Several of the alternative stretches listed below are yoga poses, these are beneficial to runners as they can help to improve your strength and flexibility as well as reducing the risk of injury. Just as with any form of training, variety is the key so try to incorporate a number of the stretches listed below into your training routine to gain the full fitness benefits.
Seated spinal twist
This pose benefits your spine and its surrounding muscles. The seated spinal twist also strengthens your shoulders and is a good way to combat back pain, neck pain and improve your posture.
Sitting on your yoga mat, bend your right knee and bring your right foot across your body so that the outside of your foot is level alongside your left knee. Then wrap your arms around your right knee and bring it in towards your chest, ensuring that your left leg stays flat to the floor. Hold the pose for 15- 30 seconds and then repeat the move with opposing limbs.
Perhaps one of the best-known yoga poses; the downward dog is a great move to help any tightness around your hamstrings and calves, a common problem for runners. It will also benefit your Achilles, shoulders and chest.
Begin by resting on your hands and knees, with your hands shoulder width apart, flat on the mat with your fingers spread apart. Then, resting on the balls of your feet, slowly lift up your hips to the ceiling so that you position yourself in an upside down V shape. Your legs and back should both be in straight lines. Allow your head to hang in a comfortable position.
Standing IT band stretch
The iliotibial (IT) band consists of a group of muscle fibres found along the outside of the thigh, stretching from the hip to the knee. The IT band is essential for running as it works as a stabiliser. This band is the cause of many common running injuries so therefore stretching it correctly is vital to prevent injury.
Stand straight with both sets of toes pointing forward and cross your left leg over your right leg. Place your left hand on your hip and then extend your right arm in line with your shoulder above your head. Slightly push your left hip so you’re your torso moves to the right. You should feel a stretch along your right side. Hold this for 20-30 seconds before swapping sides.
This pose is a great way to relieve tension in your leg muscles and could help to prevent knee injuries, particular ligament problems. Another benefit of the butterfly stretch is it can increase hip flexibility, potentially enhancing your range of movement when running.
Sit on your mat then bend your left leg at the knee and do the same with your right until the soles of your feet meet. Then once in this position, place your hands on top of your feet and lean your body forward from your hips. When completing this exercise, you should feel a stretch in your thighs. Don’t lean forward any further if you feel any pain during this exercise.
Although technically the boat pose would not be classed as a stretch, it is still a good exercise to carry out as a runner because it helps to protect your lower back. The pose also improves your deep core muscles and strength. As a runner, your core should not be neglected because it is a vital component of your form.
Sit down on your mat with your legs extended in front of you. Then lean back slowly, lifting your legs off the ground to find what is described as your ‘tripod’ of sitting bones. Try to pull your stomach in while completing the pose, to maximally engage the core. Hold your arms out straight so that your hands (palms facing inwards) are touching your legs. The position you should hold resembles a V shape.
This is a great move for beginners, as you don’t need a great level of flexibility to reap the benefits of this stretch. It would benefit any runners with tight hips and can aid support of the knees. This is another stretch that will work on the IT band, therefore is useful in preventing any common running injuries.
Lie down on your back and bring your knees up towards your stomach so that your legs are off the mat. Bend both of your knees then bring your right leg over the top of your left knee so that your right leg is horizontal across the other. Then tuck both of your hands into the crease of your left leg, just behind your hamstring. Hold the stretch and then complete again with your opposite leg.
Cow face pose
This exercise (sometimes referred to as the Gomukhasana) is a great pose for runners as it opens up the hips, stretches the thigh muscles (particularly the piriformis) and also works on strengthening your core. Another benefit of this exercise is that it strengthens the spine, which will benefit running position.
Sit up straight then cross and stack your left knee on top of your right. Bring in your left heel so that it is touching your right hip and ensure your right heel is touching your left hip. Then bend your left arm at the elbow so that your forearm is behind your back. With your right arm also bent behind your back, bring your hands together so that they are interlocked into position. To ensure the pose is effectively balanced, repeat the exercise with the opposite limbs.