Essential stretches for runners

1 Hip flexors

Take a large step forwards with your left leg, bending the knee and allowing your right knee to rest on the floor, with shoelaces facing down. Bring the torso upright and curl your tailbone under – then gently press the right hip forwards. Hold for 20-30 seconds then switch leg

2 Hamstrings

Place your right foot on a support (at mid-shin to mid-thigh height depending on flexibility) with the leg straight. Your support leg should be perpendicular to the floor with foot forwards. Hinge forwards from the hips until you feel a stretch along the back of the thigh. Don’t hunch over. Hold for 20-30 seconds then switch legs.

3 Gastrocnemius (upper calf)

Take a big step forwards with your left foot, bending the knee. Keep the right leg straight, and have both sets of toes pointing directly forwards. Now gently press the right heel down into the ground. Keep the torso upright and don’t arch the back. If you don’t feel a stretch, take the right foot further back. To accentuate the stretch, visualise ‘grabbing’ the ground with your toes. Hold for 20-30 seconds then switch legs.

4 Soleus (lower calf)

Following on directly from the gastrocnemius stretch (above), take a half step forwards with your left leg and bend both knees, keeping the left heel on the floor. Adjust your weight over the front and back feet until you feel a stretch along the lower part of your left calf. Switch legs.

5 Quadriceps (front of thigh)

Stand tall. Take your right foot into your right hand, bringing it towards your bottom. Keep the knees together (don’t let the right leg splay to the side) and keep your torso straight. It doesn’t matter if your knee is slightly in front of the supporting leg – this just indicates quad tightness. Don’t hunch your shoulders. Switch legs.

6 Gluteals & piriformis (bottom & hip rotators)

Lie on the floor and take hold of your left knee, drawing it towards your chest. Feel a stretch in the bottom. Now bring your knee towards your right shoulder and, taking hold of the ankle, gently draw the shin to the right – you should feel this in the hip rotator muscles, deep in the left hip. Hold for 20-30 seconds then switch legs.

7 Erector spinae (lower back)

Lie with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, close to your bottom. Open your arms at shoulder height and, keeping your shoulders on the floor, let the knees drop down to the right. Draw them back to the centre and drop to the other side. Do this a few times and finish by hugging the knees into the chest.