Smutty Fitness: Running Stretches
I've started my running training again (10K in April, Half in the fall) and this year I am determined to incorporate strength training. I swore the last few years I would, and I failed miserably... could you suggest some strength training and stretches specifically for runners? Preferably a routine I could do twice a week, alongside the 3 runs (4 once Half training kicks in!) that I do per week?
Thank you so much!
Good for you for committing to doing strength training throughout your running training as so many runners shy away from strength training as they feel that it will add bulk, which will slow them down. Your body takes a beating with each mile you pound on the pavement and incorporating a stretching and strength training routine will help to make sure you arrive at the start line and cross the finish line injury free.
A lot of runners complain that running hurts their knees, however this could be due to the fact they are unable to recruit power from their main hip extensors because their bodies are too tight. When I work with runners I focus on reawakening those muscles (glutes, upper hamstrings and hip flexors) as well as stretching those muscles alongside stretching their lower backs, quadriceps and their chests and shoulders.
Because this is a lot of information to cover I am going to break it into three parts, starting with stretching. I will follow up with another post on strength training and finish with core exercises.
Hips (hip flexors and iliopsoas)
You have probably done this stretch a million times but I can guarantee that you are not doing it efficiently. Place one knee on a mat and then the other leg out in front with your foot on the floor and the knee bent at 90 degrees. Once you are in this position think about sending your tailbone to your pubic bone and your pubic bone to your belly button, which is going to help engage your lower abdominals and pull your pelvis up while bringing your ribs towards your spine (think about eliminating the arch out of your back). Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds before switching to the other side.
Glutes – Whale’s Tail Stretch
This is an easy stretch to do and it feels great. Lie on your back and cross your knees over top of each other like a pretzel. Then grab onto your shins and pull them towards you until you feel a deep stretch in your butt. Hold for 30-60 seconds before switching sides.
Hamstrings – Wall Stretch
Any runner you meet will complain to you about their tight hamstrings and asking them to touch their toes is like asking them to walk on water. My favourite stretch for this tight muscle is the door frame stretch. Lie on your back with one leg up a door frame and the other leg through the door frame. Depending on how flexible you are will determine how close you can be to the door and how straight your legs are. Begin by pointing and flexing the foot of the leg that is on the frame 10 times and then do a few ankle circles in each direction. Then do a small sit up, reaching your hands so they can grab onto your leg just above your knee (at the calf). Pull your leg off of the wall, deepening the stretch as the leg moves towards you, and hold it there while you lower your body back to the floor. Hold this deeper stretch for 30 seconds then repeat the same series on the other side.
Low Back – Hip Circles
A lot of muscles attach to the fascia in your lower back which can cause it to become extremely tight. One of my favourite ways to increase the mobility in your low back is by doing a Pilates exercise called hip circles. Start on all fours with your spine long and pretend you have a tail extending from the end of your tailbone. Then imagine the tail has been coated in paint and you are painting circles on a wall with it. Start with small circles and work up to big ones and do them in each direction. A little piece of advice with this stretch is do it in private (it may cause a few eyes to look over your way).
Chest – Cactus/Goal Post Arms
This is an easy stretch as all you need is a foam roller to lie on length-wise (along your spine). Once there, open your arms to the side like a goal post or a cactus and allow gravity to help you stretch. If you like, you can move your arms so they extend straight behind your head and then return them back to goal posts.
Entire body – Roll down
This is my favourite way to stretch and wake up all of the muscles in your body, especially your neck, back and hamstrings. Start standing against a wall, with your feet positioned about 6 inches off of the wall while the rest of your body is touching the wall. Begin by tucking your chin in towards your chest and then peel your body off of the wall, like a string of beads, one vertebrae at a time as you slide your sit bones up the wall. Allow your body to hang here as long as it would like then start by sending your tailbone down between your legs and restacking your spine until you are standing up tall. Keep your head hanging until the very last minute.
Attached - Demi Lovato leaving the gym yesterday in LA.