So, you’ve got the right shoes on, you’ve got your music booming to motivate you, and you’ve been running. One of the most important factors to running is stretching afterwards. This is such an important factor. Many people think, “Oh, no big deal. I really don’t need to stretch,” “I don’t like to stretch,” or “I don’t have time to stretch.” These are all dangerous excuses that can cause short-term or long-term injury. I learned this the hard way.
In January 2011, I was training for a 15K for the Shamrock Run in Portland, OR. I joined a program that would prepare me for the strenuous run in March. I was pushing myself to run at least 10 miles once a week. Having the ability to run 10 miles was empowering! I felt like I could finally run with the “big dogs.” However, I made one slight mistake. I did not stretch well before or after each run. This resulted in over straining my hamstring. At first, I just ignored the slight pull because it was not painful. I stretched a little and continued to run extended miles. BIG MISTAKE! I did not listen to my body. As a runner, you need to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. This was a preventable injury, which resulted from my lack of stretching.
Runner’s injuries can result from:
- Pushing yourself too hard
- Lack of stretching pre and post runs
- Improper shoes or worn out shoes
- Over exertion
- Running with pain
- Warm up. Runner’s World provides a great video on the proper technique to warming up. Click on this link to watch: Active Warmup.
- Stretch the hamstrings. Certified Massage Therapist Chris Grauch, on Runner’s World (2011), provides excellent methods to properly stretch your hamstrings. Visit Runner’s World to take a look.
- Yoga. Believe it or not yoga is a great method to attain proper flexibility. Yoga helps lengthen your muscles, enhancing your body’s performance. Check out Power Poses, a 10 minute video on yoga. Click on the tab: Yoga, and to the right click on Power Poses.
- Cool down. Finish your run with some simple stretching. This is important because your muscles are already warmed up, thus more pliable for stretching. This not only is an injury preventative but also increases flexability and range of motion. Stretch your hamstrings, quads, calf muscles, and hip joints. Click on this link [for an idea of how to] Stretch After a Run.
If you have experienced an injury, Runner’s World (2011, May) has a great Comeback Plan to get you back in the game. “If you’ve run yourself down, crawl back up carefully”(Eyestone, 2011, p. 38). They encourge the following:
- Reduce Mileage. Cut back. Gradually add back into your routine. This will help your body heal.
- Run Easy. Slow it down! It’s okay if you can’t keep up with your running partner. Slowing down cuts back on over straining your muscles. Be easy on yourself. It’s better to be slow now so you can be faster later. Don’t push yourself… as mentioned earlier- ease back into it.
- Sleep More. This is very important for your muscles to rest. Runner’s World recommends at least 8 hours minimum- this includes weekends! ;)
- Ease Back In. Run shorter runs. Alternate your faster runs with shorter ones. This will help rebuild your muscles gently. For example, if you ran for 10 minutes before resting and 2 minutes of walking, try 5 minutes of running and 4 minutes of walking. Slowly increase this as your body tells you it is feeling better.
- Assess Honestly. Be honest with yourself! Do not ignore what your body tells you as I did. If you feel pain, walk. If walking hurts, stop. You may be starting back up too early.
If any pain persists, you should immediately seek professional medical advice from your doctor.