Stretching lengthens and strengthens these muscles, making them far less susceptible to injury.
Regular stretching makes all the difference between a good runner and a great one, an injury-prone run and a safe run. Running entails repetitive pounding on the ground, which can destabilise the knees, and create soreness in one’s leg muscles. Stretching lengthens and strengthens these muscles, making them far less susceptible to injury. Below is a simple stretching routine for runners. A few things to remember while stretching — Always warm-up before stretching.
Stretching cold muscles can lead to injuries. Do not hold the breath while holding a stretch. Keep the breath relaxed, and easy throughout. Each stretch is held for at least 20 seconds for it to be effective, but this may vary depending on the level of muscle stiffness. Take your time with the stretches, listening to your body and keeping the stretches slow and gentle. Focusing the awareness on the muscle being stretched increases the effectiveness of the stretch.
Ilio-Tibial Band stretch
Stand tall with the spine long and shoulders relaxed. Cross the right leg in front of the left. Keep the right hand on the hip. Let the shoulders relax. Reach the left arm up in line with the shoulder.
Inner thigh Stretch
Sit with the soles of the feet facing each other. Let the soles meet and pull them in as close to the groin as you can, without straining. Hold the ankles, and with your elbows push the knees towards the ground. Do not let the back get rounded or bent as you do this. Hold for 15 breaths.
From a kneeling position, place the right foot ahead. Lean forward, sinking the pelvis down till you feel the stretch in the left hip flexor, where the leg meets the hip. Hold for 15 breaths and then repeat with the other side.
Sit with the legs extended, straight ahead or a few inches apart from each other. Keep the toes pointed up and the spine long. With a slight bend in the knees, hold the toes (or shins) and lean forward until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Hold for 15 breaths.
Sit cross-legged. With the spine straight, fold forward till the hips feel a stretch. Hold for 10-15 breaths and then release.
Outer Thigh Stretch
Sit with the spine tall and shoulders facing squarely forward. Pull the left knee towards the opposite shoulder, till a stretch is felt in the outer thigh and the gluteal muscles. Hold for 15 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Standing upright, keep your palms on a wall and position one foot behind the other. Keep the toes facing forward and the heels on the ground.
Bend the front leg and lean toward the wall until you feel the stretch in the Achilles tendon. Hold for 15 breaths, and repeat with the other foot ahead.
— The writer is a yoga and fitness expert