Running is good for the soul. It is you pounding the streets or running in the park – mind in neutral and being at one with the outside environment. Space for no thought or letting your thoughts wander. It is smiling at the couple walking their dog or waving at the children on the swings.
Putting on your running shoes can control stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. It can help you to release the tension that you’re holding both mentally and physically. Plus, releasing dopamine, which plays a role in how we feel pleasure and how we focus.
The benefits of running (any sport really) are quite literally endless BUT while running is good for the soul it can be hard on your hips, knees, ankles and even feet.
The right footwear for the job.
The first thing I’m going to recommend is a really good pair of shoes, the right running shoes for you. While the right shoe is important for any sport, running particularly is hard on the body. So this is not the time to dust off an old pair of trainers from the back of the cupboard. Even if you are only thinking of a gentle jog, you still need the right footwear.
You also need the right clothing, yes even what you wear is important and that includes a good sports bra for the ladies. Sun protection is a must, and you might consider wearing sunglasses or a hat to protect your eyes on a sunny day. In summer and hotter weather, the time of day you run can also be important and no matter the weather stay hydrated.
Warm-up and warm-down – always!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared exercises for golfers and tennis players. Which I felt was needed because of the type of injury being presented at Sarum. Patients returning to sports they loved as restrictions lifted with vigour and enthusiasm. BUT forgetting that their bodies were not used to the movement.
Thankfully muscles do remember and can be back at your previous fitness and ability levels quite quickly. But… back to our runners and the focus of this blog in which I’m sharing six fabulous stretches for ALL runners.
Quadriceps to Hamstrings Stretch
In standing, grab the front of one ankle with one hand and pull your foot towards your buttock until you feel a gentle stretch in the front part of the thigh. Raise your opposite arm up and hold the stretch for five to ten seconds, keeping your lower back neutral.
Then, switch to a hamstring stretch position by straightening the leg forward with your heel on the ground, the toes pulled towards you, the back neutral, and one hand reaching towards the foot. Again hold the position for five to ten seconds. Then return to a quadriceps stretch and alternate between the two stretches.
Stand with a wide split stance and lean towards one side, creating a straight leg on the opposite side. You should feel a stretch along the inside of the leg and should maintain the position feeling into the stretch for five to ten seconds.
IT Band Stretch
While standing on the involved leg, cross your opposite leg in front then push the hips out to the side until a stretch is felt on the outside of the hip. Again let’s keep it simple and maintain the stretch for five to ten seconds.
Stand with your feet staggered and the back knee slightly bent. Tilt your pelvis backwards and slowly bring your weight forward onto your front leg until a stretch is felt in front of the hip. Keep the back in a neutral position for the stretch and maintain the position for ten to twenty seconds.
Stretching Calf (Gastrocnemius)
Stand and place both hands on a wall, with your feet about half a meter from the wall. Turn your foot inwards to increase the stretch. Place one leg behind the other and lean your body forward without bending the back knee until you feel a stretch in your back calf. Remember to keep the correct arch position in your foot. Maintain the stretch and relax. Hold for fifteen seconds progressing to thirty seconds and repeat three times.
Plantar Fascia Stretch
Stand with the ball of your foot on a step, with the rest of your foot over the edge. Then lower your heel down until a stretch is felt in the arch of your foot. Do this five to ten times for each foot.