Stretch It Out

I was recently requested by a friend of mine who is new to running to write a blog about stretching. Since I am here to help, I am happy to write a blog that will hopefully help and clarify your stretching needs and questions.

Runners often lose flexibility. This is because the activity doesn’t require a huge range of motion, and as your muscles, ligaments and tendons adapt and strengthen for running, they shorten and tighten. Interestingly enough, being super flexible can actually be problematic for runners, since loose and flexible body parts can lead to injury. Think about it, there isn’t the tightness/strength that tightness provides. Being too tight isn’t good either, as rang of motion can become limited and can lead to injuries too.

The happy medium? Stretch, but don’t go overboard. Forcing flexibility is never good, and is especially bad for runners. I have clients to swear by incorporating pilates and yoga into their weekly training – which is awesome. However, if you are in a yoga class five days a week AND running, you may need to be careful.

For those of us who are not avid yogis or dancers, here’s my advice for maintaining flexibility and keeping those legs mobile.

Always warm up before your run. If your run is easy, the run itself is enough of a warmup. If you are doing speed work, get those legs moving slowly for 5-10 minutes first. You do NOT need to stretch pre-workout. Some coaches/trainers believe stretching pre-workout is actually dangerous. Just food for thought.

Post-workout, cool down with a jog if you were running hard. Again, if you were running easy miles, a cool down is not necessary. Get in the habit of stretching as soon as you finish your run, as muscles will cool and tighten quickly.

Target stretching these major muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, IT band and calf muscles/Achilles. If you need advice as to HOW to stretch, I suggest looking online, or I can answer that for you.

Don’t over-stretch. It shouldn’t be excruciatingly painful. Hold stretches for about 30 seconds, and do not forget to breathe!

While stretching, this is a good time to get some protein into your body. Refueling ASAP will help those muscles recover quickly, and can help ward off soreness. I’m a fan of chocolate milk or Greek yogurt. (See my previous post on Refueling!)

**** If you find you have pain in one spot (one hip, for example), you may need to pay attention to your running form, and potentially see a PT. Sore pain, which occurs after working hard and building muscle is a very different kind of pain compared to a tight IT band, hip pain, etc.

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