On Your Mark, Get Set, STRETCH!

Race season is upon us, and runners are tightening up their laces to smash their marathon, half marathon, 10k, and 5k goals for this year. While running may seem simple enough—put on some shoes and put one foot in front of the other—there are lots of moving parts involved in clocking a good time. Even the fittest among us can stand to tweak and fine tune certain aspects of our run game, like recovery routines and such, but have you taken time to assess your joints—specifically your hips—to insure they’re in tip top running form?

Flexibility, though it’s been downplayed in recent years, is king when it comes to keeping you injury free and race ready. The hips especially need to be strong, flexible, and balanced to avoid back pain and a distorted gait. If they’re imbalanced, you’ll be sidelined by unwanted injuries and disappointed by personal records that never get broken.

Flexibility is the strong, silent aspect of the fitness world. There’s nothing flashy about stretching, but when it’s absent from your regimen, you know it. When you’re ready to get serious about stretching, please know that not just any type will do. Static stretching is better post-race or workout, as it is most effective when the body is warm, it lengthens the muscles, and it helps you feel less like the Tin Man the next day. Before pounding the pavement, take a chunk of time to engage in some dynamic stretching, instead. What’s dynamic stretching? Glad you asked!

Dynamic stretching exercises are those that warm your body up through repetitive motions, stretching each body part a little further with each rep. Such warm-ups will activate your muscles and lubricate your joints before a run, making you less stiff and susceptible to injury.

After a workout, pull the static stretches back out, and engage in poses that stretch your body from bottom to top, holding each one for several seconds. This practice will elongate your muscles and reduce the stiffness and soreness that follow a workout session.

Pilates is a beautiful thing for reasons that could fill up page after page, but one of its benefits is that it prepares its practitioners for activities outside of the studio. Consult your Pilates professional about the best dynamic exercises to add to your running program. She’ll make sure your powerhouse stays strong, balanced, and ready for sessions inside the studio, as well as life on the roads and the trails.