Running put stress on muscles and joints, but keeping your muscles lengthened and flexible with runner specific stretches will help them better support joints for full range of motion, and reduce the risk of injury. The best way to compliment your running is to stretch before and after to warm up muscles before exercise, as well as giving them the proper recovery after.
Essential Stretches Every Runner Needs
An injured hamstring can put even an experienced runner out of commission before their biggest race. Stretch this muscle, found in the back part of the thigh, extending from the hip to the knee, for a quick release, avoiding to over stretch. Sitting on the ground, extend your right leg out, folding your left leg in toward your inner thigh. Lean forward bending at the waist to the right to reach for your toes. Switch to alternate leg and repeat.
On the opposing side of the leg, the front and sides, you will find the quadriceps, or quads. You may have been doing a stretch for your quads since elementary school PE days, and for good reason. This common stretch is a staple for runners, especially after training on hilly terrain. Standing up, pull your right leg behind you bent at the knee with your right hand. Try to keep your knee pointing down rather than to the side. Switch to alternate leg and repeat, using a chair or wall to balance if necessary.
A tight or injured calf, located on the lower back of the leg, can produce many different types of pain in injuries from the foot through the leg. Be sure to loosen up this muscle that can easily become a problem area with a simple standing stretch. Standing close to a wall, stagger your stance by placing your left leg behind your right, bending only the right so it feels like you are almost lunging toward the wall with a straight back. Alternate legs and repeat.
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