Stretches for runners

The best stretches for your back, hips and legs after a tiring run.

Written by Charissa Fermelis

  • Butterfly
  • Half Pancake
  • Kneeling Hamstring Stretch
  • Piriformis Stretch
  • 90/90 Hip Stretch
  • Side Lunge
  • Wide-Legged Forward Bend
  • Forward Fold With a Twist

1. Butterfly

  • Sit up very tall, with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Grasp your feet tightly with your hands, bringing the heels as close to the groin as possible.
  • Gently press your knees outwards and down towards the ground.
  • You can sustain this position and lean forward to increase the intensity of the stretch, using your elbows to push your thighs further towards the ground.
  • Alternatively, start to flap both legs up and down like the wings of a butterfly. Start slowly and gradually increase the speed. Keep breathing normally throughout.

2. Half Pancake

  • Start in a high kneeling position with one leg extended out to the side. Flex the foot and turn your leg outwards so the toes point up to the ceiling. This will encourage lengthening down the back of the leg.
  • Place your hands on the floor in front of you and begin to sit your bottom towards your heel.
  • Slide your hands forwards, lower your head, and feel a lovely stretch down the inside thigh of the straight leg.

3. Kneeling Hamstring Stretch

  • Kneel on one knee with the other leg extended forward. Ensure the spine is kept elongated as you fold forward from the hip joint and lay your torso along the front leg. Avoid rounding the back or shoulders.
  • Alternate between having the front foot flexing up to the ceiling and pointing down to the floor.

4. Piriformis Stretch

  • Lie on your back and cross one ankle over the opposite knee, so your legs form a figure 4.
  • Using your arms, pull your legs towards your chest to feel a deep stretch in the back of the hip.
  • Sustain this stretch for up to 30 seconds, and repeat it several times on each leg for optimal benefit.

5. 90/90 Hip Stretch

  • A challenging stretching position to open up the hips and release tension from the back of the pelvis and lower spine. This is most effective if you can maintain a 90° angle at the front knee, between the thigh bones, and at the back knee.
  • Have the centre of your chest lined up with your front thigh bone. Keeping the spine tall and chest lifted, begin to project the chest forward over the front knee.

6. Side Lunge

  • Begin with your feet wide apart and hands clasped in front of you. Soften one knee and bend it outwards, lowering yourself into a deep side lunge.
  • Try to keep the foot of the bent leg flat and grounded into the floor while the other foot flexes with the toes up to the ceiling. The pelvis should remain level with the sitting bones reaching for the floor.
  • Balancing here may be challenging, so place your hands on the floor if necessary as you sink deeper into the stretch.

7. Wide-Legged Forward Bend

  • Step your feet wide apart, pressing firmly through the heels and balls of your feet while lifting the arches.
  • Inhale to lift your chest so the front torso is slightly longer than the back. Exhale and hinge forward from the hip joints, folding the body in half while keeping the spine elongated. Your sitting bones will be high up in the air and reaching for the ceiling.
  • Place the palms on the floor directly underneath you and pull your head and chest towards them. Aim to gradually nudge your feet wider apart while encouraging your head closer to the floor.

8. Forward Fold With a Twist

  • Step your feet wide apart and press the whole of each foot firmly into the ground. Aim your sitting bones high in the air as you fold your body in half at the hip joints. Lengthen your spine from head to tail to create space for your ribs to move.
  • Reach your right arm towards your left foot and hold firmly around the outside of the arch as an anchor.
  • Use your free arm to reach up to the ceiling, feeling a generous twist through the trunk and chest.

Written by Charissa Fermelis

Charissa Fermelis is a physiotherapist, Pilates practitioner and Director of Grounded Movement in Melbourne.

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