Spring has sprung and that means it’s time to play and run outside. For any avid runners who are thinking about increasing their total mileage, it is important to also include a few exercises and stretches for optimal performance and recovery.
A common complaint from runners when they start to increase their distance is pain in the knees, hips and ankles. Typically, if an issue begins arise in one, it will also appear in the other joints over a period of time. The reason for this pain tends to be a combination of weakness and tightness in different areas of the legs. If we take a look at the hips, we want to relax the hip flexors and strengthen the gluteus muscles. These two tasks paired together will help with decreasing pelvic tilt and indirectly avoid any odd movements of the knees. When we look at the feet we want to strengthen the muscles that support the arch of our foot as well as decrease tension in the calf and plantar fascia. This allows the foot to avoid being overly flat on push off but also allows for the force to be absorbed that comes from the ground when the heel and rest of the foot makes contact.
The exercises below should be done after 5 to 10 minutes of a light warm up and should not cause any pain at any point. Ensure you are breathing deeply throughout all the stretches and exercises.
Strength: Glute Bridge with Band
Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor and a mini band above or below your knees. Squeeze your glutes and push the band out to the side with your knees. Lift your hips off the ground until there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for a moment and lower slowly. When at the top make sure your low back is not doing all the work by not flaring out your ribs and keeping them tucked in tightly.
Repeat exercise for 12 reps and 3 sets with 30 seconds of rest in between.
Stretch: 1/2 Kneel with Single Arm Reach
In a half kneeling position, have one foot flat on the floor so the knee and the hip is at 90 degrees. For the hip that is being stretched, the knee is on the ground directly below the hips/torso so there is a straight line from the top of the head down through the spine, thigh and into the knee. Keeping your chest up, open up your hip so you feel a slight stretch in the front of the bottom leg. For an increased stretch lift the same arm as the bottom leg above the head and back slightly.
Repeat stretch for 30 seconds and 3 sets. Ensure you are breathing throughout the entire movement.
Strength: Towel Scrunch
Strengthen the grip of your feet by using your toes to pull a towel with your toes. Sitting down with your feet flat on the floor and the end of a towel underneath your feet, use your toes to grab the towel to pull and bunch it up. Let go with your toes and grab a little farther and repeat. Make sure your heel stays on the floor and that you are only using your toes. Once the full towel is bunched up, re lay it out and start again.
Repeat for 1 minute and 3 sets.
Stretch: Calf Stretch on Wall
Facing the wall with your hips square, keep your heel on the ground and your toe lifted on the wall. Shift your weight forward, keeping your leg straight, to increase the stretch on your leg. By keeping your leg straight you will optimally work on lengthening the gastrocnemius muscle of your calf.
Repeat 30 seconds each side and 3 sets. Ensure you are breathing throughout the entire movement.
NOTE: If you are feeling extra stiff try taking a warm epsom salts bath or shower to warm up your muscles prior to these exercises. Move in and out of each exercise carefully. All exercises should be PAIN FREE. If you feel pain during any of these exercises please STOP performing the exercise.
Hopefully these exercises and stretches will help relieve any tension you might be feeling in your knees, hips and ankles this Spring. Please feel free to contact me at Therapy Lounge if you have any questions about these stretches and exercises, or if you would like to book a treatment.