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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Important Stretches For Runners

Happy Easter Everyone! 

What a great opportunity to talk about a few important stretches for runners, especially since many of you are either tapering for races or ramping up mileage for ones this summer. Stretching is the "lost cause" of everyone sport. Nobody likes to do it, yet, EVERYONE knows better not too. 

Stretching plays a vital role in your success as an athlete, whether you swim or run. It can be very tempting to skip your post workout stretches, but in doing so you are putting yourself at HIGH risk for developing nagging or potentially dangerous injuries. Stretching improves your range of motion and also neuromuscular control of proper parts of your body. It allows agonist and synergists(main and opposing muscle groups) to work properly with one another.

Also, it has been shown that those who stretch on a regular basis recover from injuries up to 40% faster than those who do not. This is simply because those who do are more receptive to glycogen replacement. 

Now, since running places HUGE amount of force on your body( Up to 7 Times your body weight or 1000 Newtons of Force!! ), it is crucial to keep your lower limbs flexible and strong. With that being said, here are my favorite and most important ones!

Hamstrings Stretch
Runners are notorious for tight hamstrings that can cause lower back problems and lead to pulled muscles. Tight hamstrings also limit your range of motion, which can affect running stride, form and speed. To improve hamstring flexibility, try this lying hamstring stretch, which keeps the spine neutral whereas basic toe touches (forward bends) do not, thereby reducing risk of low back pain.

Quadriceps Stretch
Stretching the quads forces your hamstrings to contract, helping them get stronger. It's important to have strong and flexible quads since these muscles help lift your knees and increase your speed. This standing quad stretch is into to incorporate after a run, and once you master this, you can carefully pull your thigh and knee slightly behind your body (not pictured) for a greater hip flexor stretch at the same time.

Piriformis Stretches
Your piriformis muscle is responsible for the rotation of the hip. Although it's very important in activities that frequently change direction, it tends to tighten up in runners. If the piriformis becomes too tight or spasms, it can irritate the sciatic nerve, which causes pain in the glutes, lower back and thighs. To prevent these issues, try these two stretches:

Calf Stretch
Flexible calf muscles can improve your ability to increase the length of your stride, which results in increased speed. Loose calf muscles also take some of the burden away from your shins as you bring your trailing leg forward when running, helping prevent shin pain or shin splints. This basic calf stretch is an easy one to incorporate. 

Iliotibial (IT) Band Stretch
The illiotibial band is part of a muscle that runs along the outside of the knee and can create pain when it starts to rub on the kneecap. This is typically an overuse injury (trying to do too much too soon or not giving your body adequate time for rest and recovery). Stretches that target the IT band, like the example below, can reduce pain and prevent future knee problems.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
The stretch is critical for hi mobility and increasing range of motion. Perform this after runs to help re-activate the hip complex to prevent injury!

There you have it! A few important stretches to make sure you do on a daily basis to keep you running strong and injury free!

Don't forget, this is piece of the puzzle! You also must join Rush along with the other runners to learn how to properly resistance train and prevent "running" injuries! We work every session to get stronger, faster, quicker all by incorporating key exercises and injury preventive tactics to keep you running strong forever!

Until Next Time,

Stay Strong and Stretch Away!

Do everything you can to help make other people more successful. Massive generosity is your mission. The more you help others, the more you will succeed. You cannot out-give the universe.

Mike Over
CPT / Strength & Conditioning Specialist

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