For those with a race coming up, here is a quick routine of running stretches that you should do the day before to get your body prepped for the race!
This is especially important if:
- You’ve flown to the event and have been sitting in a cramped aeroplane seat.
- You’ve been tapering and your body is feeling cranky.
- You’ve been sitting behind a computer a lot the week before the race.
- Your muscles are tight from all the training you’ve been doing in the build-up.
Runners typically develop tight hamstrings, shorter muscles and tightness in the hips and groin area. This tightness could lead to injury and less than ideal performance on race day.
Follow this routine for a good pre-race stretch (you can do it the day after race day too, to help with recovery).
Remember, your body might be cold when you start moving, so make sure you move carefully and with intention, holding poses longer than you would initially (or in a vinyasa flow class).
1/ Downward Dog
Good for: Tight hamstrings and calves.
Start with: Get into downward dog position with your body forming a triangle. Many runners won’t be able to get their feet flat on the ground – and this is fine. Spend about 2 minutes in this pose pedalling out your legs by lifting one heel and then the other and then teasing your heels closer towards the mat. It’s also good for your shoulders.
2/ Low Lunge
Good for: Hip flexors, hamstrings and quads
Start with: From Downward Dog, raise your right leg into the sky behind you and then bring it forward beneath you, placing your foot between your hands. Drop your back knee onto the mat and raise your hands towards the sky. You should feel a nice, deep stretch in the groin area. Hold for 10 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
3/ Runner’s Lunge
Good for: Hip flexors, hamstrings and quads
Start with: From Downward Dog, raise your right leg into the sky behind you and then bring it forward beneath you, placing your foot on the outside and in line with your right hand. This is an even deeper stretch, especially if you keep your back leg lifted. Hold this for 5 breaths and then drop your back knee. Place your right hand on the inside of your right leg and gently guide it, so that it opens up more to the side, opening your groin up more. Hold for 5 breaths. Let go of your knee and see if you can plant both forearms beneath your shoulders, down on the mat, on the inside of your right foot. Try and keep both elbows on the mat. Hold for 10 breaths This will deepen the stretch even more. repeat on the other side.
4/ Toes Pose
Good for: Preventing plantar fasciitis
Start with: Kneel on the mat and curl your toes under then sit your back on your heels. Hold for 10 breaths. You should feel a great stretch on the underneath side of your feet. Then flatten your feet while pointing your toes behind you. Actively lift your knees into the air to feel a great stretch on the top of your feet. This is great for your shins and arches.
5/ Butterfly Pose
Good for: Strengthens and opens hips and groin
Start with: In a seated position, back straight, legs out in front of you, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together. Bring your heels as close to your pelvis as they can go, without pain. Wrap your hands around your toes and consciously work your knees towards the floor for 10 breaths. You can also use your hands to peel the top part of your feet open, elbows pressed into your knees so that the soles are facing towards the sky. Hold for another 10 breaths. For an additional variation, lie down on your back and keep your legs in the soles-touching-knees-out position. Stretch out your arms reaching for the wall behind you. Hold for 10 breaths.
6/ Seated spinal twist
Good for: Loosening stiff spine, neck and shoulders
Start with: Sit with your legs out in front of you. Cross your right leg over the left, knee pointed towards the sky and the sole of your foot on the ground. Place your left palm on the floor at the base of your spine. Reach your right arm across your body and push it against the outside of your right thigh, near your knee, to deepen the twist. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
7/ Cow Face Pose
Good for: hips
Start with: From all fours, cross your right knee over the left, stacking one on top of the other. Sit down between your legs rooting both sit bones on the mat. If one sit bone is higher than the other, rest on a block or blanket. This is a very tricky position for runners as hips are usually so tight. If you experience any pain or feel that this position is too hard on your body, try the reclined version, by starting with lying down on your back. Cross your knees and send your feet out to the sides. Hold on to your right foot with your left hand and your left foot with your right hand. Or if it’s more comfortable, hold your shins. Pull your heels in towards your body, then out to the sides and slightly up. Hold for 10 breaths, then reverse leg position and repeat.
8/ Reclining Pigeon
Good for: Releases tension and tightness in the hips
Start with: Lie on your back with your knees bent, and your thighs parallel and hip-distance apart. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh. Reach your left arm through the space between your thighs and reach your right arm around the outside of your right thigh. Clasp your hands below your right knee and flex your left foot. If your head comes off your mat, place a pillow or block behind your head. Hold for 10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Good for: shoulders, core
Start with: Lie down on your back. Bend your knees and place the soles of your flat on the ground in front of your bum, toes facing forwards. With your arms placed alongside your torso, you should be able to touch your ankles with your fingertips. Now slowly, hold your core strong and lift first your lower back, then middle back, then upper back off the ground. Hold your hips up as high as you can for 10 breaths. Then release slowly back down. Do this a second time except with the second bridge, clasp your hands underneath you, opening up your shoulders more by rolling your shoulder blades towards each other and creating more lift. This is a great counterpose to running because we’re often hunched forwards.
10/ Legs up against the wall
Good for: Relieves tension in legs and feet and stretches hamstring and glutes.
Start with: Sidle up beside an open wall space, with your hips as close to the base of the wall as is comfortable. Swing your legs up the wall and lie back. Rest here anywhere from 10 breaths to 10 minutes. This can replace a standard savasana.