Monthly Challenge for Runners: Flexibility
As a runner, one may focus all his efforts on purchasing the right gear, hitting pace goals and weekly mileage, or constantly shooting for that next personal best. However, sometimes the simplest parts of training, like rest and active recovery, are put on the back burner which can lead to that next potential injury. However, this can be totally avoidable and we can help. We’ve created a month-long flexibility challenge for runners that gives you, basic to progressional, stretches daily that can be done in a span of fewer than 5 minutes a day. Now that’s something you should be able to handle. So, go ahead and give a try to these stretches chosen specifically for runners that can be adapted for all abilities.
*With any static stretches, it is recommended to warm up the tissues with dynamic stretches, workout, then follow with the static holds. Hold for 10-30 seconds repeating for 2-3 repetitions and perform on each leg, if single sided, unless otherwise stated. Never push through the pain and, as with any exercise program, it is recommended to follow up with a healthcare professional who can create an individualized program, if needed.
1. Supine Butterfly
Known as a position of restoration and gratitude in yoga, this laying down position with soles of feet together and knees out, target the inner thighs and hips. Do not force knees towards the ground, rather let gravity do most of the work. Start by holding for 30 seconds working your way up to 1 minute. To modify, feel free to place pillows or yoga blocks under thighs to support.
2. Seated Butterfly
An intensified groin and hip stretch, the seated butterfly stretch can be deepened with the use of the upper body to provide overpressure to the top of the thighs. Begin seated tall, with abdominals engaged and flat back, bringing soles of feet together and knees out to sides. Use gravity at first and then to deepen the inner thigh stretch, use your elbows to slightly push the knees towards the ground while maintaining a flat back. To modify, do not over press with the upper body.
3. Seated Cow Face
To hit the external rotators or the outside of the hips, try this Cow Face pose. Begin seated tall with abdominals engaged and knees bent with feet on the floor. Slide the left foot under the right knee toward the right hip while keeping the right knee bent towards the chest and transition the right foot towards the left hip. To modify, instead of bending the bottom knee straighten it out in front of you.
4. Seated Twist
This easy torso rotation helps to keep flexibility in your thoracic spine. Begin in a crossed legged position and sit tall with abdominals engaged. Rotate your trunk to the right, reaching the right hand behind you. To modify, do not reach back with hand and instead keep hands crossed over chest.
5. Shoulder Internal Rotation
It may surprise you that shoulder mobility is important for running, but natural arm swing is necessary for efficiency and this internal rotator stretch will help. Begin in a crossed legged and sit tall with abdominals engaged. Place the back of the right hand on the low back while the left-hand raises overhead and the palm reaches to the back of the neck. Letting elbows continue to bend further may bring the hands closer together, and if they touch that’s great! Otherwise to modify, use a towel held at each end with the hands and try guiding the bottom hand up the spine with a gentle pulling motion of the top hand.
6. Seated Wide Leg
Runners mostly use the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, so in return, we must properly restore these tissues. This seated wide leg stretch is the perfect all-in-one exercise. Start seated with abdominals engaged, then straighten both legs out to the sides of the body. Keeping toes up to the sky, try to keep knees as straight as possible. To intensify, bring your both hands out in front of the body and hinge at your waist to bring the belly towards the ground without rounding the spine.
7. Seated Single Leg Side Stretch
To target more hamstring and low back, try this seated single leg side stretch. Begin seated with abdominals engaged. Straightening the right leg out the the side of the body, tuck the heel of the left foot in towards the groin while bending that knee. If you feel good, intensify the stretch to target the left low back by reaching the right hand towards the right foot and the left hand reaching up overhead past the left ear.
8. Seated Single Leg Hamstring
Let’s stay focused on the hamstrings. Take a seat and place the right foot on ground in towards the groin and maintain a straight left leg. Reach out with one or both hands down the left leg while trying to keep the knee straight as possible. To modify, allow a slight bend in the knee.
9. Double Leg Hamstring
Now let’s hit both hamstrings, shall we? Sit on the floor with both legs extended out in front of you. Keeping a straight back, reach both hands down the legs to a comfortable stretch with knees remaining straight and then rounding the back into it. To modify, slightly bend both knees.
10. Supine Twist
An overall favorite because it hits so many spots, this supine twist is sure to please everyone. Lay on your back and bring the left knee up to the chest as the right leg remains straight on the ground. Slowly bring the left knee across your belly towards the right hip. Try to keep head and shoulders on the ground. To modify, bend both knees and twist to one side then the other.
11. Supine Single Leg Hamstring
Oh, you thought the hamstrings were finished! So, go ahead and lay on your back, bring the left knee up to chest as the right leg remains straight on the ground. Slowly extend the left knee, trying to straighten it as much as possible while keeping the right leg on the ground. To modify, bend one or both knees slightly.
Hello, glutes! Start in a high plank (legs together, on toes holding the body up in the air, with arms extended and hands under shoulders). Bend the right knee towards the chest and then turn the right foot in and the knee out perpendicular and behind your hands, while lowering the hips towards the floor. Slowly adjust the angle of the knee to comfort. Try to maintain a neutral pelvis and a straight back leg. Keep it easy with the right hip propped on a pillow or yoga block and the arms extended. To deepen, drop the elbows to the floor.
