot.
- Straighten your left leg and extend your left heel up, stretching the calf. The right leg can be on the floor or bent.
- Each hand holds the strap, the elbows are straight.
- Hold the stretch for five to 12 breaths.
- Repeat with other leg.
This stretch will let you fine tune the lower leg. Move the outside edge of your foot down, and use the strap to pull the toes to your shin. Keep your knee straight and move the hip away from the ribs. If your leg is tight, put your heel up on a wall, allowing the lower back to extend. Stretch to where you feel relaxed and effective.
6. Stork Stretch
- Stand in front of a chair with your hands on your hips, your shoulders back and your chest open.
- Bend your leg and place the top of your foot on the seat of the chair. Your knee and upper leg should be pointing straight down to the floor.
- Engage your glutes, pressing your hips forward until you feel a gentle stretch through your quads.