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Stretching for Running
Before beginning any exercise, it is important for your muscles to be ready to go. It is important to stretch for any major exercise, but it is especially important in running. Many runners, especially those who work or have other priorities, think that stretching takes too much time. I will admit, there have been times when I get off work on a Friday night, and I want to rush my workout before heading to Friday night fun. But…I still take the time, however quickly, to warm up--and stretch. Injuries are just not worth it. Muscle pain is just not worth it. Warm Up. Your warm up should take at least five minutes. Light jogging, or walking depending on your level. Shake your muscles out, and break a light sweat. Never stretch cold muscles. Some stretches can be performed both standing and sitting. I have competed in road races that have started in busy downtown streets. I have seen average people who would not be caught dead sitting on a busy public sidewalk on a normal day sitting in the road stretching. In that case, I would personally stand and stretch, but to each their own. What Runners Should Focus On Calf (back of lower leg). Place your hands against a wall (car, tree, fence…). Place one leg further back, while keeping your other leg in place. Lean towards the wall, allowing the calf muscle on your leg to stretch. Repeat for both legs. Hold stretch for at least 30 seconds. Quadriceps (front of thigh). While standing. Bend one knee, and grab that leg with your hand, while balancing on the opposite foot. Pull your foot back until you feel your Quads getting stretched. Repeat for both legs. Hold stretch for at least 30 seconds. Hamstrings (back of thigh). While standing. Bend over, and try to touch your toes. This stretch will also stretch your back. You can re-position your legs to focus on certain points of the Hams. You can also sit on the ground, separate your legs into a “V,” and reach out and touch your toe, alternating between legs. Hold stretch for at least 30 seconds. Upper-body. While standing hold your arms outstretched. And rotate your arms around. You might think that upper-body looseness is not important in running. Sure, until you are fighting a shoulder cramp mile after mile. Rotate arms in concentric circles for at least 30 seconds. During Your Workout. If you feel the need to, stretch during your workout. I have felt muscle strain, and have stopped my run to stretch that muscle group. I have also seen people stop in long races to stretch out. Warm-down. Always finish your workout with a light warm-down, and light stretching. This will reduce muscle soreness for your next workout. If you are in a hurry to get through your workout, and forget your warm-down, you will pay for it later.
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