Inspired by the London Marathon, but wanting to stay safe? Sports therapist, Jamie Webb shares a series of exercises and stretches designed to help runners avoid injury:
1. Lumbar Extension
This stretch stretches the hip flexors and the muscles that affect their function. This will help make your quads feel less heavy when you’re running, and is good for knee issues.
Simply arch backwards over a Swiss ball (or if you don’t have one, use the back of the sofa or edge of a bed) and let the arms and legs hang in a relaxed fashion. You should feel a stretch through your stomach. You may get a sensation in your back also. So long as this is not painful, carry on. Hold for a minimum of one minute.
2. Single Leg Raise
Lay on your back with one leg straight and one leg bent. Use your core muscles to push the arch of your back flat against the floor.
Place a hand under the side of the back to make sure there is constant downwards pressure. Whilst maintaining the downward pressure, lift one heel about six inches off the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and then put it back to the floor. If you can, maintain the same pressure onto your hand under your back and repeat on the other side. Repeat three times on each side.
3. Half Moon
When the quads are doing too much work, your obliques on the same side will tighten. To avoid this, stand upright with your hands above your head. From this position, bend over to the side – making a half moon shape. You may feel the stretch anywhere along the outside of your body. Hold each stretch for a minute on each side.
4. Quad Stretch with Pelvic Tilt
Pull your foot up behind your bum until you start to feel a stretch in the quads. From there, push the pelvis up and out, like a pelvic thrust, and this should increase the stretch through the quadriceps and in the hip region. Great for tight quads and knee pain.
5. Quad Extension
This is a progression on from the last exercise. Some people are more flexible than others so the previous stretch may not have quite hit the spot.
This not only stretches the quads but also the muscles which work with the quads to affect their efficiency. Start by sitting on your heels on the floor. Reach your hands out behind you to open up your pelvis and place your hands flat on the floor behind you. If you need to increase the stretch, push the pelvis upwards until the stomach is flat.
6. Hamstring Stretch
Start by placing the foot on something about table height – flexible people will need something higher, the inflexible will need something lower. When the foot is up on the table in front of you, lean forwards with your upper body to bring the stretch on. Come back to upright.
This time rotate the foot outwards and then lean in again. You will feel the stretch in a slightly different place – it may be tighter, it may be looser. Come back to upright. Then rotate the foot inwards and repeat. Find out which stretch is ‘hitting the spot’ best for you and focus on that one.
7. Neck Stretch
Some runners run with too much tension which can result in a tight neck and shoulders, and can affect your hamstring length and glute strength. Simply stand and bow your head and apply pressure with your hand downwards. You should feel a stretch at the back of your neck. You may even feel the stretch spreading lower down your back. Hold for about a minute and repeat a couple of times.
8. Calf Stretches
The standard stretch is to lean against a wall and take your leg out behind. Whilst keeping the heel down, lock your knee straight and this will stretch your calf. From this position, bring the foot slightly forward – turn the toes inwards slightly and bend at the knee.
9. Glutes Stretch
Sit on the floor with one leg out straight in front of you and bring your opposite foot across your thigh just above the knee and put the foot down flat. From here, hug the knee that is up into the opposite shoulder. You should feel a stretch in your glutes. If you wish to increase the stretch rotate your torso to the same side you are stretching.
These are the muscles on the outside of your shin which help with balance. If you have flat feet these will be tight. Support yourself against a wall. Roll your foot outwards slightly (i.e. hold the inside of your foot in the air), now push your knee forwards whilst keeping the weight on the outside of the foot. This should stretch around the outside of the ankle and into the muscles on the outside of your shin.
11. Adductor Stretch
Good balance between the adductor group and the hip abductors (glutes) is key for pelvic, knee and ankle stability. It also has a profound effect on the femoral nerve (the nerve that gives sensation in the knee) and so is great for anyone with tight quads and also those with niggles in the knees.
To start, lift the leg on a table and rotate the foot inwards completely so your inside ankle bone is on the table. Now drop down by bending the leg you are standing on to increase the stretch.
For more information and physio advice, visit www.brightonsportstherapy.co.uk