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Monday, August 9, 2010

I will help!

In almost every running magazine I read there's always a question about the effectiveness of stretching and let me tell you...I PROMISE it makes a difference. I've been able to increase my stride length with my running which has boosted my pace. It's how and what you stretch that has a positive/negative result.

#1 Rule - NEVER stretch a cold muscle. You're more likely to tear the muscle and do more damage than good. To warm up a muscle go for a slow jog, take a warm bath, or apply a heating pad (moist heat is best but just be cautious so you don't burn yourself). I don't ever stretch before my run. I take the first mile as a warm up so I can literally can warm-up the muscles and then I go for my run whatever my goal may be for the day. Then AFTER my run is when I hit the stretching.

#2 Rule - Don't bounce! This actually can cause the muscle to tense up and also can lead to a tear. Just hold the stretch for 30-40 seconds and as the muscle relaxes you can slowly stretch further.

Important muscles to stretch for running/walking. Click on the muscle for a link on how to stretch.

Hip Flexors

Even if your not a runner these stretches make a huge difference especially later in life. As I worked in physical therapy I spent A LOT of my time with the older generation (75+ years) many of whom I was helping to walk again after an injury or just plain regression in health. The main culprit that kept them from walking...tight (or shortened) muscles. For example, when the calve muscles are shortened it pulls the heel chord tight making it hard to get the foot flat on the floor. This results in unstable walking and leads to a higher risk of a fall which is ofter why the elderly stop trying to walk. It's a fear of falling that makes them lose a lot of independence.

By keeping these muscles lengthened through proper stretching not only will help increase your stride length, prevent a muscle injury, or help with muscle soreness, it also will help you later in life as the muscles tend to tighten as we get older. So just extend your fitness routine by a few minutes and squeeze in a couple stretches. Your muscles will thank you.

See you on the road!


Trainer T.s Fitness said...

Great article on stretch!

I have found that it is more and more important as I age. I never used to take the time out and felt like I needed to burn calories instead (or stress).

Now that I am in my late 40's I can really feel that all the yoga and stretch I have added to my routines has improved all areas of my fitness.

Thanks I am going to share this blog with my runner friends,

Glenn Jones said...

One thing that is interesting is my son (who was training with some world class rowers last year) never stretched until post workout. For sure - they would spend a lot of time warming up (rowing 5K for example), but the stretching always came in the cool down phase of their workout. What's the current view on that?

Karen said...

You know, I always knew you were supposed to stretch but wasn't really sure why (us that dumb of me?)..... It makes sense that it would improve your stride now that you mention it. I might have to give stretching more of a try!

Katie @ Health for the Whole Self said...

So true, and such important information! I used to have to force myself to stretch, but I've gotten much better at it because I can see/feel what a difference it makes.