7 Great Stretches for Runners

I lied.

If you watch my Great Stretches for Runners video, you will very clearly hear me say this is a five to six minute routine. Yet, the total video is about 14 minutes long. How did that happen?

Well, aside from the introduction, I simply held the stretches longer that I’d planned. I wasn’t timing, just doing what felt right. Generally, you will want to hold static stretches about 10-30 seconds.  If you want to follow along with the video, you will probably be holding the stretches about 45 seconds. It’s still all good.

Stretch

Stretching can be a controversial topic, believe it or not. For years, we were told that stretching was vital, that we needed to be consistent, stretch before and after activity, that it would help prevent injuries. Then, we were told, no, there is really no evidence that stretching prevents injuries. And that static stretching before activity can inhibit performance, while dynamic stretching may help it. And even, though I can’t find a reference, which may tell you all you need to know about this statement’s veracity, that foam rolling can replace stretching.

Yet there is some evidence that regular static stretching can improve performance. And on a strictly subjective level, we tend to feel better when our bodies are strong and supple. So as a general rule, it is still a good idea to spend some time stretching at the end of your run.  In addition to your foam rolling (though that is a topic for another post).

7 Great Stretches for Runners

These are static stretches, which are perfect for after your run. Make sure that you warm up for at least 10 minutes before stretching.

Calf Stretch

How to do it: Stand, holding on to a chair or wall. Step back with your right leg, keeping your knee straight and your right heel pressed into the ground. Bend your left knee. Hold for 10-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Why it helps: Tight calves can lead to injuries such as shin splints, ankle pain, and plantar fasciitis.

Quadriceps Stretch

How to do it: Stand, holding onto a chair or wall if necessary for balance. Bend your right knee, grab your foot, and pull your heel in toward your buttocks. Stand straight, keeping your thighs and knees together.  Hold or 10-30 seconds. Repeat with the left leg.

Why it helps: It is important to have strong and flexible quads since these are the muscles that help lift your knees and increase your speed.

Hip Flexor Stretch

How to do it: Start from a kneeling position. Step forward with your right leg, so that your knee is bent to about 90 degrees. Placing your hands on your right thigh, press forward over the right leg, pushing your hips forward slightly. You should feel the stretch at the top of your left thigh. Hold for 10-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Why it helps: Many runners have tight hip flexors, caused by the small repetitive motion of running, and aggravated by weak glutes. Glute strengthening exercise are important too, as tight hip flexors lead to poor posture, and potentially hip and low back pain.

Hamstrings Stretch

How to do it: Lie on your back. Put a strap around the ball of your right foot and lift the leg up, keeping your knee straight if possible. Straighten your left leg on the mat. If you are very tight, you can bend your right knee slightly. Gently pull your leg toward you, holding for 10-30 seconds. Complete the IT Band stretch next. Then repeat both on the left leg.

Why it helps: Tight hamstrings can lead to back pain, cause poor posture, shorten your stride, and lead to pulled muscles.

 IT Band Stretch

How to do it: From the hamstrings stretch, take the strap in your left hand. Take your right arm out to the side (T-position). Keeping your knee straight, and your right hip pressed firmly into the ground, slowly lower the leg to the left. I’ll repeat, keep your right hip pressed into the ground, otherwise this stretch will not be as effective. Hold for 10-30 seconds, then repeat the sequence on the left side.

Why it helps: The Illiotibial (IT) band starts at the hip and runs down the outside of your leg. If it is tight, it can begin to rub on the outside of your kneecap, potentially leading to pain in your knee.

Hip Stretch

How to do it: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Lift both legs, grabbing your left thigh and pull toward your chest. Use your right elbow to push gently on your right knee. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Why it helps: Tight hips, common in runners, can lead to pain and injury. Every time you stride, you pull your hip forward, and every time your foot hits the ground, you abruptly put a stop to that motion. Flexible hips can make your running stride feel easier and more relaxed.

Piriformis Stretch

How to do it: Lie on your back with your left leg straight on the mat and your right leg elevated at a 90 degree angle and the knee bent at 90 degrees. Take your right arm out to the side (T-position). Use your left hand to gently bring your right knee toward the ground. Keep your right shoulder on the mat. Hold for 10-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Why it helps: If the piriformis becomes too tight, it can irritate the sciatic nerve, which can lead to glute, low back, and leg pain.

There are, of course, many different ways to stretch these particular muscles. If any of the above stretches cause you pain, you should try an alternative. Never stretch a muscle to the point of pain.

Do you stretch after your workout? Do you have a favorite stretch?

Fitness Friday: #Cathe XTrain “Super Cuts.” A Review

I want to tell you that I go way back with Cathe Friedrich. Back to the days of leotards, the beginning of step aerobics, of home exercise videos.

