Runners, be sure to emphasize stretches for the legs and lower back, since that’s where most of the stress occurs, says Olympic distance athlete Kara Goucher, author of Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons.
The stretching method you use is probably less important than the fact that you stretch in the first place — which you should, to maintain range of motion and maybe even lower your injury risk. Static, dynamic, active-isolated, yoga — all these methods work fine, and there are many others besides.
Always remember to stretch when you’re already warmed up, such as after a few minutes of walking or after your run. The following 5-minute routine should cover you nicely.
Against the Wall
Target: Calf and Achilles
Stand facing a wall with one foot approximately 2 to 3 feet from the wall and the other leg extended farther back. The rear leg should be straight, the front leg should be bent, and your hands should touch the wall. Point your feet straight ahead at all times, with your heels on the ground. Hold for 3 seconds and switch legs. Repeat 5 times. Do the exercise again, but this time bend your extended leg, which will work the lower calf.
Place one foot, with your leg straight, on a 2-foot-high step or a bench. Bend your body forward and bring your head toward the leg until you feel a pull. Hold this position for 3 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat 5 times.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kara Goucher, author of Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons (Copyright © 2011 by Kara Goucher), is the World Championship bronze medalist for the 10K and a top U.S. marathoner. A member of the Nike Oregon Project, improving standards for distance running, she lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, professional runner Adam Goucher and son Colt.