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.