Running is probably down right one of the best forms of exercise you can do to improve cardiovascular fitness and lower body endurance, as well as decrease body fat; however, all these great benefits can come with potential risks. Running can be very hard on the joints and increase muscle stiffness, which could possibly lead to muscle imbalances that affect lower body mechanics and increase risk of injury. Muscles become shortened if not properly stretched out following exercise. The hip flexors are already at risk of being shortened because these muscles are constantly in a shortened state while you are sitting down all day at your work desk or on the couch. Running uses all muscles of the lower body, but the hip flexors and quadriceps normally become very tight as they are responsible for lifting the leg forwards towards the trunk. This is the primary movement performed during running and it is imperative to stretch out these muscles after a run when the muscles are warm. Stretching your muscles when they are cold could increase risk of injury; this is why dynamic type stretches are recommended for warm-up prior to exercise.
Here is my favourite stretch that incorporates the hip flexors and the quadriceps muscles:
*Remember to ensure your muscles are warm prior to performing this stretch
*Hold this stretch for 25 to 30 seconds on each side and repeat twice
-Take a large step forward with your left foot and drop your right knee to the ground (similar to a lunge position)
-Place a folded towel under your right knee or perform this stretch on a mat or softer surface to avoid knee discomfort
-Keeping your back straight slowly shift your weight forward towards the left foot until you feel a stretch in the front on your right hip and hold for the desired amount of time
-If you would like to feel a more intense stretch, raise your right arm straight up in the air and slightly lean to the left until the stretch is felt in the right side of your torso as well as the front of your right leg.
Email Michelle@CORE-Condition.com for more ideas on stretches that can be performed after a run to prevent injury.
Michelle Roots BA Kin, CSCS, PES