‘Tis the season for not only the holidays but also to break out those running shoes, get out on the roads, and log some miles to prep for the busy running season here in Arizona. Whether you’re prepping for a local 5k or Phoenix Marathon, it is important to stay healthy. It is tough enough to find time to get in those runs, so who has time for stretching? You would be surprised how far a 10-15 minute stretching routine can go to help keep you on the road and off the treatment table. I am going to lay out some simple and easy stretches that can help to keep you in one piece this holiday season.
When is the best time to stretch?
Research has shown that static stretching (holding stretches for long periods of time) is best performed after running. The stretches should feel comfortable and you should be able to relax while doing them, not gritting your teeth. I am a big advocate of stretching straps — which can be purchased at running and sporting goods stores or, of course, online. If you do not want to invest in straps, you can use a large beach towel, rope, or a belt. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get stretching!
Everyone knows this classic stretch and there are many ways to do it. My favorite is with a stretch-out strap and is pictured below. To get the most out of the stretch, hold it for 30 seconds and keep the leg as straight as possible. Hold once you feel a comfortable stretch behind the knee and posterior aspect of the thigh.
This is a group of several muscles that travel along the inside of the thigh. This area is often left out of stretching programs, but it is important to have balanced flexibility on either side of the knee. We will bring back the stretching strap for this one. Lay on your back with your legs straight. Loop the strap around one of your feet and lift your leg up and out to the side until you feel a stretch in your groin muscle. Make sure this stretch is comfortable so you do not strain the groin.
These muscles form a long, thick band that runs along the lateral — outside — part of the thigh. Excessive tightness here can cause a lot of pain and irritation to the outside of the knee. Place the leg you are stretching behind the other one. Keep your foot on the floor and push your hips out to the side of your front leg until you feel a stretch in the outer hip. This stretch should be felt along the outside thigh and possibly the buttocks as well.
This is another stretch that everybody knows but is often performed wrong. The key to this one is making sure that you do not bend forward at the waist. Keep an upright posture with your chest and upper back.
Responsible for raising the knee towards the chest, if these muscles are tight they will limit your leg extension and prevent you from elongating your stride. Like the quadriceps stretch, keep your chest upright and do not bend forward at the waist. You should feel the stretch in the front of your hip.
Located in the back of your lower leg, these muscles span from your heel to the back of your knee. Lean against a wall, and while keeping your knee straight and your heel on the ground, lean forward and maintain a comfortable pull. You will feel this anywhere between the heel and the knee.
If you’re a runner, it’s important to stretch before you peel off your running shoes and hit the shower. Unfortunately, injuries can still happen. If you do find yourself with some pain that won’t quit, schedule an appointment and we’ll help you to get back into tip-top shape!