I was a runner in high school. Then a car accident in college left me with little mobility. I broke every bone in my right leg except my femur and my hip. My journey back was filled with injuries – shin splints from adding too many miles too fast, Achilles tendonitis, knee pain, and a pulled hamstring.
You name it; I’ve had it. But what I learned is that I am pretty certain a majority of our injuries can be avoided with proper balance in muscles, meaning both flexibility and strength.
Last year I completed two 50km races, injury free. This segment I’m sharing today is my go-to for post run flexibility work. I designed this flow knowing what the most common injuries are for runners: knee problems, IT band syndrome, and hamstring issues. I also took into account the primary movers for running, which are the quads, hamstrings, glutes, iliopsoas, and calf muscles. I am hoping this flow will keep you injury free. (If you have knee issues check out my video on hip strengtheners as it is usually due to weak outer hips and glutes.)
1. Calf and Achilles Stretch
We start in a calf and Achilles stretch. Tight calves can lead to Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis, so this is an important stretch. From there we go into an IT band stretch, as this can be quite debilitating for runners as well. It is so important to make sure we maintain a nice smooth muscle fiber. IT band syndrome can also come from weak hips and glutes.
2. Hamstring Stretch
I then take you into a hamstring stretch, working the hamstring attachment all the way up to the gluteus. Hamstrings are important to keep healthy. These are the muscles that extend legs up, drive us up hills, and help us with that strong finish.
3. Runner’s Lunge
We then move into a runner’s lunge. It is a great way to open up the hip flexors, and I added a variation for working on opening the outer hips, as well.
4. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose is one of my absolute favorite stretches. It is a great passive stretch for opening the outer hips. In yoga, we talk about holding our fears and anxieties in our hips, so when I get to this pose I try to work the mental aspects of the running here. Finding a way to accept what happened on the run both good and bad. Here you may find it useful to focus on breathing techniques, too.
5. The Deep Squat
There is literature you could find both on the dangers and benefits of the deep squat. I find the deep squat essential for everyBODY. If you struggle to get into a deep squat, then there is usually a restriction either at the hips or the ankles. This is not good for runners – we need both of those joints to be mobile and stable. Deep squats address the imbalance that can happen between the lumbar spine and hips that causes back pain, as well. Additionally, new studies show that deep squats increase knee stability. Considering how many runners complain of knee pain – the squat is for YOU! A deep squat also engages the glutes, which runners need to keep strong.
6. The Forward Fold
I end with the forward fold. It stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips. It is a great pose to end with because it is a calming pose.
I really hope you enjoy this segment. Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments below.