Aches and niggles can easily bring your running training to a halt, or even wipe out your half marathon goals completely. Introduce these quick and simple healthy habits to keep your body moving freely. Added bonus: you’ll feel less achy in the mornings, too!
Mobility has taken over from static stretching as the best form of “limbering up” for sporty folk. What is it? Essentially, it’s moving your joints through their end range of movement to build strength and stability whilst easing off any tightness.
Try 5 minutes a day, consisting of:
– Jefferson curls (slowly rolling through the spine from standing to a forward fold)
– kneeling lunge with an overhead reach
– sitting in straddle position and bending from side to side
– cat/cow spine mobility
– thoracic (upper back) mobility
– chest stretch using a wall or broomstick
– scapular wall slides
Home yoga sessions
Yoga still has a place in everyone’s fitness routine. The benefits of yoga are that it’s structured, calming, and many of us already know the movements. Find a local class or a good online class and commit to 1-2 sessions a week.
The best yoga moves for runners include standing or seated forward folds, low lunges, triangle pose, downward facing dog, butterfly pose, child’s pose, and pigeon. Ah pigeon, we love to hate it (it’s so good for the lower back and hips!)
Sitting in a deep squat
Can you get into a deep squat and sit there? Not yet? Start by putting something under your heels and/or holding a counterbalance weight in your hands (a light kettlebell is ideal). Do this for 1-2 minutes every single day. It will honestly work wonders for the muscles and ligaments around your hamstrings and groin. Top tip: if you use an electric toothbrush, sit in a deep squat for the timed 2-minute brushing session! (And we wonder why non-runners think we’re weird…)
Stretching your hip flexors
Your hip flexors are at the front of your body, but did you know that they wrap around and attach onto your lower back? That’s why hip pain and low back pain are often so intertwined. Modern life insists we spend a lot of time in positions that chronically shorten our hip flexors. So it pays to stretch them out every day. It should only take a couple of minutes. The best exercise is a kneeling lunge, bum tucked underneath, with your arms raised if possible.
Muscle activation before running
Is it worth stretching before you go running? Well, kind of, but only if you do muscle activation stretches. These exercises get your nervous system and muscles talking to each other so you’re less likely to get injured.
Try doing 10-12 glute bridges, 10 clam shells (each side) and 30 seconds of bum-kicks (to activate the hamstrings) before your run.
Grab a cheap foam roller and start rolling out your main running muscles a few times a week. 5 minutes is enough: you can do it in front of the TV or whilst your other half is in the shower. Focus on rolling your hamstrings and glutes, quads (a bit more painful!), calves, and back. Don’t forget your mid and upper back which can get tight from running, especially in cold weather.
Lying with a towel under your back
Your lower back takes a lot of strain during the day and during your training runs. But it won’t always feel good to do more aggressive flexion and extension exercises like the ones you find in yoga. Here’s a really relaxing way to ease your lower back.
Get a towel and roll it up. Lie on the floor and put the rolled up towel horizontally under your lower back/hips area (so it sticks out either side of you). Lay flat, relax your head and neck, and simply let your back decompress. A super simple trick you can try any time your back feels tight.
Getting into child’s pose
The yoga pose child’s pose is deceptively simple. It actually stretches out lots of the muscles that can get tight from running: hips, lower back, groin, glutes, and even ankles. Get into a child’s pose once a day for a couple of minutes (it feels especially nice first thing in the morning).
Epsom salt baths
Are you a bath person? Try adding a hefty handful of Epsom salts (magnesium) to your bath water once a week or whenever you feel sore. It’s been shown to help reduce inflammation, soreness, and DOMS (and may help you sleep better).
Getting enough sleep
On that note, one of the best things we can all do for recovery and long-term wellbeing is to sleep better. This means 7+ hours a night of restful sleep. Can you go to bed a bit earlier? Make your bedroom darker and quieter? Invest in earplugs and black out blinds if necessary. And start leaving your phone in a different room… it’s a game changer.