Simple exercises to build your running body.
The most important exercise you can do as a new runner is, of course, running. But your risk of injury will go down–and your enjoyment of running will go up–if you take a few minutes a day to stretch and strengthen key parts of your body. Here are simple exercises that will help you run more smoothly and efficiently.
1. Calf Stretch
Goal: Increase the flexibility of your calf muscles and Achilles tendon.
Why: Running takes your lower legs through a fuller range of motion than most other activities. Better flexibility in your calves and Achilles tendons will allow you to push off more forcefully and lower your risk of straining these muscles or tendons.
How: Sit with your legs in front of you, straight but relaxed. Place your hands or a rope or towel wrapped around the ball of your foot. Contract your shin muscles to pull your toes toward your shin. Keep the top of your ankle loose so that you feel the stretch in your calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Exhale into the stretch, and hold it for 2 seconds. Lower your foot to the start position, and repeat. Do 10 stretches for each leg.
When: Like most non-dynamic stretches, this is best done after your run.
Consider: You’ll need to be diligent about calf and Achilles flexibility if you’re a new runner who has worn high-heeled shoes for many years. Try walking around your house barefoot or in socks to help lengthen your calf and Achilles.
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