Stretching Advice for Runners and Walkers

Here are some stretching exercises for the major muscle groups used in running and walking. They should only be used, however, after your workout when you are still warm. Use these stretches as a guide to building your own flexibility and cool-down routines. It's a good idea to work systematically from the gastrocnemius (calf) up to the shoulders (or vice versa).

Before going out for a workout, always start with 5 to 10 minutes of jogging on the spot or slow and easy running or walking to warm your muscles – be sure you are dynamically working the muscles that you will be using prior to starting into your workout. Try to avoid static stretches at this point, keep moving! Your warm up should take approximately 10 – 15 minutes.

After your workout, use these stretches to cool down. If you wish to work on increasing your flexibility, hold the stretches longer – anywhere from 15 seconds to 3 minutes – and repeat each stretch 2 to 3 times. Pay particular attention to that areas that you feel are the tightest; in runners these are usually the low back, hamstrings and gastrocnemius.

Calf Stretch
  1. Stand facing a wall, at arm’s length plus 15cm (6 in.) away.
  2. Place your right foot forward, halfway to the wall, and bend your right knee while keeping your left leg straight.
  3. Lean into the wall, using your forearms for support, and letting your left heel lift off the floor while keeping your head, neck, spine, pelvis, and left leg in a straight line.
  4. Exhale and shift your weight towards the wall while your attempt to press your left heel to the ground and your right knee towards the wall.
  5. Hold the stretch and relax.
  6. Bend the knee and push the heel to the ground once more, stretching the deeper calf muscle.

Repeat starting with your left leg forward.

Alternate Views

 

Hamstring Stretch
  1. This exercise requires a doorway.
  2. Lie flat on your back, through a doorway, positioning your hips slightly in front of the doorframe, with the inside of your lower left thigh against one side of the doorframe.
  3. Keeping your left leg straight and flat on the floor, exhale and raise your right leg up until your heel rests against the doorframe. Do not bend your right knee.
  4. Hold the stretch and relax.
  5. To increase the stretch, slide your buttocks closer to the doorframe, or lift the leg away from the doorframe to create a right angle.
  6. Repeat for the other side.

Note: If you have any lower back problems, it is acceptable to keep the non-stretch hip and knee slightly flexed.

Alternate Stretch

  1. Stand with your right knee leg slightly forward of the left.
  2. Keep your weight evenly distributed.
  3. Lift your right toe keeping your hips, knees and feet 'in-line'.
  4. Tip or lean forward from your pelvis bringing your abdomen towards your thigh, keeping your back straight.
  5. Repeat for the other side.

Iliotibial Band Stretch (ITB)

 
  1. Stand with your right side towards a wall, an arm’s length away, feet together.
  2. Extend your right arm sideways at shoulder height so the flat or your hand is against the wall and you are leaning towards it.
  3. Place your left hand on the side of your left hip.
  4. Exhale, keeping your legs straight, tightening your buttocks, and pushing your right hip in towards the wall until you feel the stretch down the outside of your right leg.
  5. Hold the stretch and relax.
  6. Repeat for the other side.

Quadriceps Stretch

 
  1. Stand facing a wall, an arm’s length away. Place your right hand against the wall for balance and support.
  2. Bend your left leg at the knee and raise the foot behind you until you can grasp it with your left hand.
  3. Slightly bend your left leg at the knee and be sure to keep your lower back straight. Light contraction of the abdominal muscles will assist you in keeping your back flat.
  4. Pull your left heel towards your buttocks.
  5. Hold the stretch and relax.
  6. Repeat with your other leg.

Note: Avoid this exercise if it causes pain in your knee joint.

Gluteal Stretch

 
  1. Lay on your back.
  2. Bring your right knee up to your shoulder; guide it across the midline of your body with your right hand.
  3. Using a gentle pull, bring your right foot across your body with your left hand. Ensure that your knee stays across your midline.
  4. As you exhale, gently apply increased pressure at your knee to increase the stretch.
  5. You should feel the stretch in your right buttocks.
  6. Repeat with the other leg.

Groin Stretch

 
  1. Sit on the floor keeping your back straight, you may even want to sit with your back against a wall.
  2. Bend your knees up then let them fall to the sides with the soles of your feet facing each other.
  3. Grasp your ankles with both hands and pull your heels towards your buttocks.
  4. Rest your elbows on the inside of your thighs.
  5. Slowly push your knees towards the floor until you feel the stretch in your groin.
  6. Hold the stretch and relax.
 
Hip Flexor Stretch
  1. Stand with your feet together, then take one stride forward with your left foot.
  2. Flexing your left knee, slowly lower your body towards the ground, finishing with your right knee touching the floor and your left heel flat on the floor.
  3. Rest your hands just above the left knee and keep that knee bent at no more than a right angle (90 degrees).
  4. For some, getting into this position will be enough. If you wish to increase the stretch, exhale while pushing your right hip forward and increasing the stretch on the right side.
  5. To put your spine in the proper position, gently tighten the abdominals and 'flatten your lower back' to increase the stretch.
  6. Hold the stretch and relax.
  7. Repeat with your right foot forward.

Note: For those who are unable to kneel, this exercise can be done while sitting on the edge of a chair, and assuming the same position as illustrated but without the knee touching the ground.

Lower Back Stretch

 
  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent to form a right angle and your arms out to the sides.
  2. Exhale, and slowly lower both knees to the right side.
  3. Keep your elbows, head, and shoulders flat on the floor.
  4. Hold the stretch and relax.
  5. Repeat on the other side.
Alternate Stretch  
  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs straight out.
  2. Bend your knees and slide your heels towards your buttocks.
  3. Using both hands, grasp behind your knees. (It’s not important to keep your knees together – they should be comfortable.)
  4. Exhale, pulling your knees towards your chest and slowly lifting your hips from the floor, while keeping your head and shoulders on the floor.
  5. Hold the stretch and relax.
Alternate Stretch

Shoulder Stretch

 
  1. Sit with your right arm raised in front of you at shoulder height.
  2. Bring your right hand across chest and place it on the back of your left shoulder, keeping your elbow at shoulder height.
  3. Grasp your right elbow with your left hand.
  4. Exhale and pull your elbow in towards your left shoulder.
  5. Hold the stretch and relax.
  6. Repeat with your other arm.

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