Smutty Fitness: running stretches
For those of you that are following the 10km running training program you should be three weeks in by now, click here if you missed it. Hopefully you followed my advice on buying new running shoes so you should be well on your way to your first (or your fastest) 10km run. I want to make sure that you stay injury free throughout your training so here are my favourite (and the most important) stretches to complete after each of your runs. As your running mileage increases you will start to notice your muscles becoming stiffer as well as a few aches and pains you may not have had prior to starting the program. By doing these simple stretches each day you should make it to the finish line injury free.
Hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds, but the longer you hold the stretch the more you will benefits you will gain. When stretching, you want the intensity to be 6 out of 10 for tension, meaning you should feel just a very gentle stretch in the muscle. If you push your stretches too much your body will resist the stretch and there will be no benefit to your muscles. Also, if possible, try to add one yoga class a week to your schedule; your body will thank you.
Doorframe Hamstring Stretch
When your hamstrings are tight they pull your pelvis into an anterior tilt which can cause back pain. Also, when a muscle is tight its range of motion becomes limited as well as its ability to produce power so not only are flexible muscles good for preventing pain and injury but also to make sure that you are getting the best muscle function that you can. To stretch your hamstring lie on your back with one leg positioned through the doorframe and one leg up on the door frame. If you stretch your leg (the one on the doorframe) while keeping it bent you will stretch the muscle belly, and if you keep your leg straight you will stretch the insertion of the muscle – both highly beneficial. I like to start with a bent knee and work on trying to straighten my leg up the door, repeating 10 times.
A tight glute and piriformis is my nemesis and I could spend all day in this stretch. Lie on your back with one leg bent with your foot positioned on the wall. Cross your other leg over, placing your ankle on the knee of the bent leg (making a “4”). You will feel a stretch in the glute of the crossed over leg. As your flexibility increases you can position yourself closer to the wall to intensify the stretch.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Tight hip flexors can cause back pain but also, when your hip flexors are tight, it will affect your ability to keep your hips forward while you run, affecting the efficiency of your running. To stretch your hip flexors place one knee on a mat and your other leg forward, with your knee bent and foot flat on the floor. Lean your hips forward until you feel a gentle stretch in your groin and make sure you are not arching your back as this will jam your back and cause pain. I like to place my hands on the floor, beside my foot, and really lean forward.
IT Band Rolling
Your IT bands (Iliotibial Bands) are fascia (thick and white connective tissue) that run down the outside of your legs from your hip, down to your knee (where it encases the knee cap) and then continues down to the ankle. This fascia becomes very tight (for many reasons) and because it is a fibrous tissue on the outside of your muscles it does not receive a lot of blood flow, therefore once it is tight it is hard to relax. Tight IT bands can cause knee pain and hip pain and can play havoc in any running program. To keep your IT bands as limber as possible you need to invest in a foam roller and do some self myofascial release. Lie on your side, placing the roller just below your hip joint and positioning your hips so that your top hip is just slightly ahead of your bottom hip. Keeping your upper body long, roll your thigh along the roller until it reaches the top of your knee joint and then roll back up to your hip. This hurts, there is no easy way around it, but you will feel so great when you are finished. Roll up and down 10 times on each side.