Give your tight muscles some lengthening love, and running will soon feel like a walk in the park. Promise!
As a runner, you thrive on adrenalin. Once you step into your shoes, you can’t wait to hit the ground running. Stretching exercises may be the last thing on your mind, but here’s why you should prioritise them.
Done properly, stretching increases flexibility and the range of motion of your joints, which makes a world of difference to your run. When you’re limber, every movement feels natural and fluid, which means muscle pulls won’t stand a chance. What’s more, you’ll have improved balance, posture and body alignment, putting you in tiptop condition to reach your goals.
Now, take a few minutes before and after your workout to do these stretches recommended by Tracey Soh, a group exercise instructor at True Fitness. They target your oft-neglected running muscles: hamstrings, Achilles tendon, lower back, calves, inner thighs and glutes. “For every stretch, go slow and avoid bouncing. You should be feeling a good amount of tension, but not sharp pain,” says Tracey.
Tracey Soh, group exercise instructor at True Fitness
Before stretching, do five to 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise – think brisk walking, slow jogging and cycling on a stationary bike – to loosen up your muscles.
1 HAMSTRING STRETCH
Probably the most overlooked muscles, hamstrings are the key to strong and controlled strides. Start in seated position with one leg extended in front of you, and the other bent and tucked in [a]. Keeping spine straight, slowly bend at the hips, bringing torso forward [b]. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on other leg. Form check Avoid slouching or rounding your back to reach your toes. Doing so puts stress on your lower back.
2 ACHILLES TENDON STRETCH
Located behind your ankle, the Achilles tendon acts as a spring for you to push off . Position ball of right foot against a wall or sturdy object, back leg straight [a]. Keeping spine straight, lean forward and bend right knee slightly until you feel a stretch in the back of your ankle [b]. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on other leg.
3 BACK CURL & ARCH
This move stretches the lower back and strengthens the upper body, helping you maintain a good form. Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees bent. Engaging core, slowly round back towards ceiling, chin towards chest [a]. Reverse move and arch back, lifting head towards ceiling [b]. That’s one rep. Do five to 10 reps continuously, in a controlled manner. Your neck should be relaxed throughout.
These stretches promote blood circulation and help your muscles repair more efficiently. You’ll also become more aware of your body, so you’re less likely to overexert.
1 CALVE STRETCH
This stretch eases tightness in the calves and helps to prevent shin splints. Lunge with one leg forward [a]. Slowly straighten back leg as foot steps fully on ground [b]. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on other leg.
2 INNER THIGH STRETCH
By stretching your inner thigh (or groin) muscles, your strides will feel lighter and more controlled. Sit with legs wide apart, feet flexed [a]. Keeping spine straight, reach forward as far as possible without bending knees [b]. Hold for 30 seconds. Deepen the stretch by widening distance between legs.
3 GLUTE STRETCH
Your butt muscles give you the power to start each step, so don’t neglect them. Lying face up, extend left leg towards ceiling and cross right ankle over left knee. Use both hands to support left leg [a]. Slowly bring left knee towards chest until you feel a stretch in your right gluteal muscles [b]. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on other side.
“Don’t hold your breath! Breathing relaxes your muscles and allows you to go deeper into a stretch.”