Warm up, shawm up….that’s what I used to say back in the day when I first started getting into fitness! And 6 or 7 years ago I did a lot more running then too! If only knew then what I know now! I have the tightest hip flexors and a bit of wonky hip –all improving now with correct, consistent stretching and always ….warming up and cooling down, whenever I exercise.
So for starters, nothing can derail your fitness goals like an injury….BOOOOOOO. It is super important to get those muscles nicely stretched and warm before starting your run Solemothers-no matter what the distance! I know time is often of the essence for many of you, often with just tiny windows to fit your legendary runs in …But believe me I have learned the hard way in the past . Diving into training and ditching stretching/warming up properly to cut corners and save time- it’s NOT worth it. Warming up for any exercise is warming up is just important as the main exercise in itself! It helps to keep your muscles flexible, improve range of movement and prevents injury – all helping you to be consistent, make progress and improve your all round performance!
It is all about getting in a routine and a habit with your stretching before and after the runs!
Here are some of my top stretches and tips for you getting you super stretched and warm ready for your runs!….
Warm Up Routine & Stretches
Starting your run with a 5-minute jog followed by stretching helps warm up your muscles so they’re primed for your run. Focus on stretching the major muscle groups you’ll be using — quads, hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors — and don’t forget moves that also warm up your abs, back and calf muscles.
STATIC OR DYNAMIC STRETCHES?
Most experts agree that dynamic stretches (stretches that incorporate movement and take your joints through their full range of motion) are better for pre-run warm-ups than static still stretches that you hold for extended periods. An active warm-up incorporating dynamic stretches better prepares your muscles for the activity to follow.
Not only do walking lunges open up the major muscle groups you’ll be using during your run — the quads and hip flexors — but they also simulate the forward motion of running, which makes them great as a warm-up stretch!
KNEELING HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
If you work at a desk all day, you probably have tight hip flexors, because they’re constantly in a state of flexion. This makes it extra important to stretch them properly before you work out!
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a lunge position with your front knee at 90 degrees. Begin to straighten your back leg, so you feel a stretch along the front of your back thigh. Keep your front knee aligned over your toes. Raise your arms up over your head and hold for a few seconds, then release. Continue in a dynamic motion, shifting forward as you raise your arms up, then lowering your arms as you come back to the starting position. Repeat 5 times and then switch sides.
Side stitches are a common complaint among runners. Great news….you can help prevent them by stretching your torso before running. You can do this from a standing position, or, you can add a side stretch to a kneeling hip flexor stretch.
HOW TO DO IT: Bring your arms up over your head and, keeping your abdominals tight, lean to the right and then to the left, bending at the waist. This is going to work lateral flexion of the torso, which helps open up the hip flexors in a side-to-side range of motion. Do this movement dynamically, holding for one or two breaths on each side to warm up the muscles of the midsection.
DYNAMIC PIGEON POSE
One of my personal favourites!….The pigeon pose stretches the glutes and the iliotibial, or IT, band that runs along the outer thigh. This is a great, deep stretch for the booty!
HOW TO DO IT: To get into this pose, fold your right knee in front of you on the floor so your knee is pointing out to the right slightly and the outside of your thigh and shin are on the floor. Extend your left leg behind you, keeping your leg straight and the top of your thigh, shin and foot on the ground. You want to make sure that your hips stay level. Make the stretch dynamic by adding in a torso twist. Bring your right hand up behind your right ear, then twist to your left so your elbow comes across your body. Repeat several times, then switch sides.
Ladies!….your hips bear a lot of the brunt while you’re running, so opening up the joints and muscles of that area before hitting the pavement is SO important and can also help to prevent injuries. A few minutes of hip circles are an easy way to do this.
HOW TO DO THEM: I’m sure you have all done a few cheeky hip circles before-but here is a quick refresher!….
Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart. Begin to circle your hips in one direction, almost as if you’re hula-hooping. Make the circles wider and wider until you’re working your full range of motion. After about 6 to 10 rotations in one direction, switch directions. To deepen the stretch, for one round pause briefly at the front, back, left and right points in the circle.
Warm up and stretch all the major muscles of your legs by lunging in all directions. These are always a killer for me and it requires a lot of concentration!!
HOW TO DO THEM: Start with your left leg stationary and lunge backward with your right foot, holding the stretch for a moment, then come back to centre and lunge forward with your right foot. Follow with a side lunge, lunging out to your right and holding for a moment. Last in the rotation, do a curtsey lunge. You do this by bringing your right leg behind your left leg and bending your knees as if you’re curtseying. Repeat this lunge pattern five times, then switch sides, lunging with your left leg. It is important that you work every plane of motion. This helps to keep the hips as open as possible.
