Stretching isn’t just for those of us who can no longer pull all nighters and function the next day. The importance of stretching for runners is critical for anyone who wants to enjoy the activity for a long time and avoid any potential problems. Running is a very physically demanding sport. The repetitive motion of running and moving the body forward requires strength and coordination. It’s a sport that requires the athlete to be diligent and consistent in the care of their body’s muscles, so as to avoid injuries, sprains or tears.If you are like me, when I was in my 20s and young 30s I never stretched. I would go for my run, come in and head into the next task. However, as I have gotten older I have noticed that things just do not operate the same way. Stretching is now a critical role in my training and I very rarely skip the stretch.
When to stretch?
The next big question you may have is “to stretch before” or “to stretch after”. If you want to truly avoid injuries and perform at your best, the answer is both! As a runner begins their stride, each stride of their foot against the ground causes their muscles to constrict and push together. A long, repetitive motion like this is essentially like a rubber band being wound several times. Stretching before an dafter a run can help by:
- Stretching pre-run helps to warm up the muscles and get them ready for your workout!
- Pre-Stretching can also help to lengthen the muscles and aid in a wider running stride.
- Pos-Stretching helps to pull out and lengthen the muscles that have become tight during the workout.
The biggest difference in pre and post workout stretching is the type of stretching you should do. In the pre-workout stretching you should be focusing on range of motion, having movement in your stretches and making sure your muscles are warm and loose.
1.) Hamstring Stretch
Lying on your back with legs straight you will slowly lift one leg using the quadriceps (front of the thigh). You can assist yourself with a rope if you need assistance or want a deeper stretch. Note: bend the non-exercising leg to stabilize the spine if you have a history of back pain.
3.) Glute Stretch
For this stretch you will lie on your back with legs straight. Flex your left knee at a 90-degree angle and rest on the opposite knee. Slowly pull both knees towards your chest. This is the go-to stretch to help with your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and the piriformis.
3.) Hip Flexor Stretch
Runners can easily develop tight hip flexors so this stretch is important! For this stretch you will kneel down on your left knee with your right knee at a 90 degree angle. You will move forward onto the flexed front leg (right) keep pelvis and back stable by contracting abdominals. As you move forward, contract buttocks and hamstrings to flex left heel to left buttock. Assist stretch with one or both hands bringing heel to buttock as flexibility allows.
4.) Downward Dog
The Downward Dog is a very common yoga pose that will also stretch the calf muscles. Downward Dog is a common yoga pose that can also stretch the calf muscles. You will start on your hands and knees with the hand directly under the shoulders. You will then walk the feet back so that the body is in a plank position. After you plank, slowly bring the hips up toward the ceiling sot he body creates the shape of an upside-down V. Press your heels down into the floor.
Your quadriceps is often referred to as your quads and covers most of the front and sides of your thighs. Stretching your quadriceps is important if you’re running up or down hills. To start you will stand upright and pull your leg behind with your corresponding hand. Then, you will tuck your pelvis and pull your shins towards your thigh.
6.) BONUS! Pigeon Pose
I included this bonus stretch because it is simply my favorite and the one I always look forward to doing. With the way my body works, this stretch is ideal for getting those overused muscles.
You will keep your left knee on the ground and stretch the left leg behind you, resting the top of the left foot on the ground. Keeping your back straight, push forward into your right hip, being usre to keep the right knee over the right ankle. Switch sides.
About TRWS GURU Kathy
Kathy started running in 2005 after getting her first corporate job past college and gaining weight. Her admin at the time suggested she run her first 5k, which Kathy trained for 10 months in preparation. Having a career in advertising and traveling frequently, Kathy discovered that running was a great way to stay fit and see all the cities she was visiting. Kathy loves destination races having traveled as far as Australia for a marathon, and locally Chicago, New Jersey, Arizona and pictured here at her half Ironman in Indiana.
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