Running enthusiasts struggle when injury keeps the mileage down, or worse, prevents running altogether. Sometimes injuries can’t be prevented, but often simple stretching exercises performed at the end of a run while the muscles are still warm, can prevent chronic and common conditions. These four stretches should be done at the end of every run.
- Quadriceps stretch. These muscles on the front of the thigh are used heavily when running. Quadriceps muscles help to straighten the knee and bend the hip. Tight quadriceps muscles can be the cause of common knee problems and chronic back pain . (View a quadriceps stretch)
- Hamstrings stretch. The hamstring muscles create extension (straighten) the hip joint. Each time a runner strikes the pavement and moves forward, the hamstring is engaged. Pain from tight hamstrings is a common reason that runners take time away from their sport. (View a hamstrings stretch)
- Calf stretch . The muscles in the lower leg include the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Taking just a minute to stretch each of these two muscles can help prevent soreness and decrease the risk of conditions such as Achilles tendonitis. (View calf stretches)
- IT band/Outer thigh/Gluteus Medius stretch. The outer thigh, including the IT band which runs down the length of the thigh, can be an injury hotspot especially for female runners who are at higher risk than their male counterparts for a condition called IT Band Syndrome. By stretching the outer thigh and glutes, where the IT band begins, the risk of injury in this area is reduced. See the video below made possible by the Pasadena Pacers for a great demonstration of an IT band stretch.
Stretching exercises should be performed at the end of a run while the muscles are still warm. Of course there are many other stretches that a runner may perform to help prevent injury and keep the muscles in top running shape, but these four cover the major muscles used while running and the most common injuries. Keep in mind however, that stretching isn’t just about preventing pain. There are positive benefits as well. Flexibility training promotes relaxation and reduces stress. Just five minutes at the end of each run is a worthwhile investment for any runner.
Read more about flexibility training: