Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pre-Run Stretches.

For the upcoming year, I will be focusing on Flexibility as one of my 4 pillars (yah, I know companies have pillars too, so not the most original idea, lol).

There are 18 stretches that I will be focusing on 9 before and 9 after running. As people get older, stretching can actually injure you if you don't ease into it. I will make sure not to overdo it and save my energy for when I am actually running.

Here are the Pre-Run Stretches:

SHOULDER SHRUG: First, raise the top of your shoulders toward your ears, until you feel a slight tension in your neck and shoulders. Hold for 5 seconds. Then relax shoulders downward. Think: "Shoulders hang, shoulders down."

FOREARM STRETCH: Start in a standing position with your knees slightly flexed and your feet about sholder-width apart. Hold your right elbow with your left hand. To stretch the armpit area and shoulder move the back of your head back against your right arm, until a mild stretch is felt. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Do both sides.

ARMS BACK FINGER INTERLACING STRETCH: Slowly turn your elboys inward while straightening your arms. This stretches the shoulders, arms and chest. Hold for 5-10 seconds.

If that is fairly easy, then lift your arms up behind you until you feel a stretch in the arms, shoulders, or chest. Hold an easy stretch for 5-10 seconds. This is good to do when you find yourself slumping forward from the shoulders. Keep your chest out and chin in. This stretch can be done at any time.

CALF STRETCH: Stand a little way from a solid support and lean on it, with your forearms, head resting on hands. Bend one leg and place your foot on the ground in front of you, with the other leg straight behind. Slowly move your hips forward keeping your lower back flat. Be sure to keep the heel of the straight leg on the ground, with toes pointed straight ahead of slightly turned in. Hold an easy stretch for 10-15 seconds. Do not bounce. Now stretch the other leg.

QUAD & KNEE STRETCH: Hold the top of your right foot with your left hand and gently pull your heel toward your buttocks. The knee bends at a natural angle when you hold your foot with the opposite hand. This is good to use in knee rehabilatation and with problem knees. Hold up to 10-20 seconds for each leg.

Variation: This stretch can also be done lying on your stomach. Be sure to stretch without pain. Reach behind you with you hand and hold the top of your opposite foot between the ankle joint and toes. Gently pull your heel toward the middle of your buttocks. Hold for 10-15 seconds.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have knee problems, be very careful with these stretches.

LOWER BACK & HAMSTRING STRETCH: Contract-Relax-Stretch. Next, assume a bent-knee position with your heels flat, toes pointed straight ahead, and feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold for 30 seconds. In this bent-knee position, you are contracting the quadriceps and relaxing the hamstrings. The primary function of the quadriceps is to straighten the leg. The basic function of the hamstrings is to bend the knee. Because these muscles have opposing actions, contracting the quadriceps will relax the hamstrings.

As you hold this bent-knee position, feel the difference between the front and the back of your thigh. The quadriceps should feel hard and tight, while the hamstrings should feel soft and relaxed. It's easier to stretch the hamstrings if they are first relaxed.

After holding the bent-knee position, stand up and then bend down again with knees slightly bent (1 inch). Don't bounce. You probably can go a little father already. Hold about 10-15 seconds.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Stretching is not competitive. You may well not be able to touch your toes. The point is for you to get more flexible, not to stretch as far as others.

FRONT HIP STRETCH: To stretch the muscles in the front of the hip (iliopsoas), move one leg forward until the knee of the forward leg is directly over the ankle. Your other knee should be resting on the floor. Now, without changing the position of the knee on the floor or the forward foot, lower the fron of your hip downward to create an easy stretch. Hold for 15-20 seconds. You should feel this stretch in the front of the hip and possibly in the hamstrings and groin.

Stetching for 10-20 minutes in the evening is a good way to keep your muscles well tuned. so you feel good the next morning. If you have any tight areas, or soreness, stretch these areas before retiring (or while watching TV) and feel for yourself the difference the next morning.

Do not have you knee forward of the ankle. This will hinder the proper stretching of the hip and legs. The greater distance there is between the back knee and the heel of the front foot, the easier it is to stretch the hips and legs.

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