We know that stretching is important but all stretches are not created equal. While the right stretch will improve flexibility, increase strength and lower our chances of injury, the wrong type of stretching can potentially do the opposite.
There are a few different types of stretching, but the best type to do before your run is dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching moves our muscles in a controlled way though a particular range of motion. This differs from static stretching where a pose is held, elongating the muscle for a period of time. Dynamic stretching is great before a run and static stretching is best done after your run.
Before your next run, try the following dynamic stretches. It is a good idea to gently warm your body up by lightly jogging on the spot or skipping for a few minutes prior to stretching.
Cross-country skiing arms – From a standing position, bend forward at the hips. Swing your right arm forward and your left arm back. Switch, so that your arms are swinging in opposite directions. Repeat this 10 times.
Trunk rotations – Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your elbows and keep your arms close to the sides of your body. Rotate your upper body and shoulders from one side to the other. Repeat this 10 times.
Spine and back
Standing cat/cow – From a standing position, bend at the hips bringing your hands to your knees. On your inhalation drop your belly towards the ground, shine your chest forward opening your shoulders and pulling them together behind you. On your exhalation, round the spine and allow your shoulders to fold forward feeling a stretch along both sides of your back. Repeat five times.
Hip adductor and abductor
Captain Morgan – Standing with your feet hip-width apart, lift your right knee so that it is pointing forward at 12 o’clock. Move your knee out to the side at three o’clock and tap your foot down. Smoothly oscillate the knee between 12 and three o’clock, tapping the foot to the ground on each side. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Figure-4 leg raises – Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your right leg and turn the left knee out. Try and tap the inside of your right foot with your left hand without bending forward at the hips. Do 10 on each side.
Lunge to pyramid – Start in a low lunge with your left foot forward. Gently rock your hips backwards and begin to straighten your front leg. Then move your hips forward, bending your front leg back into a lunge position. Repeat this movement five times on each side. Make sure you move slowly and that you aren’t holding the pose.
Butt kicks – Standing with your feet hip width apart bend your right knee and kick your foot backwards towards your knees. Make sure that you keep your back in a straight and neutral position. Repeat this 10 times.
Knees and ankles
Knee circles – From a standing position with your feet together, bend at the hips and bring your hands to your knees. Begin to move your knees in a clockwise circle for 10 circles. Repeat in a counterclockwise circle.
Calves, shins, feet
Foot rocking – Stand with your feet hip-width apart and rock back and forth from your toes to the heels. Repeat 10-20 times until you feel your feet warm up.