The Stretch Run

Runner stretchingOnce in awhile we have the need to get away from the high-intensity training runs to visit our joyful and comforting healing runs. One day a week should be reserved for a gentle healing run. The class of run that brings us back to our childhood memories of having fun while exploring different worlds in the neighborhoods. The comfort session we are going to focus on is named the stretch run. The importance of this run is to focus on flexibility giving secondary grandness to the actual run. The goal is to improve flexibility, strength, and healing that the art of stretching provides. Think of it as a flexibility class on the run.

First, let’s revisit the importance of flexibility. Muscles need time to warm-up in order to perform correctly. If forced into action while cold and not limber they can tear. Running is a sport that requires the athlete to be diligent and consistent in the care of the muscles so as to avoid injuries, sprains or tears. This responsibility requires a type of warm-up that consists of stretching. Safely stretching the muscles before and after each run is crucial. If the muscles are too tight, injuries are likely to occur as well as the range of motion is declined.

The muscles are activated to contract and push in order to produce the action of running. The tighter the muscle the less mobility of movement, which can cause injury if the movement is beyond what the muscle is prepared. The same situation can hinder pace. A long repetitive motion of this action is essentially like a rubber band being expanded and contracted several times. Once it’s wound too tight, it can eventually snap if not unfolded properly. Therefore the action of stretching needs to be done pre and post the run.

The more flexible your muscles are the more range of motion is expected. The more range of motion allows for an easier stride which produces faster speeds and frequent turnover rates. So the science of flexibility does not just hinder injuries, it affects PR’s.  

Example of the stretch run:

The foundation of the stretch run can be constructed with any distance in mind. I like the five-mile distance. This distance allows for a good amount of time to stretch leaving adequate time on the feet. Think in terms of one-mile increments. Run the first mile at a slow pace then stop for your first round of stretching. Divide your stretches up into four parts performing two different stretches per session. One-mile distance then stop for your two stretch routines. Run the next mile and stop for your next two routines. Repeat the stretch stops four times, which should conclude the run with eight stretch routines ending with a one-mile run to the finish. Please treat this run as an easy run, and do not focus on the running economy, but focus on the peace and stretch economy. Your goal is enjoyment and flexibility. Below is a refresher of the Core- 3 stretches one can incorporate in the stretch run. Also, choose many more stretches that are your favorite for this run.

CORE-3 Stretches

The standing quad stretch

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, pull your abdominals in, and relax your shoulders.
  • Bend your left leg, bringing your heel toward your butt, and grasp your left foot with your right hand.
  • Then switch legs

The standing calf stretch

  • The Stand about an arm’s-length from the wall.
  • Lean forward and place both hands on the wall about shoulder width apart.
  • Extend one foot (the side to be stretched) behind you with heel on the ground and one foot closer to the wall.
  • Lean into wall with your hips until you feel a stretch in the calf of the extended leg.
  • Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds and change sides.

Standing Hamstring Stretch

  • Stand and bend over with knees straight.
  • Reach toward toes or floor or bring torso toward legs. Hold stretch.
  • Also grab your ankles with your hands and pull your torso in to the knees for full hamstring stretch.

Remember the stretch run is not about running performance or pace, the main training focuses on flexibility. The more flexible you are the better your running performance. Take a nice and easy trot to your favorite scenic destinations a mile apart to flex the muscles.

Happy Running and Stretching!

Coach John