Stretching Is Essential For Runners!
By Running Divas Ambassador and Run Coach Lydia Palmieri
Nothing can derail your run goals like an injury. Running with muscles that are cold and not properly stretched can result in a muscle strain that keeps you off your feet
Starting your run with a 5- to 10-minute jog followed by stretching helps warm up your muscles so they’re primed for your run, whether it’s a couple of km or a marathon. Focus on stretching the major muscle groups you’ll be using such as quads, hamstrings, gluteals and hip flexors and don’t forget moves that also warm up your abs, back and calf muscles. Ever felt sore abs after a long run?
Static or Dynamic Stretches?
Most experts agree that dynamic stretches (stretches that incorporate movement and take your joints through their full range of motion) are better for pre-run warm-ups than static still stretches that you hold for extended periods. An active warm-up incorporating dynamic stretches better prepares your muscles for the activity to follow.
So what types of Dynamic stretches should we do? Here are some examples.
Not only do walking lunges open up the major muscle groups you’ll be using during your run like the quads and hip flexors but they also simulate the forward motion of running, which makes them particularly useful as a warm-up stretch.
Bend the front knee to 90 degrees and the back knee until it almost touches the floor. Stay here for a few seconds and work to straighten the back leg so you feel a stretch through the front of your left thigh. Then, rise up and take a big step forward with your left knee to get the stretch on your left side. Continue this way for about 10 lunges.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
If you work at a desk all day, you probably have tight hip flexors, because they’re constantly in a state of flexion. This makes it extra important to stretch them properly before you work out.
Start in a lunge position with your front knee at 90 degrees. Begin to straighten your back leg, so you feel a stretch along the front of your back thigh. Keep your front knee aligned over your toes. Raise your arms up over your head and hold for a few seconds, then release. Continue in a dynamic motion, shifting forward as you raise your arms up, then lowering your arms as you come back to the starting position. Repeat 5 times and then switch sides.
Side stitches are a common complaint among runners. Although the cause of these annoying pains is unclear, fitness experts say you can help prevent them by stretching your torso before running. You can do this from a standing position, you can add a side stretch to a kneeling hip flexor stretch.
Bring your arms up over your head and, keeping your abdominals tight, lean to the right and then to the left, bending at the waist. That is going to work lateral flexion of the torso, which helps open up the hip flexors in a side-to-side range of motion. Do this movement dynamically, holding for one or two breaths on each side to warm up the muscles of the midsection.
Your hips bear a lot of the brunt while you’re running ( and don’t I know it, this is my current running niggle), so opening up the joints and muscles of that area before hitting the pavement can help prevent injury. A few minutes of hip circles are an easy way to do this.
Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart. Begin to circle your hips in one direction, almost as if you’re hula-hooping. Make the circles wider and wider until you’re working your full range of motion. After about 6 to 10 rotations in one direction, switch directions. To deepen the stretch, for one round pause briefly at the front, back, left and right points in the circle.
Every time your foot leaves the ground during a run, your calf muscles contract to make that happen. Give them some pre-run love by doing a simple dynamic calf raise.
Stand on the edge of a stair facing in, so that only the balls of your feet are on the stair and your heels are hanging over the edge. Hold onto a stair rail for balance, if necessary. Rise up on your toes, then slowly lower your heels so that they come below the stair and you feel a stretch through your calf muscle. Hold the stretch for a moment and then rise up again and repeat. You can also do the stretch on one foot at a time.