Why do some people run pain free and others need to limit runs or give it up entirely? Sure, running is not recommended after certain injuries or with certain conditions, but don’t necessarily assume that this is the case for you if you start to experience some aches and pains. Some folks run pain free well into their 90’s while others succumb to the discomfort of imbalanced running in their 30’s or 40’s. What gives, or in this case, what does not give?
*No time to read the full article, but want some help to run pain free? Scroll down for a highlight of a few of my favorite stretches for runner, cyclists and other athletes to stretch some key areas and decrease risk of pain and injury.
Runners are prone to a few things that create the perfect storm of discomfort, and if left unaddressed, can develop into chronic issues or injuries. Tight hamstrings, flexors, hips and iliotibial bands pull our backs and legs out of a natural alignment and cause further stress to other muscles, tendons and ligaments. This happens gradually over time, and you may not notice unless you go for a gait analysis. These subtle misalignments in your body create a smaller range of motion, tightness, weakness and increase your pain and risk of injury. Some folks have better biomechanics and less misalignments for running, but here’s how you can try to level the playing field a bit.
- Incorporate stretching – Historically, no one likes to stretch. Muscles can feel achy and unwilling to stretch as you try to lengthen them, and so we avoid what doesn’t feel good. Unfortunately, this only allows the problem to become more pronounced. However, you should start to feel better once you have started to gain some flexibility and range of motion. A few minutes a day is all it takes, and some is always better than none. Group stretch classes are on the rise if you need some motivation and guidance.
- Get to a yoga class – My all time favorite fix for runners is yoga. Yoga addresses many issues that we experience throughout any given day by asking us to move more slowly, be more mindful, focus on breathing and increase our mental strength. Yoga physically works on flexibility, hip stretching and strengthening, core development and increases the range of motion for muscles commonly used in running or cycling, among many others. I highly recommend finding a yoga class – one that is right for you, as there are many types and styles.
If you want to incorporate some quick stretches on your own at home, here are a few of my favorites that target problem areas for runners.
*Stretches for Runners
- Figure four: Lay on your back and bend your knees to 45 degree angle with your feet flat on the floor. Cross your left leg over the right, so that your left ankle is on your right knee. Gently press your left knee away from your torso. To increase the intensity of the stretch, pick your right foot up off the floor and drive your right knee toward your chest.
- Extended Leg Hamstring Stretch: Siting on the floor, extend your legs out straight in front of you and reach your chest toward your legs to stretch your hamstrings. Keep your toes pointed toward the ceiling.
- Down Dog: Flip over and from a table top position, (hands and knees on the floor w hands under shoulders and knees under hips), press your hips high into an inverted V, also known as a down dog position. Pedal your feet out to add some dynamic stretching.
- Runner’s Lunge: Step forward from your down dog with your right leg into a lunge, gently lower your left knee to the floor (you may need a mat under your back knee). Keep your right toes pointed straight ahead and have your right knee directly over your right ankle. To increase intensity, engage your core muscles and lift your torso so that your shoulders are directly over your hips. Repeat on the left.
These are a few basic, but important stretches for runners, cyclists or even anyone who sits at a desk!! Work on these stretches, but also strengthen surrounding muscles to help hold better alignment. Using a foam roller, baseball or other myofascial release tools can be quite beneficial, as is acupuncture and massage.
Taking care of muscles is important. Don’t expect them to perform well over time without proper care! Do some yoga, stretch, massage, and run better!