Are you looking for 5 tips on how to become more flexible for running? Runners need to maintain flexibility for two reasons: to reduce the chance of injury and to allow the body to reach its full range of motion. Lower-body flexibility is especially important to prevent injury. Here are five ways to increase flexibility for running.
To perform the stretches listed here, you will need the following items:
- A chair back, table top, or other sturdy hand grip at least three feet from the ground
- An empty stretch of wall at least 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall
- A non-slip area of floor at least 4 feet wide and 4 feet long
- An exercise band or a towel
- Quadriceps Stretch-The quadriceps are the large muscles of the thigh, and they're crucial in running performance. To stretch them, stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Rest your weight on the right leg and bend the left knee, bringing the left foot up towards your rear. Grab the left foot with the left hand and pull gently. Switch feet and repeat. This exercise also stretches the knee extensor muscles.
- Hamstring Stretch-The hamstring is the long muscle at the back of the upper leg. It's a common injury site for runners if not stretched properly. Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight; then, one at a time, raise each leg toward the ceiling, keeping your lower back on the floor and attempting to maintain a straight knee throughout the lift. You can use an exercise band or a towel to make this stretch easier; simply pass it around the arch of the foot and pull gently on both ends while you push the foot away toward the ceiling.
- Gluteus and Hip Stretch-Your gluteal muscles are the muscles of the butt, and along with a host of smaller muscles, are responsible for hip flexibility. To stretch these muscles, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend the right leg and place the right foot on the outside of the left knee. Rotate your upper body to the right, keeping your butt on the floor, and press against the outside of the bent right knee with the left elbow. Switch sides and repeat.
- Lower-Leg Stretches-Two common sites of tightness and injury for runners are the gastrocnemius muscle and the Achilles tendon, both located at the back of the lower leg. To stretch them, stand facing a wall about a foot away. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder level, as if you're going to do a push-up. Rest the toes of the right foot against the wall and push gently until you feel a stretch in the lower leg. Bend the knee to move the stretch into the Achilles tendon. Switch feet and repeat.
- Foot Arch Stretch-Many runners develop plantar fasciitis, or inflammation of the tissues in the arch of the foot. To help stretch and strengthen this area, sit on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Grab the toes of the right foot and pull them towards you until you feel a stretch in the arch of the foot. Switch feet and repeat.
If possible, stretch daily, holding each stretch for at least thirty seconds. If you're short on time, you can reduce stretching sessions to three to four times per week. Stretching immediately after a run, when the muscles are warm, helps them achieve their full range of motion while reducing the chance of injury.