If you're a runner I already know two things about you. You have really tight legs, and you probably don't stretch enough ;). I know this because I have been a runner since I ventured out of the pool in primary school and became a land animal too. I have always been a mid-long distance runner but regardless of distance we all need to stretch the same muscles. When I was 14 and going through a growth spurt, I had really bad pains in my legs but passed it off as growing pains and would push myself at running training.. turns out I had shin splits that had got so bad I actually had tibial fractures in both legs :| I'm here to give you some tips on how not to follow in my footsteps haha.
Shin splits for me came from a combo of not-so-great running shoes, running on hard surfaces too often (concrete/road) and barely any stretching. My sports physio suggested I get Asic Gels and they have been the best for me. I wear Nike Free Runs to the gym but would never run in them because they don't give me enough support. So please think about what shoes you're wearing - and think practicality over style! Asics do some awesome shoes. When I run I wear the Noosa Tris which I think are predominantly for racing rather than training but I don't do much long distance running anymore so they do the trick for me.
When I was running I knew the basic hamstring and quad stretches but never really focused on my lower legs. If you're tight at the front of your lower leg + ankles you're probably going to be more prone to shin splints, so the doctors told me.
I am not going to list every variation or contraindication (a list of reasons/injuries you may have to not do a particular stretch) - you know your body best so don't do something if you know it's going to flare up an injury. Take it easy and listen to your body and be careful with your knees.
Here are a few stretches specific for running that I should have done more frequently. Keep in mind though runners need to work on overall flexibility. There are plenty of quad, hamstring and glute stretches in Get Bendy along with other stretches for the rest of your body that are crucial for runners.
NOTE: I always do an aerobic warm up before stretching.
Always consult a medical professional before commencing any exercise regime. The poses shown are in no way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.
Piriformis stretch (tricky muscle to stretch - deep in your glute)
This one may look a little tricky so here are some basic instructions. Bring your left foot back by your right hip and stack your right knee on top. You can grab both feet with your hands and lean forward to intensify the stretch, make sure both hips stay on the ground. You should feel it in the sides of your butt cheeks where I'm pointing. Repeat for the other side (as always).
Pigeon pose (hips and glutes)
Hero and reclined hero pose (good for tops of feet, ankles and quads)
If you need to, prop yourself up on a block or folded up towel (underneath your butt). Have your knees together and feet either side of your hips.
(PS. I swear I do not have a camel toe in this picture, my tights have just folded over weirdly…… haha!!)
Another variation if you really want to work on your ankle flexibility. Also a great stretch for the front of your shins. Sit on your ankles rather than having them to the side.
A further variation to intensify the stretch.
Great runners have great whole body fitness and flexibility. My Get Bendy guide provides oodles of stretches for your whole body which is available as a poster pack (A1 poster + an eGuide (PDF) version + 2 Elle Fit Active stickers - because errrybody loves stickers) or just the eGuide (PDF) on its own.
Hope that helps, my fellow running friends.