If you're training for a race (the London marathon perhaps?!) don't underestimate the importance of incorporating stretching as part of your training routine. Below are 5 basic stretches you can do both before and after your runs to help you warm up and recover quicker.
Arm and Shoulder Stretch
TARGET MUSCLES: deltoids, scapula, and biceps
Stand with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Start with your right arm. Raise it straight up, then bend it at the elbow, placing your hand on your back.
Stay in position for 30 seconds and then repeat the exercise using your left arm.
TARGET MUSCLE: gastrocnemius, i.e. calf muscle
Place your right foot behind you. You can do this with your hands at your sides or on your hips. You could also brace your hands against a wall or another person, like in the photograph.
Lean forward and feel the gentle effect of the stretch in the extended leg. Hold your position for about 30 seconds. No bouncing! Then switch and stretch the opposite leg.
TARGET MUSCLES: Quadriceps, inguinal ligament, i.e. the front of your thigh
Stand up straight. Lift your right foot behind you, holding your right foot with your right hand. Pull your foot slowly toward your glute. Feel your quadricep stretching.
Keep your knees as closely together as possible. You can hold a hand out in front of you for balance if you need to. Hold the stretch for no longer than 30 seconds and then repeat with your left leg.
TARGET MUSCLES: semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris (collectively, the hamstring)
From a standing position, extend one leg in front of you. Plant the heel firmly on the ground with your toes pointing upward.
With your knees locked, slowly bend forward onto the extended leg. Stretch down as far as you comfortably can. You can place your hands on your thigh or knee if you like. When you feel you’ve arrived at your maximum extension, hold the pose for one minute. Breathe deeply while you hold the pose.
Standing Forward Bend
TARGET MUSCLES: Lower back extensor muscles, hamstring muscles, abdominal muscles
There are several variations possible for this pose but for all options, start with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly and bend down from your hips. Straighten your legs until your knees are no longer bent. Then relax your neck and shoulders. Depending on your flexibility, you can now:
- Place your palms on the floor.
- Cross your forearms, hold your elbows, and hang forward.
- Simply hang forward with straight arms.
Stay in your chosen position for 30–60 seconds. Bend your knees and place your hands on your thighs as you come up to avoid placing strain on your back.
This extract is from Up and Running by Julia Jones and Shauna Reid.