Cathe Video review

Back then, Cathe’s workouts were hard. She had creative, tough moves that really pushed me to my limit. At that time in my life, I did all my workouts at home, had a huge video collection, and Cathe’s were some of my favorites.While I’m sure she had beginner and less difficult workouts, I always wanted to work hard and Cathe’s videos delivered.

Did you know that Cathe Friedrich created one of the first step aerobics videos? Yes, Cathe recognized the need for affordable, convenient, at home workout options, and created her Step n’ Motion series.

Once I started running regularly, I stopped using videos to exercise. I sold many of my old VCR tapes, moved my workout to the gym and to the road. I kind of missed the convenience of an at-home workout though.  So I was excited to have an opportunity to try out and review one of Cathe’s new XTrain series DVDs, Super Cuts.

SuperX

The first thing I discovered is that Cathe’s workouts are still hard. Oh my gosh, this was challenging. Truthfully, my bad knee just wasn’t up to the many squats, lunges, and other lower body moves. That didn’t stop me from giving it my best, though.

For the Super Cuts workout, you need dumbbells (a couple different sizes–Cathe used 5 & 8 pound weights as the handy graphic informed me at each exercise change), Slide N Glide discs (I happen to have a couple, but in a pinch you can use paper plates), medium resistance tubing, a firewalker loop (basically a wide rubber band that can used around your thighs), and two dixie cups, which are picked up and placed back down during one of Cathe’s lunging sequences.

In spite of my wonky knee, I really loved this workout. The exercises were original and fun (and did I mention they were hard?). Two things I really like: the women that were working out with Cathe were working hard, you could see by the expressions on their face (I felt like they were sharing my pain workout). I also liked that on certain exercises, Cathe tells us to ignore the beat of the music to concentrate on form and movement.

The main workout is about 45 minutes, including the warm up, cool down and stretch. During that time, I worked every muscle in my body, until my arms and legs were shaking. As a bonus, there are two extra core workouts. I love that if I’m short of time, I can just complete a core workout that will challenge me.

I’m really excited that I have found my way back to Cathe. These workouts will be perfect when I’m short of time, can’t make it to the gym, or when I’m just looking for a fun, challenging workout. Enjoy a little clip from Cathe’s Super Cuts workout:

Do you ever use exercise videos?

I received a copy of Cathe’s XTrain Super Cuts DVD free of charge. All opinions are my own.

Thursday Thoughts: The Price of Racing

I was inspired to make this vlog after reading this post about the high cost of racing,  over on Marcia’s Healthy Slice, “How Much is Too Much?” In it Marcia discusses the rising cost of race registrations. That got a spirited conversation going in the comment section (including my own rant, which I am reproducing in the video).

Thursday Thoughts

Another post caught my attention this week, The $500 Marathon, from Health on the Run, discussing the plan the New York Roadrunner’s Club finally decided on to resolve the issues surrounding the cancellation of the 2012 New York City Marathon due to Hurricane Sandy. One of the options: they keep your money and your  receive a guaranteed spot in the 2013 or 2014 NYC Marathon for only, you’ve got it, $500 (or more if they choose to raise prices on either of those races).

Anyway, if you haven’t gathered my feelings from the tone of my writing, please enjoy the video.

What do you thing about race prices? Would you pay a (really) high price for a premium marathon?

Thursday Thoughts

Hello and welcome to my new theme day, Thursday Thoughts. I plan to Vlog every week about a variety of topics. Sometimes I will talk about a specific thing, like veganism, a product that I love, or food (yes, I love to talk about food). Other times I may just ramble and talk about things that are on my mind, that I want to share with you. I hope you will take a moment to listen and tell me your thoughts about each topic.

Episode 1: On Being a Grandma

Thursday Thoughts

Why I Need a @GoPro

A couple of days ago, I saw a video that inspired me. It was on Just A Colorado Gal’s blog and it was a video of Heather’s experience in the Warrior Dash. It was well done, great clarity and color, and considering she was running, jumping, and climbing, not to mention sloshing through mud, there was very little shake. It was beautifully edited by a friend, and it was an all around excellent video that really made you feel like you were there.

Her great video was taken with a Go Pro, an awesome little camera that you can mount on your body, helmet, handlebars, dashboard, wherever, and take fabulous, in the moment pictures and videos.

As I said, I was inspired. Of course, I don’t have a Go Pro, so I strapped my Iphone to my arm, turned on the video camera, and went for a run. The results were, um, uninspiring.

(I know this is bad. You won’t hurt my feelings by telling me so.)

I really need a Go Pro.

Sunrise

This inspired me too.

To see Heather’s video, click here.

Do you have a Go Pro? Aren’t they cool? Do you ever try to video while you’re actively participating in an event?