So you’re getting out there and running/walking/ wogging a couple of times a week, are you? Good for you! Have you added stretching and core work to your exercise routine?
Hold up a minute, you exclaim. I’m running/walking/ wogging a couple of times a week, isn’t that enough?
One thing we runners are notorious for neglecting is our stretching. It’s easy to forget…and I’m not sure why…maybe we’re anxious to get out there to run; or ready to hit the shower when we finish. New runners as well as seasoned ones are guilty of forgetting to stretch. However, abnormal tightness in muscles and tendons can be the cause of various running injuries.
And core work? Well, your core what keeps your torso upright when you run. Strengthening your abs, back and chest also improves balance and helps your lower body work with your upper body.
“Flexibility and core strength are two of the biggest factors to keep any runner healthy and running strong,” Coach Lauren Evans explains*. Coach Lauren encourages her athletes to implement stretching and core exercises into their training one to three times weekly.
Here are some stretches from Coach Lauren for both before and after your run.
Before the run
Stretching is best when muscle fibers are warm. Stretching cold muscle can result in small tears of muscle fibers and fascia, which can lead to pain and stiffness.
The best stretching for cold muscles is dynamic stretching. An example of dynamic stretching, says Coach Lauren, is the Leg Swing.
Stand next to a wall, with your weight on your left leg and your right hand on the wall for balance. Swing your right leg forward as high up as you can, and then backward as far as you can. Swing 10 repetitions on each leg.
Cross Body Flexion/Abduction
Facing the wall, lean slightly forward with both hands on the wall and your weight on your left leg. Swing your right leg to the left in front of your body, pointing your toes upward as your foot reaches its farthest point of motion. Then swing your leg back to the right as far as comfortable, again pointing your toes up as your foot reaches its final point of movement. Swing 10 repetitions on each leg.
During or after the run
Static stretches after your run help your muscles to heal and restore them to resting length. Within the first 15 minutes or so after your run is best.
This deep lunge is actually more of a range of motion stretch, and not a strength activity. Stand tall with both feet together (starting position). Keeping your back straight, lunge forward with the right foot approximately 1 to 1 1/2 yards. Your right thigh should be parallel with the ground, and your right lower leg vertical to the ground. Hold this position. Raise your left arm toward the sky, and perform a sideways lean toward your right leg, keeping your body upright. Hold this position. Do this for 5-10 repetitions, then repeat with your left leg.
Lie on your back with your right foot extended in the air. Loop a towel or rope around the bottom of your foot and hold both ends. Pull gently and hold for 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat three times, then switch legs.
Traditional Calf Stretch:
Stand facing the wall. With one leg straight behind you and the front leg bent, push slightly against the wall and hold for 15 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat three times, then switch legs.
Lauren’s “Continuous Core”
Even more than stretching, one of a runner’s least favorite things to do is core exercise. But again, core strength is essential for running healthy.
Continuous Core is performing a core workout for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then going right into the next core exercise with no rest in between.
“Your core is constantly activated when you are running, without rest,” Coach Lauren points out, “so why would you get to rest during a core-specific workout?”
Start with a goal of 2 minutes of continuous core, then progress to 3, minute by minute all the way to a maximum of 12 minutes. “I like to keep a target of 6 to 8 minutes of continuous core three times per week with my athletes,” Coach Lauren added.
Here are some examples of core exercises that you can use in a “continuous core” workout:
- Crunch with legs straight up, reaching for toes
- Reverse crunch
- Side crunch
- Front Plank
- Side Plank
- Supine Plank (tummy toward the sky)
- Hold push-up position
- Donkey kicks
- Fire hydrants
Regular stretching and core work will help keep you running healthy and strong! If you are interested in a personalized plan or have any questions, please contact Coach Lauren. Her email is: email@example.com .
*Lauren Evans has been working in the fitness industry since 2009. She has coached 100+ athletes of all ability levels and helped them achieve their goals. She is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a personal trainer and is currently obtaining her Level 3 certification with USA Track & Field, preparing her to coach national/Olympic level athletes. Lauren and her husband, Ryan, are the owners of Fizio, a locally owned fitness center and athlete recovery lounge located at 400 Mill Street, Reno, NV. For more information about Fizio, please visit FizioReno.com or stop by for a free trial day.