Recent research confirmed that yes, runners can benefit from a regular stretching routine. Of course, you’re a busy runner with plenty of other things to do, so if you’re going to take time out of your day to stretch, you want to focus on the highest-value stretches to get maximum benefit. The following stretches can be done in less than 10 minutes, and hit all the important muscle groups to keep you feeling loose and ready to run.
Before you get started, there are a few things to remember to make sure you’re stretching safely and effectively. The first is that the stretch shouldn’t hurt and should never be forced — only go as far as your body will allow you without straining. The second is that these stretches are designed to be held for a few seconds, or one breath, and then repeated multiple times. Using this method, you can actually do these stretches before your run, just remember to be gentle on cold muscles.
Hip flexor stretch
- Kneel on the ground with one knee directly below your hip and your other knee bent at 90 degrees with your foot planted on the ground in front of you.
- Keeping your hips stacked under your shoulders, take a deep breath and gently lean forward as you breathe out, until you feel a light stretch.
- Gently return to the starting position as you breathe in, and repeat 8-12 times.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- Lie on your back with your legs stretched out straight.
- Wrap a band around the sole of one of your feet and take a deep breath.
- While you breathe out, gently pull your foot up, keeping your leg straight.
- Slowly lower your leg back down and repeat 8-12 times.
- Lie on your back with both legs stretched straight out in front of you and wrap a band around one foot.
- Take a deep breath. As you breathe out, use the band to gently pull your leg out to one side.
- Bring your leg back to the starting position as you breathe in, and repeat 8-12 times.
Figure 4 stretch
- Lie on your back and plant one foot on the ground.
- Place your opposite ankle just above your knee and take a deep breath.
- Clasp your hands behind the thigh of the leg that’s bent and gently pull your knee toward your chest.
- Slowly lower your legs back to the starting position as you breath in and repeat 8-12 times.
- Lie on one side with your legs stacked on top of each other and your knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Grab the ankle of your top leg, take a deep breath, and gently pull your knee backward as you breathe out, just until you feel a light stretch.
- Bring your leg back to the starting position as you breathe in, repeat 8-12 times.
Seated calf stretch
- Sitting on the side of a bench, couch or bed, stretch one leg straight out in front of you.
- Wrap a band around the top of your foot, and as you breathe out, gently pull your toe toward you until you feel a light stretch in your calf.
- Relax as you breathe in, and repeat 8-12 times.