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By increasing your flexibility you can improve your ability to not only run well but move around in general. You will have less muscle tension and your posture will likely improve. Stretching after running also reduces your risk for injury.

While stretching, remember to follow these simple guidelines:

  • Always warm up before you stretch. Stretching cold muscles can lead to injury.
  • Stretch slowly and gently. Breathe into your stretch to avoid muscle tension.
  • Do not bounce during stretching. This can lead to injury.
  • Stretching should not hurt. If you feel pain, lessen the stretch and relax into it.

The following stretching exercises are recommended by the Norton Sports Health training team. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat each set of stretches two times.

Gastrocnemius stretch
Stand with right leg back and knee straight. Lunge forward until a comfortable stretch is felt in the right calf and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on left.

Soleus stretch
Start in a similar stance to the gastrocnemius stretch but bend both knees, moving your body down instead of forward. The stretch should be felt a little deeper in the calf. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Tibialis anterior stretch
In a seated or standing position, pull on the front of your lower leg directly to the outside of your shin bone. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

Iliotibial band stretch
Cross your right leg in front of your left leg in a standing position, and lean to the right side, pushing your left hip out until a stretch is felt over the outside of the left hip. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the left leg crossed in front of the right leg and pushing your right hip out.

Hamstrings stretch
While keeping your abdominal muscles firm and your back straight, lean forward until a comfortable stretch is felt in the hamstrings. An alternative is to lie in a doorway with one leg up on the wall and your bottom as close to the wall as possible to obtain a comfortable stretch. Hold for 30 seconds.

Quadriceps stretch
Lying on your side or standing, pull back on your lower leg while keeping your knees aligned until a comfortable stretch is felt in the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

Piriformis stretch

Lying on your back, pull your right knee toward your left shoulder until you feel a gentle stretch deep in your buttocks and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the left knee toward the right shoulder.

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching uses controlled movements to improve range of motion, loosen tense muscles and increase heart rate, body temperature and blood flow to help you run more efficiently. Dynamic stretching is most effective when it is done before running and after you’ve warmed up. Start slowly, focusing on form. Use small movements for the first few repetitions. As the exercises get easier for you, increase range of motion and begin doing them more quickly.

Leg lifts
Swing one leg out to the side, and then swing it back across your body in front of your other leg. Repeat 10 times on each side. If you feel unbalanced, hold onto a steady object.

Butt kicks

While standing tall, walk forward with an exaggerated backswing so that your heels come up to meet your buttocks. When this becomes easy, try it while jogging. Do 10 repetitions on each side.

Pike stretch

Standing, get in a “pike” position — bend at the waist to touch your fingers to your toes, keeping your knees as straight as possible. Put your right foot behind your left ankle. Keeping your legs straight, press the heel of the left foot down. Release. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Lift your left leg up, bending the knee so it points out. Try to tap the inside of your left foot with your right hand without bending forward. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Toy soldier
Keeping your back and knees straight, walk forward, lifting your legs straight out in front and flexing your toes. Advance this by adding a skipping motion. Do 10 repetitions on each side.

Walking lunges
Step forward with a long stride into a lunge position, not letting the front knee bend over your toes. Lower your body by dropping your back knee toward the ground. Maintain an upright posture and keep your abdominal muscles tight. Lift up, then lunge forward with the other leg in front. Do 10 repetitions on each side.

Print Stretching Guide

Elliot Mattingly, Physical Trainer with KORT physical therapy at Norton Brownsboro, shares tips on how to prevent injuries while training for a marathon.


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