Strengthen and Stretch! The 12 Moves All Runners Need to Do

Strengthen and Stretch! The 12 Moves All Runners Need to Do

Whether you’re training for your ninth marathon or just want to prevent nagging lower-back pain from your weekly runs| here are the moves missing from your life. Start with these six exercises to help you strengthen your body| run faster| and prevent injury. Then follow that up with these six essential yoga poses to target tight areas that often come from running. Start doing these 12 moves regularly| and you’re sure to notice a difference.

| Move 1: Sumo Squat With Calf Raises

What it does: Tones the thighs| glutes| and calves.

  • Stand with your feet about three to four feet apart| toes turned out. Bring your hands together in front of your chest| and squat down so your thighs are parallel with the floor| knees over the ankles.
  • Raise your left heel off the floor| and begin to pulse the hips up and down| isolating the left calf.
  • Continue pulsing for 30 seconds| and then switch sides for another 30 seconds.
  • Repeat two more times on each side.

| Move 2: Side Lunge

What it does: Works the muscle on the side of the pelvis (glute meds) as well as the inner thighs.

  • Holding a pair of dumbbells at your side| stand with your feet and knees together.
  • Take a large step with your right foot to the right side| and lunge toward the floor.
  • Make sure your right knee does not extend past your toes| and keep your left leg relatively straight.
  • Push off through your right foot to return to the start to complete one.
  • Do three sets of 10 on each side.

| Move 3: Seated Shin Strengthener

What it does: Tones the shins to prevent shin splints.

  • Sit on a chair that’s tall enough to allow your toes to point without touching the floor.
  • Place a two- to six-pound dumbbell vertically in between your feet| squeezing the weight gently to keep it in place.
  • Begin by pointing your toes toward the floor. Then flex your feet and lift your toes as high as you can. This is one repetition.
  • Complete three sets of 12 reps| stretching your shins with the Reclining Hero in between each set.

| Move 4: Wall Sit

What it does: Strengthens the quads and prevents knee pain.

  • Stand with your back against a wall| placing your feet about two feet in front of you. Feet should be hip distance apart.
  • Bending your knees| slide your back down the wall until your knees are at 90-degree angles. Your knee joints should be over your ankle joints| so you may need to inch your feet farther from the wall to create proper alignment. Your thighs should remain parallel.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds| and then stand up. Repeat for a total of three reps.
  • To make this move more challenging| alternate between lifting your left heel for a few seconds and then your right. This helps to target your calves.

| Move 5: Up Down Plank

What it does: Strengthens the arms| shoulders| and core.

  • Come into a plank position with your legs straight and forearms resting on your mat. Your feet should be hip-width distance apart. Draw your navel toward your spine to engage your core and to avoid straining your lower back.
  • Keeping your torso parallel to the floor| plant your right palm on the mat as you raise your body| so your right arm is straight.
  • Repeat with left arm| so you’re now in a straight-arm plank.
  • Now| move your right forearm back onto the mat and then the left| lowering yourself back down into elbow-plank position. Try to avoid swaying the torso from side to side.
  • Repeat for a total of five to 10 reps| and then reverse the direction for another five to 10 reps.

| Move 6: Superman Ball Lift

What it does: Tones the back to prevent back pain.

  • Lie on your belly| and hold an exercise ball between your feet.
  • Engage your abs| and extend your arms straight out in front of you.
  • As you inhale| squeeze the ball and lift your knees| arms| and chest off the floor. Hold for a count of 10| and then slowly release your body back to the floor.
  • This completes one rep. Complete two sets of 10 lifts.

| Yoga Pose 1: Wide-Legged Forward Bend C

What it does: Stretches the lower back| hamstrings| calves| shoulders| and chest.

  • Stand with your feet about three to four feet apart. Engage your abs by drawing your navel toward your spine.
  • Interlace your fingers behind you. If you can| press the heels of your palms together in a double fist. Actively pull your hands away from your shoulders to increase the stretch in your chest.
  • Fold forward as you lift the arms overhead. Reach the top of your head toward the floor to lengthen the spine.
  • Breathe for five breaths| keeping weight forward into the toes.

| Yoga Pose 2: Bent Standing Split

What it does: Stretches the quads and hamstrings.

  • Stand with both feet together. Put weight into the left foot.
  • Bend your right knee| and hold onto it with the left hand| pulling the heel as close to your body as you can.
  • Fold forward to increase the stretch| resting your right hand on a bench| a block| or the ground if you can reach without pain.
  • Pull the knee as high as you can to intensify the quad stretch| holding for five breaths.
  • Rise up| and repeat this pose on the other side.

| Yoga Pose 3: Three-Legged Dog

What it does: Stretches the calves and hamstrings and strengthens the arms.

  • Begin in Down Dog. Step both feet together so your big toes are touching.
  • Shift weight into your hands and your left foot equally. Lift the right leg up to the ceiling. Try to keep your shoulders parallel with the ground| and gaze at your left thigh or up toward your belly. To feel the stretch in your left hamstring| try to keep pressing your left heel down toward the ground.
  • Stay here for five or more breaths| then lower your right leg down and switch sides.

| Yoga Pose 4: Open Lizard

What it does: Stretches hips and hip flexors.

  • From Downward Facing Dog| move your right hand a few inches to the left and step your right foot next to your right pinky.
  • Release your left knee to the mat. Exhale as you lower your right knee toward the floor| resting on the outside edge of your right foot.
  • Gaze up toward the ceiling to increase the stretch in the front of the left thigh| holding for five breaths.
  • Stay here for at least five breaths| then repeat on the left side.

| Yoga Pose 5: Seated Spinal Twist

What it does: Increases side-to-side spinal mobility and targets the outer thighs and oh-so-tight piriformis muscle.

  • Begin seated on your mat with your legs extended in front of you. Bend both knees| and place your left heel as close to your right sit bone as you can. Cross your right foot over your left knee| and plant it on the floor so your outer right ankle is next to your left knee.
  • Reach your right arm behind you| and place your palm on the floor. Cross your left elbow over your outer right thigh to gently increase the twist.
  • Gaze behind you and over your right shoulder| staying here for five breaths. Then release the twist| straighten your legs out in front of you| and do this pose with your left knee pointing up.

| Yoga Pose 6: Half Wheel

What it does: Increases spinal flexibility and stretches abs| upper back| and neck.

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms along the sides of your body| palms facing down.
  • Bend your knees| and place your feet flat on the floor. Walk your heels as close as you can to your tush| and turn your heels out slightly so the outside edges of your feet are parallel with the outside edges of your mat.
  • With your palms and feet pressing firmly into the ground| lift your hips up. Try to keep your thighs parallel.
  • Place your hands at your lower back for support. Rock your weight from side to side to bring the shoulder blades closer together.
  • Stay here for five deep breaths| actively pressing your feet into the floor to lift your hips up and increase the stretch in your torso and neck.
  • Gently lower your hips back to the ground| hugging the knees into the chest.