It can’t be stressed enough: Stretching is key to prevent aches and pains, especially for runners.
Some runners say they don’t have time for stretching, others say they just don’t know what to do. Regardless of the reason, not stretching can cause a slew of injuries: low-back pain, knee discomfort and hip injury.
Kara Thomas, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain’s fitness and wellness director, explains, “The low-back vertebra acts as a ‘cushion’ when running or jumping. Invertebrate discs are the ‘spongy’ substance that acts as shock absorbers on impact. If the back and core are weak, then the spine is weak too—leading to pain. The hip flexors and low back get tight from running in the forward flexion-sagittal plane position. Strengthening the core, stretching the hips and back will help the spine and hips to be in better condition for the runner.”
Using a stability ball and foam roller will help to strengthen the core muscles, as the unstable round service activates the deep intrinsic muscles of the core. These yoga-inspired poses will help increase your core strength and open up common tight areas in runners.
Warrior II: Stretches hips, adductors, lats, rhomboids, extensors
Sit on the ball in Yoga Warrior II pose, to the left side. Right leg is extended and the foot is at a slight angle. Left knee is bent and arms are extended to the sides. Inhale and stretch the left arm to the sky. Looking up, exhale. Hold stretch for three more breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Downward Dog and Dorsiflexion: Stretches spine, hamstrings, hips, calves, shoulders and quadriceps, while strengthening the core
Roll down to the same “table” position with palms on the ball. Inhale and lift the right foot and arch up the “dorsiflex,” heel is down. Exhale. Inhale, place the right foot down, exhale and lift your left foot and arch up. Repeat each foot slowly three times.
Fish Pose—Spine Extension: Stretches thoracic spine and subscapularis, pectorals, and opens chest
Bend knees, feet are hip width apart, and sit on ball. Walk out until the shoulders, head and upper back are on the ball. Inhale and extend the body back slowly, allowing arms to relax to the side, and legs are extended and balanced. Exhale. Inhale and exhale for three more breaths. Roll up and repeat sequence one more time.
Single-Leg Plank on Forearms: Strengthens the entire core
Lower to a plank position on forearms, elbows under shoulders, palms flat. Keep the inner thighs together. Pull navel in to engage ab muscles and to prevent arching the low back. Inhale, and bend the right knee, point foot to the sky. Exhale. Pull your abs in tight. Inhale again, exhale and release foot to the floor. Inhale, bend left knee, and lift left foot to the sky. Exhale. Inhale, release foot to the floor. Exhale. Repeat sequence five times on each side.
Forward Fold: Stretches spine, hamstrings, low back and calves
Legs extended and toes flexed, inhale and reach for toes. Exhale. Hold for three slow breaths. Allow the body to completely fold forward, relaxing shoulders, head and neck, breathe slowly for five counts. Repeat three times.