Whether your race is coming up soon or you’re just at the beginning of your training, stretching is integral to maintaining injury free training sessions and being at your best on race day.
Stretching is important to balance the tension that is created in your muscles when you use them. When you exercise you are contracting and shortening your muscles – stretching after exercise lengthens the muscles again.
If you’re running regularly and increasing your distance your muscles could be getting tighter than usual as you increase their load – you may be getting by without too much stretching currently but as you increase all other areas of your training you should also increase your stretching at the same time.
Below are some stretches that are good for running training at all levels.
There are 2 stretches for the calf – one with the leg straight which stretches the muscle called the Gastrocnemius which is the muscle we can see and the 2nd stretch is with the knee bent – this stretches the Soleus muscle which is underneath and does not cross the knee, you will feel the 2nd stretch lower in the calf closer to the ankle, you may need to bring the back foot closer to the front foot to effectively bend the knee and obtain a good stretch.
It’s not easy to stretch the ITB (Iliotibial band) as it doesn’t cross a joint that bends in that direction. The best way to loosen this tendon is to roll it out on a foam roller. You want to roll from the top of the thigh to the knee being careful not to go over the knee joint or the bony area at the top of the leg. When you 1st start using the foam roll it can be very uncomfortable but if you persist then it does become easier.
Plantar Fascia Rolling
If the bottom of your foot is feeling tight or sore either when you run or at any other time you could be feeling excess tension in your plantar fascia – you can use a small ball to roll from just below the toes to the front of the heel. As with the ITB rolling this can initially be quite uncomfortable but persistence will ease any discomfort you feel. Another good option if you are experiencing pain you can put a bottle of water in the freezer and roll your foot on that – this will help reduce any inflammation in the foot as well.
The hamstrings are the muscles at the back of your thigh, they attach from the bottom of your pelvis across the knee to the top of your calf. Tight hamstrings could contribute to knee pain or low back pain. Hamstrings can get tight through day to day activities of long periods of sitting. Place the heel up on a higher surface, in the picture I’m using a chair but if your hamstrings are tight a step or stair is plenty high enough. Bend at the hip towards your foot, taking care to keep your back straight will increase the effectiveness of the stretch.
Hip Flexor stretch
As with the hamstrings, the hip flexors can get tight from long periods of sitting. Stretching them can help lengthen your stride as you’ll have more hip extension. When you do this stretch make sure you tuck your bottom under to keep the muscle stretched. If you arch your back it shortens the muscle slightly and you won’t get the full benefit of the stretch. You will feel the stretch in the front of the groin area.
These are a few stretches that can help keep your muscles flexible during your training, when stretching make sure you only feel a gentle pull in the muscle and not to the point of pain. Hold the stretch for a count of 20 and then swap to the other side, if you feel the need to stretch for longer go back and forth between each side.
Find Out More
If you have sustained an injury or are in pain it is advisable to seek help from your healthcare practitioner.
If you would like to find out if Chiropractic care could help you please feel free to call for more information: 07582 907702