As I have gotten older, I have come to accept the importance of Pre and post run stretching. I miss those days when I could just get up, run, and go about my day. I rarely did any type of warm-up and only occasional post run stretching. That definitely decreased my total work-out time. These days however, if I want to stay injury free, I have to do both pre and post run stretches.
To get started, I walk around the house (will do this outside once it gets warmer) and up the stairs just to get the blood flowing, and then, I add some dynamic stretches. I start with knee tucks where I bring my knee high and pulled into my chest alternating knees as I am still walking around the house. This can also be done standing still. Next, I add forward and lateral leg swings. I will also add arm swings and side stretches as well. I keep it simple. Youtube has some really good videos on both dynamic and static stretching. Some are a bit intense for me, but I think this one is really good for a warm-up. I will incorporate more stretches like those in the video as I increase my mileage.
Once I feel nice and warmed up, I do a forward bend at the hips and allow my upper body and head to hang loosely until my fingers touch the ground. I don’t force it! I let gravity work for me. Once I can touch the ground, I walk my hands out into a downward dog position, then alternate lifting and lowering the heel to stretch the calves. I, then end with light quad stretches. I hold these stretches for about 10-15 seconds (light static stretching).
Controversy exists as to whether static stretching should be done before a run due to the risk of injury and the impact on performance. My personal experience is that light stretching after a dynamic warm-up is what I need to keep my aging tendons, ligaments, and muscles from tightening up during my run. Most articles that I have researched on the subject do not recommend static stretching as part of a pre-run warm-up. So, do what works best for you to keep you running and meeting your goals.
Finally, I head outdoors where I do about a 5-10 minute brisk walk before starting to run.
Today, I decided to not run the hills of my usual route. Instead, I took on the sights of the Eagle River Nature Center. I wore my grippers expecting a little ice, but the Lower Albert Loop trail was under construction and had been graveled. That was a nice little surprise. A brief moment in my day without snow and ice! Refreshing!
But, the parts that weren’t graveled had huge monster truck divots in the snow that made the terrain a little sketchy to run on. So, I went a little slower than usual. It was a beautiful day and the scenery, as usual, was awesome. Alaska is so beautiful this time of the year.
I ran about 3 miles. My garmin said 2.68, but I had paused it while taking a picture and forgot to turn it back on – must be age related, I would have NEVER made that mistake in my more serious, younger days. My cool down consisted of a short walk and post-run static stretches. Most of the stretches I do can be found in this Youtube video by the same author as above.
Later in the day, I added my hip strengthening exercise routine:
- Toe raises – 3 sets of 12
- Bosu ball balancing – I stand on one leg for 1 minute and repeat with the other leg x 3
- Clams – 3 sets of 15
- Lateral leg raises – 3 sets of 15
- Donkey Kicks – 3 sets of 15
- Fire hydrant – 3 sets of 15
- Planks – core exercise – 1 min x 3
And more light stretching before bedtime followed by icing the achilles for 20 minutes. Every night!
I have had achilles issues for some time and although this routine of stretching, running, stretching, and more stretching and icing seems like a lot, it keeps me running.
One final tip: My 4 year old granddaughter says that you can balance better on the bosu ball if you don’t wear shoes.