This is the first post in a four part series geared directly to runners, prepared for us by Allison Feldt, DPT Physical Therapist and Owner of Body Motion Physical Therapy.
Body Maintenance Post Run
Running is a major time commitment. When you are committed to running, especially if training for long distances, most of your time training is spent hitting the pavement, trails or track. So the goal with these four posts is to give you some ideas on how to keep your motor running injury free and how to enhance the motor performance come race day.
Let’s be honest, most people prepare for a run by simply tying their shoes, maybe they have made sure they are adequately hydrated, have used the toilet and eaten something, if that’s part of their routine. You may pull a leg up to your bottom to stretch your thigh for a few seconds but that’s probably it. After the run you might do the same stretch and hop into the shower. I am going to come back to the pre-run warm up on the next post. But let me share with you the crucial elements to incorporate post-run.
After the run is the best time to incorporate static stretching. Static stretching is a prolonged hold so the muscle fibers can elongate. This is going to improve circulation to tired muscles, and enhance range of motion and flexibility. The holds should be maintained for 30 to 60 seconds. What this means to you as a runner who is probably short on time, and in a rush to jump in the shower is that you want to get into a position that will stretch the most possible structures in the shortest amount of time.
Let me share with you my absolute favorite “must do” stretches post run. Please note, sometimes post-run you may just jump in the shower and forget to stretch, but as luck would have it, these are shower safe. Much of the time that is where my post-run stretches occur. Also if you are feeling tightness in a place that was not addressed with these recommended stretches, you should absolutely stretch that area. These are just general guidelines to address the muscles most utilized during the run. If you need assistance in identifying how to stretch what feels tight, simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for free guidance.
These stretches may have to be adapted if the ground is wet or raining and you’re not in the mood to get soaked. The targeted muscle groups: hamstrings, hip flexors/quadriceps, gluteal muscles, calves/feet. Running uses muscles in 1 plane of motion front to back, so that is why the muscles on the front and back of our body must be stretched post run. It is also nice to incorporate the gluteal muscles which are muscles on the lateral (outside) part of the leg as these are working to stabilize you.
Hip Flexor Stretch with the Quadriceps addition: This can be done on a couch as shown, or I have been able to do this on a bumper of a car. The side of the bath tub may work too. The idea is to start with one leg supported on couch/surface, other knee is bent to 90 deg (this will allow for a stretch at the top of the hamstring). Press chest off of couch or supported surface to feel the stretch on the front of the hip and thigh (of the leg supported on the surface). The adaptation is to also bend the knee to get a quadriceps stretch. Hold 30-60 seconds and repeat 2-3x. BUT even 1 round is better than nothing.
Hip External Rotation – Piriformis Stretching
Start on hands and knees. Lift up and bring the leg to be stretched up into a figure 4 position. Scoot back to increase the stretch. Roll a little to adjust the location of the stretch, but try to keep your pelvis square to the front. Bringing your foot closer to your elbow which will also increase the stretch. You should feel this in your gluteal muscles on the side of the bent leg. Support yourself on your elbows or hands.
Toe Stretch: (Modification to a half kneeling or standing can be done to improve tolerance).
In kneeling, place your toes on the floor so that they bend upwards. Next sit back on your calves to increase the stretch in your toes. This is also stretching the arch of the foot and is great for toe mobility (which improves the force absorption capacity of the foot). Lean forward to lessen the stretch and lean back to increase the stretch. Hold 30-60 seconds.
Hamstring Stretch: This is excellent for hamstrings, Achilles and the back. Begin facing downward in a push up position. Bend at the hips and walk your feet toward your hands until you have maximally flexed your hips while maintaining your palms on the ground. To increase the stretch, reach your hips toward the wall behind you. Attempt to maintain contact with heels to floor. Modification would be to put your hands on elevated surface such as a on a counter top and complete the same stretch.
Allison Feldt, DPT, is the Owner of Body Motion Physical Therapy, where she specializes in sports, orthopedics, and women’s health. Her practice services the Greater Seattle area and Northern suburbs, with a focus on accelerating the rehabilitation process by bringing the physical therapy experience to your home or office, with a significant focus on manual techniques to help restore the body’s function.