03 December 2022

11 Best Exercises For Avoiding Running Injuries 

April 21, 2017

With marathon season upon us and running being one of the largest participation sports in the UK, it’s not a huge surprise that running injuries are common. Sports therapist, Jamie Webb, recommends exercises and stretches that are especially designed to help runners avoid injury.


These exercises and stretches are designed to help you avoid the mistakes many runners make. They address issues at their root cause and will be more effective than a change of trainers.

Lumbar Extension

This stretch is a super charged hip flexor stretch. It stretches the hip flexors and the muscles that affect their function. This will help with making your quads feel less heavy when you’re running . Ideally this should be performed over the back of a Swiss Ball but if you don’t have one you can use the back of the sofa or edge of a bed. Simply arch backwards over the Swiss ball (or whatever you are using) and let the arms and legs hang in a relaxed fashion. You should feel a stretch through your stomach. You may get a sensation in your back also. So long as this is not painful, carry on. Hold for a minimum of one minute. Longer if you can cope with all the blood rushing to your head! Good for knee issues.

Single Leg Raise

Lay on your back with one leg straight and one leg bent. Use your core muscles to push the arch of your back flat against the floor. Place a hand under the side of the back to make sure there is constant downwards pressure. Whilst maintaining the downward pressure lift one heel about six inches off the floor. Hold for about 3o seconds and then put it back to the floor. If you can, maintain the same pressure onto your hand under your back and repeat on the other side. If you found the first bit really hard have a breather first! Repeat 3 times on each side. This will improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Half Moon

Another great one for those who struggle with tight quads or knee pain. When the quads are doing too much work, your obliques on the same side will tighten. To avoid this, stand upright with your hands above your head. From this position bend over to the side – making a half moon shape. You may feel the stretch anywhere along the outside of your body. If you feel a compressive sensation on the side to which you bending then try the other way first and see if that eases the compression. Hold each stretch for a minute on each side.

Quad Stretch with Pelvic Tilt

Just a little tweak on an old favourite to make it more effective and tie in the other hip flexors. Pull you’re the foot up behind the back side to get to the point where you start to feel a stretch in the quads. From there push the pelvis up and out, like a pelvic thrust, and this should increase the stretch through the quadriceps and in the hip region. Great for tight quads and knee pain.

Quad Extension

This is a progression on from the last exercise. Some people are more flexible than others so the previous stretch may not have quite hit the spot. This not only stretches the quads but also the muscles which work with the quads to affect their efficiency. Start by sitting on your heels on the floor. Reach your hands out behind you to open up your pelvis and place your hands flat on the floor behind you. If you need to increase the stretch push the pelvis upwards until the stomach is flat, as shown.

Hamstring Stretch

This is a fairly standard stretch with a twist to make it more effective. Start by placing the foot on something about table height – flexible people will need something higher, the inflexible will need something lower. When the foot is up on the table in front of you lean forwards with your upper body to bring the stretch on. This is basic standard stretch I’m sure you’ve seen and used many times before. Come back to upright. This time rotate the foot outwards and then lean in again. You will feel the stretch in a slightly different place – it may be tighter, it may be looser. Come back to upright. Then rotate the foot inwards and repeat. Find out which stretch is ‘hitting the spot’ best for you and focus on that one.

Neck Stretch

Some runners run with too much tension which can result in a tight neck and shoulders. Biomechanically this has a knock-on effect and can affect your hamstring length and glute strength. Simply stand and bow your head and apply over pressure with your hand downwards. You should feel a stretch at the back of your neck. You may even feel the stretch spreading lower down your back. Hold for about a minute and repeat a couple of times.

Calf Stretches

The standard stretch is to lean against a wall and take your leg out behind. Whilst keeping the heel down, lock your knee straight and this will stretch your calf. From this position bring the foot slightly forward – turn the toes inwards slightly and bend at the knee.

Glutes Stretch

Sit on the floor with one leg out straight in front of you and bring your opposite foot across your thigh just above the knee and put the foot flat down. From here hug the knee that is up into the opposite shoulder. You should feel a stretch in your glutes. If you wish to increase the stretch rotate your torso to the same side you are stretching. Tight glutes limit the amount of force you can generate as part of the push off phase of running and so affect your performance. Equally if the glutes are tight the hamstrings and calves will compensate and so lead to tightness and potential issues as a result.


These are the muscles on the outside of your shin which help with balance. If you have flat feet these will be tight. Support yourself against a wall. Roll your foot outwards slightly (i.e. hold the inside of your foot in the air) Now push your knee forwards (front leg shown in picture) whilst keeping the weight on the outside of the foot. This should stretch around the outside of the ankle and into the muscles on the outside of your shin.

Adductor Stretch

Good balance between the adductor group and the hip abductors (glutes) is key for pelvic, knee and ankle stability. It also has a profound effect on the femoral nerve (the nerve that gives sensation in the knee) and so is great for anyone with tight quads and also those with niggles in the knees. To start, lift the leg on a table as in the hamstring stretch above and as shown in the picture. This time rotate the foot inwards completely so your inside ankle bone is on the couch. Now drop down by bending the leg you are standing on to increase the stretch to a suitable level.

For more information and physio advice please visit www.brightonsportstherapy.co.uk

The Women’s Sports Magazine

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