Stretching for Runners Part 2
By Marie-Catherine Bruno, BScPT, Cped(C).
This is Part 2 of an article on stretching. In the last article we focused on the lower body. There are a few leg stretches left to cover, and then we move up to the upper body.
Remember: The hatched area represents where you should feel the stretch. Just bear with me!
Those are the small muscles running on the outside of your leg. They are the ones that can save your ankle from a sprain. They are difficult to stretch as they require more ankle movement than possible, therefore they have to be stretched using the chain approach (a chain is a group of muscles that overlap and slightly interact with each other via tendon and fascia expansions). Hold on to a tree, lean forward and stick your buttocks out (your back should be parallel to the ground) – figure 9. Then gently roll your ankles so that you are standing on the outside of your feet – figure 10, a view from behind– so that you are standing on the outside of your feet.
Those are your big butt muscles (not your big-butt muscles!). They attach on your spine and pelvis and go down to your hip. They tend to work really hard on climbs and during sprints. To stretch them, sit down on the ground (nothing like getting a bit muddy before the race to intimidate the adversary), cross one leg over so that your foot is next to your opposite knee, and gently bring the knee of the bent leg towards your body – figure 11. Make sure that both your cheeks (you know which ones!) stay on the ground.
They are located deep in your buttocks. Just like the gluteus muscles, they go from your spine to your hip. When tight, they can put pressure on your sciatic nerve and create sciatica symptoms. Very important to stretch, especially amongst road runners where the harder impact makes them tighten up faster. Sit down and bend your knees. Cross your legs so that your ankle is resting on your opposite knee. You may already feel the stretch at that point. If not, bring your knee towards your body – figure 12.
Located in your chest, they are responsible for horizontal movements of your arms. They run from your sternum to your shoulder. Grab a hold of a tree with your arm completely extended – figure 13. Then turn your body away from the tree – figure 14 - until you feel the stretch in your upper chest.
They are responsible for elbow and shoulder flexion. They run from your shoulder to just below your elbow. In orienteering, they help you pull yourself up on very steep hills when using tree branches or roots. Join your hands in the back, palms facing up. Then bring your arms up, as far as you can go – figure 15.
They are mainly responsible for elbow extension, like when you are sitting at the top of a fence and you have to push yourself away to jump off. Bring your arm up so that your hand is resting on the back of your opposite shoulder (nothing like a good pat on the back before a race!). Use your other hand to gently push your elbow up and back, until you feel the stretch – figure 16.
So now that you know all of the magic behind it, I hope you will warm up, stretch and cool down when you are racing or training. For the warm up part, you will need to get started 30-45 minutes before race time in order to do it properly. It is also a good moment where you should focus on your upcoming race, review your race plan and calm down before the start.
For the cool down, may I recommend that the minute you cross the finish line, you move away from the crowd, drink some water, and start your cool down right away? Because I can assure you that if you head straight to the result board and start discussing your route choices, cool down is now history…think about it.