Training for a race is no easy task, and proactively preventing injuries is key to crossing the finish line with zeal. Here are some stretching and strength-training exercises to keep you healthy and strong as you log all your miles. Performed in order, this combination of exercises can help minimize common running injuries that often occur as you increase your weekly mileage or up your speed.
Lying Knee Tucks
- Lying on your back, hug one knee into your chest while fully extending the other leg, hovering it above the ground.
- Keep your focus on lengthening your leg away from your body while simultaneously squeezing your knee to your chest.
- Hold for 2-3 seconds then alternate legs, complete 10 reps.
- Lying on your back, extend your arms out to your side as an anchor. Bring your knees up to a 90-degree angle. Starting the movement from your core, rotate your knees to the left, hold for 5 seconds. Then, slowly rotate to the right.
- Complete 10 reps in each direction.
Tip: If your back feels strained from this, place your feet on the floor with bent knees and rotate your knees back and forth, keeping your feet on the ground.
Runner's Lunge Stretch
- Starting in a plank position, bring your left foot up and around and to the outside of your left hand.
- Hold for 5 seconds and bring the foot back into the plank position. Repeat this movement on your right side.
- Complete 10 reps on each leg.
Tip: If it is difficult for you to swing your leg up to the above position, start on your hands and knees, then extend your back leg in the lunge position.
- Start in a seated position. With your feet flat on the floor, bend your knees and place your hands behind your back, directly under your shoulders.
- Supporting your body with your arms and feet, lift your hips toward the sky, pressing through your heels.
Try to fully extend your hips so that your body is completely straight, in a reverse plank. Slowly bring your butt back to the floor, repeat for 10 reps.
- Lying on your back, bend your knees keeping both feet flat on the ground.
- Extend your left leg straight, keeping it raised about two inches from the ground.
- Then, with your left leg extended, press through your right heel, lifting both hips off the ground. Make sure to keep your foot directly beneath the knee to protect the joint and continually press through the heel of the foot to lift the hips.
- Slowly lower and repeat for 10 times before switching sides.
- Standing with your feet shoulder distance apart, pick your toes as high off the ground as possible so that only your heels are touching.
- Walk toward your left for 20 yards, keeping your heels on the ground while flexing the toes towards the sky.
- Repeat the same motion back toward your right, resting at your starting point. Repeat three times.
Single-Leg Lateral Hops
- With your right foot slightly off the ground, balance on your left foot.
- Hop back and forth over an imaginary line, laterally for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the same motion, balancing on your right foot.
- Rest 30 seconds and repeat the exercise three times. This will strengthen the peritoneal and calf muscles.
Calf and Soleus Stretch
- Standing at a wall, stagger your feet placing the left foot a few inches from the wall and the right foot about one to two feet behind your left foot.
- Lean forward into the wall while bending your left knee, pressing your right heel into the ground. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Then step your right foot forward six to eight inches, and bend both knees but shifting your weight onto your left foot while pressing your right heel into the ground. This position stretches the deep calf muscle, aka soleus, and lengthens the Achilles tendon. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.