Furious Stretching

Last year, my wife and I had a membership to a local gym. It was open 24 hours a day, which is why we chose that one, but it was home to some serious weightlifters. There were several times I’d be running and, over the sound of my headphones, hear grunting and groaning. It reminded me of that Planet Fitness commercial advertising a “lunk-free zone”!

My typical workout routine usually went:

  1. Walk for 10 minutes at about 3.5-4mph.
  2. Stretch for 5 minutes.
  3. Run.
  4. Cool down for 5 minutes.
  5. Stretch for 5 minutes.

A typical 3 mile run would mean I spent about an hour at the gym. During that time, I’d see many people come and go. What always surprised me was the lack of stretching going on.

I know I’m getting older, because I see the benefits of stretching more these days. When I would run as a high school or college student, stretching seemed just a waste of time. I look back on those days and am amazed I didn’t suffer more injuries.

Stretching is critical to keeping me injury free. If I don’t stretch, my muscles are tight, my gait is off, and I’m very sore the next day. A good, thorough stretching routine saves me lots of headache later.

So, what stretches to do I typically use? I try to stretch out every muscle in my lower body using the following moves (thanks to my lovely wife and children for helping me take the pics):

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Stretching muscles that aren’t warmed up is not very useful, in my experience. Before stretching, I take a few minutes to move those muscles. Even if I don’t do anything intense, just getting them moving will increase the blood flow and improve their stretch-ability. Stretching cold muscles can also lead to injury, so I put a short warm-up in my routine.

Stretching after/during my cool down is the most effective. I found a significant improvement in how I felt the day after a big run if I spent more time stretching. Since my muscles are already warm and loose, it lets me get even deeper into the stretch. Plus, it’s a very relaxing way to end a hard workout.

I highly recommend considering a good stretching routine to add before and after your runs. I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of the many ways to stretch out. If you have any suggestions for me, or the other readers here, please feel free to leave them in the Comments!

Happy Running!

Tony

What Stretches do you like to use to warm up or cool down? Do you do dynamic stretching, or just static stretching? Do you enjoy stretching as much as me?!

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