So this week the guys at realbuzz.com have asked me for the top 5 stretches a runner can do. I almost chocked on my tea when I heard this as anyone who knows me, knows that stretching isn't exactly my strongest point. It’s not the fact I don't know what and how to stretch, it’s just that I never do it! So this blog should be called the top 5 things Scott should do, but doesn't! Although I have to say, recently I have got a lot better. Honest. Now please forgive the pictures, hopefully you get the idea!
I thought I'd start off with the muscle I‘ve had most of my problems with, the calf. If you’re running a marathon, you might neglect your lower legs because it’s the quads and hamstrings that take the pounding on the roads (mainly). The calves are probably the easiest to stretch as you can simply just stand there. Steps are the best option, with your heels hanging off the step, thus stretching your calf. Doing this before and after can help keep them supple and avoid problems with your achilles. Another option for those DIY enthusiasts out there is making a slant board (see pic). You can then stand on this for 4-5 minutes to really stretch out your calves.
The best way to stretch hamstrings I think, is to lay on the ground in a doorway, and have one leg raised (straight) along the edge of the doorway and the other straight out on the ground. The closer you can shift your body to the door, the greater the stretch you'll feel in your raised leg. The doorway just acts as if someone is holding your leg up and allows the hamstring to be stretched out nicely. Obviously if you can get someone else to hold your leg, that’s even better. One thing to make sure of, is that you don't arch your back, keeping it flat on the floor.
A simple stretch and often the most effective is simply bending your leg while stood (against a wall for balance) and take your foot into your hand. You should feel the stretch in the front of your leg. To get a deeper stretch, push your hips forward and this will open up the quads a little more. Like most of the stretches you should hold it for about 20-30 seconds and repeat it a number of times on each leg. This is all pretty simple stuff, but it can make a difference especially after running.
This is the muscle behind the power of your stride. This stretch is often one that I find has the greatest pain/good pain stimulus. Using a chair/park bench/sofa you need to bend your leg and have it rest on the top side of the chair, kind of like you would if you were crossing your legs. Push your knee down with your hand and lean forward slightly and you'll find the stretch will really get into your glute. I have realised while writing these descriptions it is actually very hard to get across what I mean! I have the pictures and hopefully they help. If there are any questions on the stretch, please comment below.
The last one isn't necessarily a stretch but more of a device that every runner should have, and this device is a Foam Roller. They have been on the running scene for a while and are very useful. The basic principle is you roll your leg muscles back and forth across the roller and it acts like a massage. The roller does require you to get into some odd positions on the floor but it is well worth it, because your legs will thank you for it in the morning. There are also a few other tools that I have acquired during my years of running, all using the same principle as the foam roller.
The R8 Roller is good for those lazy people who don't want to exert themselves rolling around the floor getting into the positions to get the right muscle. The R8 acts as a clamp on your leg, and you just roll it along the muscle and the rollers massage your leg. The other device is simply called "The Stick" - again the idea being you roll the stick along the muscle and it massages it.
Hopefully all those stretches help and you can try them over Christmas, you'll look really cool! Until next time.
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