Q+A: What’s your stretching routine, and what are your key stretches?

A: Whether or not to stretch before a run has always been a source of debate among runners. Personally, I like to do very gentle stretches even before a normal training run. I tried not stretching prior to runs back in 2002 but ended up with more injuries. However, any pre-run stretching must be gentle: stretching cold, stiff muscles carries the risk of strains. It’s also thought that overstretching can cause a muscle to act as though it is at risk of tearing, therefore tensing up to counteract that. You may prefer to do a quick jog beforehand.
I start running slowly, paying attention to how my muscles are feeling. Then, if I experience any tightness, I stop and do additional gentle stretching to that muscle group before continuing.

Before more intense speedwork I do a prolonged stretching routine after a jog warm-up – but I’m still careful to stretch only to the point of just feeling it – never into pain. I hold each move for 10-15 seconds, taking care not to bounce. Before starting the reps, I do a series of strides and drills that take my muscles through a greater range of motion and activate them in preparation for the session. Running fast straight after static stretches is bad for performance and could lead to injury.

After running, I stretch again. I feel this helps to prevent tightness and improves my recovery. I also go through my stretches before I go to bed to help reduce tightness for the next morning’s run.Focus on stretching the muscle groups that have a tendency to be tight and take care not to overstretch muscles that are loose and weak. For example, I focus on stretching my calves, quads and lower back, and do not overstretch my hamstrings. Here is my basic stretching routine.

Lower back stretch

Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms by your sides, and pull your knees towards your chest.

Groin stretch

Sit with the soles of your feet together. Push down on the inside of your knees to feel a stretch.

Glute stretch

Sit with one leg bent and crossed over your straight leg. Lean back, pulling your legs to your chest.

Hip flexor stretch

Stand with one leg behind you. Slowly bend your front leg, contracting the gluteal muscles on your back leg.

Quad stretch

Stand on one leg and use a chair or a wall to balance if necessary. Bend your other leg at the knee, and grasp
your foot up behind you. Keep your body upright.

Hamstring stretch

Standing upright, place your heel up on to a step in front of you, with the leg straight. Gently bend forwards until you feel a slight hamstring stretch.

Calf stretch

Stand arm’s length from a wall. Place both hands on the wall, and one foot behind you, heel down. Lean in until you feel a stretch in your calf.