Good morning! Amy here…Since I am tapering (running fewer miles to let my legs rest) for this Saturday’s Half Marathon, Best Damn Race, in Orlando, Fl., I thought I would take some time to talk about something most runners don’t do..but should..stretch!
As runners, we sometimes think all we need to do in make our legs stronger but the truth is flexibility is important! I’m no Doctor and since I want you to have the best info possible, I’m going to refer back to Chapter 13 of Run Less Run Faster: Flexibility and Form.
The experts who created the FIRST Training program, Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss, remind us that flexibility doesn’t just stretch out the muscles, “flexibility of the ankles, hamstrings, and hip flexors affects form and performance. A lack of flexibility often leads to strained muscles or connective tissues. [Flexibility] helps runners avoid injury.”
Often the runners who stretch are the ones who have already faced an injury. So if stretching is an important part of rehabilitation, why not do it before you get hurt and save the medical costs and down time from exercising? I love the quote from Run Less Run Faster, “use stretching as prehab, rather than rehab.”
There are many benefits of stretching like improved performance, better range of motion, and joint stabilization but the key here is to AVOID INJURY! There’s nothing more frustrating for a runner than to be sidelined with an injury so incorporating the following key stretches will pay off big time.
Key Stretch 1: Standing Calf stretch – Stand on the top of a step or curb or against a wall and with your stretching leg straight, drop your heel towards the ground. You will feel this stretch in your calf muscle. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Then bend your knee so you feel the stretch more in your calf and also in your Achilles tendon. Hold this for an additional 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Key Stretch 2: Quadriceps / Hip Flexors – Step into a lunge then drop your back knee all the way to the floor. Keep your truck upright, your shoulders high, and push your hips forward. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with opposite leg.
Key Stretch 3: Lying Hamstring – Lay on the floor with the left knee bent and the right leg in the air. Hold the right leg behind your thigh just below your knee. Keeping your leg straight, pull your right leg towards your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with other leg.
Key Stretch 4: Glutes / Piriformis – Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Cross your right ankle on top of your left knee. Grab your left thing just belowyour knee and pull forward towards your chest. Hold stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat with other leg.
Key Stretch 5: Spinal Rotation – Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your back flat. Extend your arms out to your sides. With your knees together drop both legs to one side. Hold for 30 seconds. Bring knees back to the middle then repeat by dropping knees to the other side. Repeat stretch 2x per day.
Key Stretch 6: Low Back – Lay on the floor on your back with your knees bent. Grab your legs behind your things and bring your knees to your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 2x per day.
Key Stretch 7: IT Band – Lay on the floor with your knees bent. Drop both knees to one side. Extend the bottom leg out straight then extend the top leg so it is perpendicular to the bottom leg. Reach opposite arm out to the side and look that way. This will enhance the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with other leg.
These are just a few of the exercises that target the major muscle groups and they will help you run farther and faster without getting hurt. Even with stretching there is no guarantee you’ll be injury free but by taking a little extra time to increase your flexibility you will improve your chances.
How often do you stretch? What are your favorite stretches?