Lunge Matrix: The 5 Stretches This Philly Coach Says Every Runner Should Be Doing



A few weeks ago, I confessed to you all that I had just taken up running, an activity that I have hated since, well, forever. And since I’ve started running and realized that it actually isn’t the worst thing ever, I’ve also realized that I’ve got some catching up to do. Having hated running all these years, I never paid much attention to all the “The Simple Trick to Becoming a Better Runner” and “The Post-Run Trick That Will Change Your Life” articles that I see every day.

So in an effort to catch up on my running know-how, I contacted John Goldthorp, dubbed Philly’s best running coach this year by our own Philadelphia magazine, to get the lowdown on a stretching: “What are the stretches that every runner—i.e. this gal right here—should be doing?” I asked.

As Goldthorp explained to me, when prepping for your run, “You don’t need to stretch everything in the body, but you want to cover as much ground as possible.” The most important areas to hit are the hips, ankles and middle back. And it turns out, the best way to do that is with an exercise that I (and probably you, too) am already very familiar with: the lunge.

As Goldthorp explains, “A lunge is just an exaggerated version of a running stride.” And when you think about it—go ahead; think about it—it totally is. But we’re not just talking plain ol’ lunges here. Goldthorp has a set of five lunges called the Lunge Matrix, adapted from physical therapist Gary Gray and coach Jay Johnson, that he suggests all his clients do before they pound the pavement. He says the sequence wakes your body right up in all the right places. Check out the Lunge Matrix out below—and see Goldthorp’s must-do post-run stretches, too.

The Lunge Matrix

*Before you run, do five reps of each lunge per side, alternating legs.

Forward lunge: Start standing upright with your feet together. Take a fairly long stride forward with one foot, bracing your core and allowing the motion to come from the hips, rather than by arching the lower back. Powerfully push from the lead leg to return to the standing position. Repeat on the other side.

Forward lunge with twist: Do a forward lunge, twisting your upper body toward your lead leg as you lunge, keeping everything below your pelvis stable. Return your upper body to the center, and push from your lead leg to return to a standing position.

Side lunge: Standing upright with your feet together, take a wide step with one foot to the side, pointing your toes away from your body. Sit back into your hips, keeping your trail leg straight and the foot of your trail leg flat.

Back-and-to-the-side lunge: Standing upright with your feet together, imagine you’re at the center of a clock. Now, step backward with one foot toward four or eight o’clock (four if you’re stepping with your right, eight if you’re stepping with your left). Sit back into your hips, keeping your back leg straight and relatively passive. Push from your lead leg to return to the middle of the clock. Repeat on the other side.

Reverse lunge: Start standing upright with your feet together. Take a wide step backward with one foot, sitting down into your hips and bracing your core. Push with your lead leg to return to center. (Do these faster alternating your arms as you would when you run.)

Post-run stretches

After running, Goldthorp likes to alternate between downward dog and upward dog positions. He explains, “These address the front and the back of the body quite nicely, and when paired with breathing, pack an awesome elongating punch.” Exhale into downward dog and inhale into upward dog. Repeat five to eight times.

He also suggests trying the Brettzel, a pretzel-like stretch I will so butcher if I attempt to put into writing, so check out video here. Goldthorp says 10 breaths on each side per Brettzel, and you should be golden.

Now, who’s ready for a run?

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