Flexercises for runners that don’t like doing stretches

Like a lot of runners I would not say my stretch and conditioning routine has been flawless… or consistent… or focussed… or existed!

The idea of Pilates or Yoga has never really floated my boat either but when I committed to both raising my distance and improving my foot strikeI knew a key element was going to be getting good strength in the whole running muscle group as well as good flexibility.

The main aim of the Stretches and Conditioning exercises (or as I collectively call them “Flexercises”) are to show you what I am doing currently alongside quite a lot of running both on the road and trails. I am not saying these are perfect or 100% complete but it has made a marked difference and I am able to fit them in 3 times a week in about 20mins.

Stretches

Hip Flexor stretch

Method: Kneel on one leg with the other laying flat on the ground as shown. Keep the torso upright and press the hips forward in to the bent knee.

Where to feel it: You should feel the stretch running down your core, hip and down to the top of the flattened leg. You should not feel much of a stretch in the Quad, if you do then try moving your centre of gravity by moving your bent knee leg further forward.

How long: Static stretch like shown for 30secs then I squeeze my Glute (Butt) muscle tight for 5 x 5secs to really stretch it more. Then same again the other side.

ITB stretch

Method: Sit with one leg straight, the other crossed over with the foot next to the straight leg knee as shown. Hold the bent leg ankle and rotate the knee around and slightly up.

Where to feel it: This one takes some practice to get right, adjust the direction of the force until you can feel it along the outside of your leg towards your Glute (Butt). It is a small muscle near but big tendon so might require some force to feel it but start slow.

How long: Static stretch like shown for 30secs each side.

Long Adductor stretch

Method: Kneel with one leg bent backwards, one leg straight out to the side as shown. Gently slide the straight leg out until you feel the stretch on the side of the leg.

Where to feel it: Along the inside of the straight leg towards the top / groin area. This stretch is for the long Adductor so it will go for most of the length of the leg from the knee upwards. If you feel it in your knee then gently tense the quad and make the leg more rigid to isolate the Adductor.

How long: Static stretch like shown for 30secs then slide the foot away a tiny bit more and hold for 5secs until I can’t move it any more.

Calf Stretches – Long

Method: One leg with the foot flat on the floor then advance the other leg until you can feel it stretching the back of the rear leg as shown. Push the hips slightly forward and press down in the rear leg to deepen the stretch.

Where to feel it: Along the calf muscle in the rear leg mostly towards the top near the knee rather than the ankle. If you feel it more in the ankle straighten your leg and press down the foot flat gently.

How long: Static stretching for 30secs then I move the rear leg back til my foot isn’t flat on the floor then gently press the foot down in the to the floor in a pumping motion for another 30seconds.

Calf Stretches – Soleus

Method: Similar to the long stretch put one foot flat and advance the other leg but subtly squat down on both legs until the knees are bent. Then gently press the weight down in to the rear leg trying to further bend the leg (there is also a slight forward motion as well).

Where to feel it: This is felt mostly in in the lower portion of the back of the leg around the Achilles tendon and for me around the ankle as well.

How long: Static stretching for 30secs then I do 5 x 5secs in a deeper squat to get further stretch.

Quad stretch

Method: A classic, stand on one leg (you can prop up against a wall for stability), pull one leg backwards with your hand and keep bending at the knee trying to get the foot to touch your butt.

Where to feel it: Along the front of the upper part of the leg (Quad) but you will also probably feel it around the knee. If you have knee issues then perhaps look for a stretch that isolates just the quad muscle.

How long: Static stretching for 30secs.

Glute stretch

Method: Tricky to get right! Lay on your back one leg flat on the floor, pull your knee up to your chest with one arm then with the other arm grab your foot and rotate the leg towards your chest. With the leg twisted pull the knee back until you feel the stretch.

Where to feel it: You should feel this one in your whole Glute area including your medius and maximus. If you feel it in your hips (like a squishing feeling) then try pulling the foot a little more and getting the rotation stronger.

How long: Static stretching for 30secs.

Strengthening

Core muscles – Plank

Method: Pretty simple, on your toes, elbows on the mat with your arms flat. Pull your core and glutes nice and tight and hold on till you start shaking ๐Ÿ™‚

Where to feel it: A bit of all sorts of places but you will feel it in your shoulders and stomach area. Remember don’t let yourself slouch, rubbish form for a long time is not as good as great form for a shorter time.

How long: As long as you can, best advice is to time your first one and then try to beat your time. A good time should be from about 02:00mins onwards.

Core – Side plank

Method: Variation of the classic plank done on your side with one arm bent on the mat supporting and your legs stretched out straight. Pull the hips up in a nice straight line with your head and again hold on till you fall.

Where to feel it: Definitely feel this on in the shoulders as it is going through one arm and one leg but your stomach area will get a great workout.

How long: Same as the classic plank the aim is to go as long as possible but remember to keep great form and keep that as the focus.

Core – Back peddling

Method: Lay on your back, bring your legs up about 10 cm from the ground, make an imaginary line here and try never to drop your feet below this line. Peddle your legs up towards your chest one at a time then back down till it hit the floating line and repeat as many times as you can.

Where to feel it: Mostly in the lower abdominal region for me especially when I bring my leg back down to the floating level and hold it there. Like all core exercises these should be about control and this will make it feel harder.

How long: Keep peddling until you are spent!

Glute Medius – Side raise

Method: Lay on your side with arms out for support, then raise your upper leg up straight as shown. Try to feel the motion in the upper area of your Glute (Butt) and get the raise going by squeezing this muscle. Remember to control the motion, it is not about speed.

Where to feel it: If done right after 10-20 reps you should start feeling it in your Glute area, if you are feeling it in your hips then focus on squeezing the Glute muscle. If you feel it in your adductor you are probably trying to raise too far or too fast so slow down and focus on the small Glute muscle again.

How long: Generally I do between 20-30 per side then a couple of sets.

Glute Medius – Clamshell

Method: Similar to the side raise, lay on your side, arms out for support, keep your lower leg straight and bend your upper leg till the foot is at the same level as the other knee as shown. Rotate the leg up with the foot staying roughly where it is, keep it slow and controlled and focus on not letting your hips fall but on squeezing the Glute muscle till it screams in agony.

Where to feel it: Glute Glute Glute, this is a killer when it is done right but only when controlled, speed is not needed here at all.

How long: Generally I do between 15-25 per side then a couple of sets.

Abdominal crunch

Method: Always a good choice to throw in the mix. To add a little flavour I do both straight crunches and a rotation where bring the elbow of to the opposite knee and alternate during the crunches.

Where to feel it: Abdominal muscles and also around your flank area when you are doing a rotated crunch as well.

How long: Generally I do between 20-40 and a couple of sets.

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