13. Seated Single Leg Quad
And let’s not forget about the quads. Begin in a seated (or modified: kneeling position). Place the right foot on the ground behind you. Slowly lift the right foot towards your buttock by bending the knee. If able, reach back and grab the right foot with one of two hands. To modify, use a strap to assist in grabbing the foot.
14. Low Hip Flexor
Those pesky hip flexors can not only aggravate the front of the hip, but also the low back because of their attachment to the spine. Begin in a kneeling position, then prop the right foot on the ground in front of you keeping the right knee over the heel while extending the left hip and maintaining the knee on the ground. With abs engaged, lift both hands overhead, while tucking the pelvis toward the front knee. To intensify, lift the back knee off the ground.
15. Low Hip Flexor with Twist
To some, this stretch is also called the world’s greatest stretch because of its full body activation. Again, start in a kneeling position, then prop the right foot on the ground in front of you with the hip over the heel and the back hip extended while the knee stays on the ground. Place the left hand inside the right foot under your head while turning the right hand up to the sky. To intensify, straighten the back leg by lifting the knee off the ground.
16. Half Kneeling Single Leg Hamstring
Hamstrings aren’t finished! Start in kneeling, straighten the right leg out in front of you to tap the heel of the foot to the ground. Pull the right toes up towards you. Maintain a flat back and hinge at the waist to reach towards the right foot. To modify, have a slight bend in the right knee.
17. Downward Dog
Let’s bring on the full body from hands to toes. Start on your hands and knees. Push your buttocks up toward the sky, while slowly extending your arms and legs. Engage the abdominals and try to place them on top of thighs while bringing head in between biceps. Widen the fingers of your hands and then evenly distribute the weight among them while trying to lightly push your elbow to rotate open. To modify, pedal the feet out one at a time towards the floor and keep knees slightly bent.
18. Standing Wide Leg
Nothing wrong with bringing a little blood towards our head while targeting the inner thighs with this simplified inversion. Stand with wide feet facing forward. Maintain a flat back with abs engaged as you fold your trunk over your hips until you feel you can place the hands on the floor to eventually round the spine. To intensify, reach hands through the legs.
19. Standing Wide Leg with Twist
Thighs, hips, back, oh my! Keeping with the wide leg stretch, we’ll add a slight twist. Instead of keeping both hands towards the ground, place the right hand on the ground under the head while twisting the left hand up to the sky. To intensify, turn the head towards the upward hand.
The low back loves the love, especially in this triangle pose. Stand with feet wider than hip width. Turn the right foot out to the side and the left slightly turned forward with the right heel in line with the arch of the left foot. Stand tall and reach your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Leaning your right hand out to the side out past the right foot, as far as you can with abs engaged, slowly hinge over the right hip to reach the right fingertips towards the right foot. To modify, slightly bend the front knee.
The best deep hip flexor stretch out there. Begin in a kneeling position and place the right foot on the ground in front of you with the knee over the heel, the left hip stays extended with the knee on the ground. Place both hands on the inside of the right foot and see if you can drop to your elbows. To intensify, lift the back knee off the ground.
22. Kneeling Twist
Keeping an open thoracic spine not only improves posture but breathing as well. Begin on hands and knees, with knees under hips and hand under shoulders. Place the right hand behind the head and twist up towards the ceiling. To intensify, drop the left shoulder on the ground with the arm reaching to the right and extend the right arm straight towards the sky.
23. Low Squat
Your inner thighs get neglected too much and this low froggy squat can do just the trick. Stand with feet wider than hips. Squat down, maintaining a flat back and use your elbows to slightly push the inner thighs out to increase the stretch. To modify, don’t push the knees out.
24. Side Lunge
More hip mobility, please! Start standing with wide legs. Bend the right knee while trying to maintain a straight left leg. To intensify, place the left hand on the ground under the head and turn the right arm up towards the sky.
25. Standing Side Stretch
Let’s stand! Keep it easy with feet hip-width apart. Stand tall and raise arms overhead so the head is between your biceps. Engage your abs and kick your right hip out to the side as you slowly lower your arms, head, and trunk to the left while staying in the same plane and not flexing forward. To modify, slightly bend knees.
26. Reverse Triangle
We’re starting to get more complicated, but you got this! Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart. Turn the right foot out to the side and the left slightly turned forward with the right heel in line with the arch of the left foot. Stand tall and reach your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Turn the trunk and reach the left hand in the direction of the right foot and slowly hinge over the right hip to reach the left fingertips towards the ground. To modify, slightly bend the right knee.
There’s nothing else like taking care of your back. Starting on your stomach, slowly reach both arms and legs up toward the sky. If tolerated, reach the hands back towards the feet, while bending the knees, and grab hold of the feet, if possible. To modify, keep legs extended on the floor and just place the hands on the ground under the shoulders while slowly pushing the chest up off the ground and keeping shoulders down away from ears.
28. Happy Baby
The happiest position. Lay on your back. Grab your big toes with your hands from the inside arches while pushing your knees out with your elbows. Slightly rock on your backside to side to give yourself a well-deserved massage and do for as long as you like!