Keeping your running legs on track (Part 1)

The marathon season is well under way, with runners everywhere following tough training schedules to reach their goals.

If you’re one of them, we’ve got some great tips to help you stay injury-free as you head for the start line — and the advice applies just as well if you’re targeting shorter race distances, such as half-marathons and 10ks, or preparing for a triathlon.

Our tips fall into two categories:

•    Effective stretches
•    Successful self-treatment.

In this post, we’re covering our recommended stretches, and we’ll look at how to stay injury-free through self-treatment in the second part.

Key stretches for runners

We all know that if we’re exercising a lot we need to stretch as well, but it’s all too easy to let that part of your training regime slip. You’re tired after a long or strenuous run, or you’re in a hurry to get somewhere and you just run out of time, so you promise yourself you’ll stretch properly next time and the moment passes.

Unfortunately, this is when you risk paying the price. Ramping up the distance and time on your feet requires sustained, repetitive muscle contractions and these can translate into shortened, tight muscles. That’s why it’s so important to stretch when your muscles are still warm, either during a session or at the end, as this helps elongate the muscles and relieve tightness.

Most runners are familiar with how to stretch out their quads and hamstrings, so we’re focusing on two other really effective stretches, one for the calves and the other for the glutes.

1. Calf stretch

This can be done during or after a training session.

calf heel drop stretchStand on a stair or step, and put the toes of one foot on the edge of the step. Keep your leg straight and let your heel drop towards the ground. Repeat  two or three times and hold each stretch for a minimum of 20 seconds.

NB: This stretch can put a lot of pressure on the Achilles tendon, so always ease into it by lowering your heel slowly.


2. Gluteal (buttocks) stretch

Lie on your back and slightly bend one leg. Raise the other foot onto your bent leg and rest Glut med and max pirif stretchit on your thigh, with the bent knee at a right angle. Reach forward, hold onto the back of your knee and pull it towards you. (Note that this is slightly different from the illustration.)

You can regulate the intensity of the stretch by pulling your knee towards you and, if you can, by putting your elbow on the bent knee and pushing slightly. Breathe in as you pull, and pull a little further with each breath. Do this two or three times, holding the first position before creating a deeper stretch. This stretch is one for after your training session, when your muscles are fully warmed up. Hold for a minimum of 20 seconds.

These are just some of the stretches I recommend for runners — please get in touch if you’d like to add more to your routine and I can email you further suggestions!

And don’t forget the Wells Clinic Spring offer — save £10 on a hour-long therapeutic massage session (£50 rather than £60) and keep yourself fit for your racing season.