We are deep in marathon-training season here in Texas thanks to temperatures that make outdoor activity easier. It's also a season when logging high mileage can lead to poor movement patterns and then injury. Using a combination of massage, trigger point therapy, stretching and strength training can not only keep you inury-free, it can also improve time and performance on the road.
This is a collection of some of my favorite stretches and exercises for runners, particularly for folks who stare at a screen for a living and love running for cardiovascular and mental health. As someone who is a bit 'Type A' I love my exercise and stretching routines to have twofers or threefers meaning you're getting multiple benefits from each. We're all busy so we might as well feel like we're accomplishing a few things at once from our stretching routines.
Massage & Trigger Point Release
We could all use to take better care of our feet, especially if you're out pounding the pavement for miles every week. Consider this massage like foam rolling for your feet. It only takes a couple of minutes and is easy to do while watching tv or before you pop on those shoes for a jog. Check and see if your foot changes color after you do it!
The gist of trigger point work, if you have not heard of it before, is that you find a tender spot and apply consistent pressure until the muscle starts to relax. This can take minutes and can be confusing at first if you can't feel the muscles releasing. The more you practice the easier it is to know when the muscle is letting go. You can use a ball, foam roller or other trigger point therapy tool--my only reminder is to breathe! Below are two different releases you can do with a ball and a foam roller.
Calf Trigger Point Release
If you want to up your stretching routine and do something beyond the basic quad and calf stretch you learned in grade school, these are my favorites for stretching multiple places at one time. They incorporate stretching muscles as well as facial or connective tissue lines. Many runners may be aware that their calves and hamstrings could use a stretch (find my favorite version here), but knowing how to stretch the front of the shins is a bit more complicated. Click here for my suggestion for a good shin stretch.
When you're spending so much time on the road just trying to get your mileage in, stretching may be the only thing you may take time to do. Cross training exercises are soooo important for runners as you're doing a highly repetitive action. This plus long hours potentially looking at a screen usually means the hip muscles become weak because they're being supported by a chair most of the day. Hip weakness combined with high mileage is a recipe for chronic pain or an injury. Most runners I've worked with need more lateral (abductor) strength, inner thigh (adductor) strength as well as core stability via the obliques.
Strengthen You Rear
Inner Thigh Stretch and Strengthening
When looking at a screen most hours of the day and then participating in exercise that is also very forward-oriented, the obliques and the cross body stability muscles become weak. Improving these means improving balance so your energy can carry you forward. An added bonus is that you may even see your waistline shrink if you work on these muscles. Here's a simple, yet super challenging one using a foam roller.
Core Strengthening and Stability
How I can help
Ki Hara active stretching (see example here) is super effective in creating flexibility and strength at the same time. Having this muscular dexterity not only allows you to run longer, but also faster. Many professional athletes and sports teams across the country use this technique as their secret weapon.
I also use a piece of equipment called the CoreAlign that is phenomenal for gait training and orienting the body to the core in a running motion (see more about it here). I've helped many marathoners streamline their gait patterns so they can lower their per mile time. If you've ever, even as a teen, had an injury to the lower half of your body, you may have established some compensation patterns in your walk. Running with these compensation patterns can be an underlying component to chronic pain and injury. Peeling back those patterns will give you more agility and speed as you run. You have more power than you realize!!