If you are set for a marathon run, you wouldn’t want that run to start well only for you to unexpectedly injure your knee, calf or ankle and leave yourself sidelined for weeks or months. However, this can happen if you don’t develop more strength in your legs before you start running.
In a blog post on the Red Bull website, specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist Pat Gillham says that stretching can “help prevent overloading of the joints by the repetitive nature of running”.
Calves and Quadriceps
Gillham says that you can particularly strengthen your legs by stretching the calves and quads. “The idea is to improve movement of the ankle and knee joints before running,” he explains.
You can stretch your calves off a step, while you can stretch the quads – or quadriceps, to use their more scientific name – by standing or kneeling while holding each heel at a time to your rear. Doing these stretches before running can increase your joints’ range of movements, says Gillham.
Still, Gillham insists that you shouldn’t stretch “to the point of complete muscle fatigue otherwise your muscles won’t be able to cope with running”. That’s something to keep in mind before you start stretching the hamstrings, which form the back portion of your thigh.
Heathline provides detailed instructions for stretching the hamstrings but urges that, while stretching using this method, you be careful to avoid pulling back your toe.
If you are new to running, you could easily injure your iliotibial band, a part of the body that runs between the hip and shin on the thigh’s outside. The trick is not to push yourself too hard – though suitably stretching the ITB, as the band is otherwise called, can also help prevent you damaging it.
By clicking the link above, you can see what method Healthline advises for stretching the iliotibial band as well. For the stretch, you will need a wall or something else for use in balancing yourself.
Your hip and pelvis are stabilised in part due to the piriformis, a gluteal muscle that is worked whenever you take a step. To stretch this muscle, start by lying on your back with both knees bent.
Then, pull the right knee towards your chest before using your left hand to grasp this knee, which you should then lift towards the left shoulder. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds before repeating on the opposite side. This stretch should be felt in your buttocks and close to the hip.
This spinal muscle – the name of which is pronounced “so-az” – connects your lower back with your upper thigh. To stretch the psoas, lunge by bringing the right foot forward. Then, with your chest and shoulders kept upright, push back your pelvis and tighten the buttocks.
Slightly lean forward and, upon feeling a stretch, hold it for no fewer than 30 seconds before switching sides. You could consider joining a fat camp to learn even more stretches like these.