Stretching! I never stretch enough and recently have been paying the price. So…I thought I would share some of the reasons why stretching is so good for you and why runners need to do it, EVERY DAY.
Stretching helps to elongate the muscles and keep them from shortening. You know that tight feeling you get after a good hard run? I feel it in my calves and hamstrings. I haven’t been stretching and I suddenly noticed my pace slowing and my stride shortening. This resulted in slower race times and injuries. Yes, tight hip flexors and calf muscles have created all sorts of problems for me. So what is the solution? According to my physical therapist, a lot of my ailments can be attributed to my tight muscles, which means I need to stretch more. Even 15 minutes a day of light stretching can make a huge difference. Hold static calf stretches, shoulder stretches, runner’s lunges and pigeon pose to ease soreness and release the tissues.
After a recent track workout I took the time to do 15 minutes of stretching with my upper and lower body. Find the tight, sore muscles and hold these stretches for a little longer. Runner’s lunge and butterfly stretches are great hip openers. Be sure to keep your spin healthy and flexible as well with some seated twists and rotational poses. A foam roller can also be great for releasing tension in sore muscles. You can pick one up at any local running store, or even Target and Wal-Mart have great options that won’t break the bank.
Massage is also great for relaxing the muscles and healing sore spots. Find a good sports massage therapist and try to get a massage at least once a month. It is worth it! I use to avoid them because of the cost, but it is worth every penny for me to stay healthy and injury free. Plus they just feel amazing and help melt away my work and life stresses.
The bottom line is that recovery is just as important as working hard on the track, road, trail or in the gym. Get a routine that you can follow to keep your body loose, relaxed and injury free. My recipe is a mix of hard work, stretching, massage and sleep! What are you waiting for – go stretch it out!