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Marathon Training Week 22: Stretching

by Karl Gruber
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By now, after weeks and weeks of training, you have encountered multiple days where many of your muscles felt super tight and sore. This is not all that uncommon as you increase your weekly mileage total. As a runner and a coach, I have found that many of the athletes I deal with do little stretching. Personally, I have to make sure to fit in the time, both before and after a run, to stretch.

One of the all-time best selling books on stretching is called Stretching by Bob Anderson. Even though it was published in 1980, the sound principles still stand strong. Here’s what Anderson has to say about stretching: 

“It is the important link between the sedentary life and the active life. It keeps the muscles supple, prepares you for movement, and helps you make the daily transition from inactivity to vigorous activity without undue strain. It is especially important if you run, cycle, play tennis or engage in other strenuous exercises, because activities like these promote tightness and inflexibility. Stretching before and after you work out will keep you flexible and help prevent common injuries such as shin splints, or Achilles tendonitis from running.”

While the effects of running on muscles do not discriminate by age or gender, stretching can be especially important for older runners, who have more of a likelihood of becoming inflexible. Before each run, I try to fit in at least ten minutes of stretching and also use a foam roller to roll out the super tight spots in my muscles. Many believe that it is more important to stretch after a run. I see merits for both, as long as it helps you reduce soreness and stay limber, flexible and injury-free.

As to the how’s and why’s of stretching, Anderson goes on to note, “stretching feels good when done correctly. You do not have to push limits or attempt to go further each day…Stretching should be tailored to your particular muscular structure, flexibility, and varying tension levels. The key is regularity and relaxation.”

Some of the key stretches for runners are:

  • Calf Stretch
  • Sitting Groin Stretch
  • Sitting or Standing Hamstring Stretch
  • Standing Quadriceps Stretch
  • Sitting Spinal Twist (great for the upper and lower back and hips)
  • Standing Touch-Your-Toes (excellent for post-run)
  • Sitting Manual Ankle Rotation

Obviously these are just some of the many variations of stretching that you can do. It is recommended that you hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. If you are like me, it’s easy to get antsy and impatient while stretching because I am raring to get out the door and run. Just remember that your running workout will be more fluid and enjoyable because because you took the time to stretch.

With your marathon around the corner, now is a good time to stick with your stretching routine so that you can stay injury-free and ready to race well.

I highly suggest that you keep Bob Anderson’s best-selling book, Stretching on hand at all times. Also, you can refer to articles such as,  "Stay Loose: Stretches For Runners."

While stretching may not be the most glamorous subject, it is truly one of the most essential things you can do in order to successfully complete your marathon journey.

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