Every time your foot leaves the ground during a run, your calf muscles contract to make that happen. Give them some pre-run love by doing a simple dynamic calf raise.
HOW TO DO THEM: Stand on the edge of a stair/step/curb facing in, so that only the balls of your feet are on the stair and your heels are hanging over the edge. Hold onto a stair rail for balance, if necessary. Rise up on your toes, then slowly lower your heels so that they come below the stair and you feel a stretch through your calf muscle. Hold the stretch for a moment and then rise up again and repeat. You can also do the stretch on one foot at a time.
Another quality name for a stretch guys…hehe!…
Open up your hip flexors and quadriceps with a dynamic version of this classic stretch. Use a wall for support or challenge your balance by performing the stretch without support.
HOW TO DO IT: Bend your right knee and grab your right foot or ankle from the outside. Pull your foot in toward your right buttock and hold it there for a count of 10. Repeat 3 to 5 times and switch sides. Try keeping your torso upright and your head and shoulders aligned over your hips during the stretch. You don’t need to crank it back as hard as you can. It’s also important to not overstretch before your workout. Just take the stretch to the point where you feel resistance, not pain or discomfort.
Cool Down Stretches After Running
These little crackers are just as important as your warm up stretches Solemothers!! Here’s why!….
Cooling down after a run allows your heart rate to slow down gradually. Stretching your muscles not only helps prevent soreness and injury, it also gives you time to congratulate yourself for getting through a difficult workout!
So as I said earlier in my ‘Warm Up’ top tips:
Dynamic stretches are your best ones for warming up as static stretching before a run can cause muscle strain, so save such stretches for afterwardS, when your muscles are warmed!
Walk it Off
Transition from running to stretching with an easy jog and then a walk. The length of time you take for cooling down depends on the length and intensity of your run — after a half-hour jog, slow your pace for three to five minutes. After a harder run, cool down for five to ten minutes. If you’re running outdoors, you might choose to perform stride drills as you cool down. Drills can include lifting your knees high with each step, kicking your feet up toward your butt with each step and swinging your arms high while skipping. Perform each drill two to four times for at least 40-50 meters.
After you’ve slowed from running to walking, perform static leg stretches.
Why do it?
The stronger your muscles are the tighter they will feel which is why it is so important to stretch.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your left side. Grab hold of your right ankle with your right hand and pull your heel towards your bottom until you feel the stretch through your front thigh. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before changing over to the other side.
If you can’t reach your ankle grab hold of your shoe or your leggings.
Why do it?
Supple hamstrings are very important to prevent injuries in your knees, hips and lower back.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the floor with your left leg straight and your right leg bent. Reach forward with your left hand and aim to touch your toes. Hold the position for 30 seconds before changing over to the right.
Only reach as far forward as you feel comfortable. Over-stretching can cause injuries.
Piriformis (muscle underneath your bottom!)
Why do it?
Tightness in your Piriformis can cause irritation to the sciatic nerve. This is called Piriformis Syndrome.
HOW TO DO IT: Keep your right leg bent and your left leg stretched out behind you while laying on your stomach on the floor. Lower your head towards the ground and stretch your arms out in front of you. Hold the position for 30 seconds on each side to develop your flexibility.
Don’t over stretch. Hold the stretch and once it has eased off try to stretch a bit further.
Why do it?
Tightness though your bottom can lead to pain in your hips or bottom.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back. Place your left foot on your right knee. Keep your right leg at a right angle. Hold your right leg and pull your legs in towards your chest. You should feel a stretch in your left buttocks. Hold the position for 30 seconds before changing over to the right. Keep your head relaxed on the ground.
Achilles ( lower part of your calf)
Why do it?
Running can tighten up the tendon that connects your calf muscle to your foot. Tightness can lead to different injuries in the Achilles’ tendon, in your ankle.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your left foot slightly in front of your right. Ensure that your toes are pointing straight forward. Bend your knees and sit back onto your right leg. Push your right heel onto the ground. Hold the position for 30 seconds before changing over to the left. Keep your back straight and look forward.
So there we are guys!…There is a lot of info in here, so just to summarise for you ….
Dynamic and Static stretching can drop off the training plan for many reasons…but often it is a lack of time! But it is so important for the reasons I have covered in this feature! Try, if you don’t do already to integrate this routine into your weekly training schedule. The more flexible you are, the more progress you’ll make, and the less likely you are to suffer from soreness, stiffness or injury post run. Get stretching!!! Any questions or further info on this, please feel free to drop me a line either on my @fitforlifeptbashers Facebook Page or email me direct @ellenbashforth.gmail.com.